- Doug Harris Contributing Writer
The hustling Grant Benzinger needed five stitches in his hip after the UIC win Thursday — the third time in his career he’s had to be stitched up — but that didn’t curtail the way he played against IUPUI less than 48 hours later.
He hit the deck four times to battle for loose balls and had to have his knee taped by trainer Jason Franklin in the first half. But he finished with 16 points to lead Wright State to a 60-52 victory Saturday.
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“I felt good,” Benzinger said with a shrug. “You can’t think about it. If you think about it and dwell on it, you kind of feel sorry for yourself.
“I tried to keep my mind on my teammates. I didn’t really think about being banged up at all.”
Justin Mitchell had 11 points and 13 rebounds for the Raiders, who have won 10 of their last 12 games to improve to 10-5 overall and 2-0 in the Horizon League.
The Jaguars (3-10, 0-2) trailed by as many as 10 but cut the deficit to 48-46 with 5:15 to go. Benzinger then made a 3-pointer to give the Raiders a cozy lead again.
“He plays hard. He just doesn’t have any quit to him,” Wright State coach Scott Nagy said. “He’s got a lot of confidence — and the thing about it is, he SHOULD have confidence. He’s put the time in.
“When we needed some things to happen, he made them happen for us.”
Benzinger went into the game fourth in the nation in foul shooting at 95.3 percent. He went 2-for-2 and is 43 of 45 this season (95.6 percent).
The Cincinnati Moeller product is now 22nd in career scoring at Wright State with 1,164 points. He’s one spot ahead of Vitaly Potapenko and is seven points behind J.T. Yoho, who is in 21st place.
Benzinger also has 401 career rebounds and has an outside chance to join the exclusive 1,000-point, 500-rebound club. The Raiders have 16 regular-season games left, plus the league tourney. The senior wing is pulling down 4.3 boards per game and would only need to slightly increase his average to hit 500.
A dozen Raiders have reached both milestones: Bill Edwards, Shawn Hammonds, Bill Fogt, Bob Schaefer, Seth Doliboa, Vernard Hollins, Drew Burleson, DaShaun Wood, Bob Grote, Todd Brown, Kevin Melson and Fred Moore.
Nagy has expressed shock at the Raiders’ ability to create turnovers. That’s because they don’t extend their defense and aren’t overly athletic. But they’re 21st nationally out of 351 Division I teams in forcing turnovers at 17.3 per game.
The Jaguars coughed it up 12 times in the first half as the Raiders built a 26-19 lead and finished the game with 17. They went eight minutes in one stretch without scoring.
The Raiders, though, had 20 themselves, including eight by Mitchell.
“It was a ‘rock fight,’” Nagy said, referring to the ragged play by both teams. “We’re clearly not very good offensively right now.
“I think you can give the teams we’re playing some credit, but we also have some guys who are just so out of joint. I don’t know what else to say. They’re passing the ball when they should be shooting and shooting the ball when they should be passing it. It’s amazing you can win a game and turn the ball over 20 times. The only thing that’s saving us right now is that we’ve been really good defensively.”
Mark Hughes, the Raiders’ junior wing averaging 10.1 points, suffered a right ankle injury midway through the first half. He limped off the court and didn’t play again.
Nagy said he doesn’t know how long Hughes will be out.
“Obviously, that affects us greatly because he’s our most efficient offensive player and he’s our best defender,” he said. “Not having him out there is a big loss.”
The Raiders are 2-0 in the league for the first time since beating Green Bay and Milwaukee at home to kick off the conference season in 2012-13.
Emily Vogelpohl had 10 points, seven rebounds, seven steals and five assists, and Chelsea Welch tallied a game-high 21 points in a 56-51 victory over Milwaukee in the first game of the doubleheader Saturday. The Panthers (10-4, 1-1 Horizon League) took a 51-50 lead with two minutes to go, but the Raiders (10-4, 1-1) scored the game’s last six points, including four by Welch.
Lexi Smith added 10 points and Symone Simmons 12 rebounds as the Raiders bounced back from a 58-51 loss to No. 19 Green Bay in their league opener Thursday.
The Raiders play at Detroit Mercy at 9 p.m. Friday on ESPNU and at Oakland at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 7.