Grant Benzinger waited more than 27 minutes to score his first points Thursday night, then he caught fire to rally Wright State from an 11-point deficit for a 68-64 victory against Green Bay the Nutter Center.
After missing his first five shots, Benzinger hit his next five, including three 3-pointers, to put the Raiders (19-7 overall, 11-2 Horizon League) in front.
Then with the game tied 58-58 with less than four minutes to go, the senior guard hit a contested jumper for the lead and followed with a 3-pointer to push the advantage to five, and the Phoenix (10-17, 5-9) never recovered.
After the win, which keeps WSU in a first-place tie with Northern Kentucky, Benzinger had no trouble pointing to the moment he went from drought to no doubt.
“I shot that corner 3, it went long, Big Lou (freshman Loudon Love) got the rebound and kicked it to me for an easy layup,” Benzinger said, referring to his first field goal, which came with 12:50 left in the game and the Raiders down 11.
“Sometimes that’s all it takes,” Benzinger added. “You’ve just got to see the ball go in the hoop once. That was it.”
One of three starters along with Love and Cole Gentry who failed to score in the first half as WSU trailed 25-19, Benzinger finished 7 of 14 for a game-high 22 points to spark a 49-point second half for WSU.
Freshman guard Jaylon Hall posted 16 points, and junior guard Mark Hughes added 13 while grabbing 14 rebounds to record his first career double-double and smash his previous career high of seven rebounds as the Raiders dominated on the glass 47-37.
“When things weren’t going well offensively, and it was most of the night, we still guarded and we rebounded,” Raiders coach Scott Nagy said. ” We talk about that all the time, and it won us the game.”
The last of the 47 rebounds was an offensive one by Hall after his own missed 3-pointer, and it resulted in him drawing a foul in a one-point game with 13 seconds to go.
He made one of two free throws to push the lead to two, then stole the ball from Green Bay’s Kameron Hankerson with 5.5 seconds remaining and hit two more free throws to put the game away.
The victory came about 20 minutes after NKU had survived 54-52 at home against Milwaukee, keeping the Raiders and Norse deadlocked atop the league standings, where WSU has resided since conference play began.
“When you have a lead, you don’t want to lose it,” Nagy said. “It’s just like a basketball game.”
Thursday marked the second time this season and first in league play the Raiders have rallied from double-digits to win. They also trailed Georgia Tech by 11 in an 85-81 victory Dec. 22.
Love added 13 rebounds and nine points, while junior forward Parker Ernsthausen chipped in six points and five boards.
WSU returns to action Saturday night against Milwaukee, while Green Bay will visit NKU.