Oakland had erased a 12-point deficit and taken a 71-68 lead on a pair of three throws with 16 seconds left when Gentry took an inbounds pass, dribbled up the court and decided he had to deviate from the plan.
“The plan was not to shoot a 3,” Benzinger said. “It was to get a layup because they don’t want to foul in that situation and they’ll let you shoot an uncontested layup.”
Or so the Raiders thought.
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But Oakland guard Brailen Neely cut off Gentry’s path to the basket. That’s when Gentry, a sophomore guard playing in just his seventh WSU game, retreated beyond the 3-point arc, got Neely in the air with a shot fake and drained what he called “the biggest shot of my life.”
“When he cut off my drive, there were only seven seconds left, so I just figured ‘Hey, might as well shoot the 3 at that point,’” Gentry said. “It felt good out of my hand. Once I pump faked, I knew I’d have a pretty open shot.”
WSU (12-5 overall, 4-0 HL) went on to outscore the Grizzlies in overtime to win their fifth consecutive game, and their first at Oakland since 2013.
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“I’d never won there, so that was one of my goals this year, to win at Oakland,” Benzinger said. “Cole just kind of made his own thing happen there at the end and made a big-time 3.”
A sophomore transfer from South Dakota State, Gentry had to sit out the first 10 games this year before he was eligible to play. After scoring a career-high 14 in Friday night’s win at Detroit, Gentry had 10 points and a career-high seven assists at Oakland.
His seventh assist resulted in a layup by freshman Everett Winchester that put WSU up four with 14 seconds left in overtime.
The Raiders went 6-4 while Gentry was waiting to be eligible, and they are 6-1 since, including 4-1 in road games.
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“When he first got in there, he was struggling with his scoring,” coach Scott Nagy said. “But he’s starting to score now, and it really makes it hard for a team when they can’t go under his ball screens.
“He gets in the paint quite a bit and it really breaks the defenses down,” Nagy added. “At Oakland we were able to create a lot of good stuff off of ball screens with him and Loudon (Love).”
Love, a redshirt freshman, led the Raiders with career highs in points (25) and rebounds (17) and was named the Horizon League Freshman of the Week on Monday.
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It’s the third time in four weeks Love has earned the honor. He had a career- and game-high 14 rebounds and 13 points Friday night in an 80-73 victory at Detroit.
Junior guard Mark Hughes added a career-high 19 points, and Benzinger finished with 14 as WSU won its fourth consecutive road game.
The victory sets up a first-place showdown at defending league champion Northern Kentucky (11-5, 4-0) on Thursday night. The Norse, who beat the Raiders three times last year, have won four in a row and are 7-0 at home this season.
Wright State at Northern Kentucky, 7 p.m., ESPN3, 106.5