Wright State is heading back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007 after ending Cleveland State’s improbable run with an emphatic 74-57 victory in the Horizon League championship game Tuesday night at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
Senior Grant Benzinger had 19 points and nine rebounds while junior Cole Gentry and freshman Jaylon Hall scored 11 as the second-seeded Raiders pulled away from the Vikings, a fatigued 8 seed that was playing its fourth game in five days.
Wright State (25-9) extended its Division I program record for wins in a season, while CSU (12-23) saw its four-game win streak, and its season, come to an end.
The Raiders missed their first six shots and went down by five, but Benzinger got the offense going midway through the first half, and junior Parker Ernsthausen sparked a 15-2 run with an offensive putback and 3-pointer to put WSU ahead 34-26 at the break.
In three tournament games, the Wright State defense held its opponents to 21, 25 and 26 points in the first half.
Cleveland State, which took more 3-pointers than any team in the league, missed 10 of its first 11 shots from beyond the arc and finished 8 of 25.
Benzinger was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, while Loudon Love also made the all-tournament team.
Love, who had nine points and a game-high 12 rebounds, missed his first six shots against CSU before getting his first one to fall with 14:42 left in the game. That gave Wright State its first double-digit lead, and CSU never got it back under 10 the rest of the way.
Carpenter led the Vikings with 18 points, and Appleby scored 15.