By Mike Klingshirn
DAYTON, Ohio – The Wright State Raiders bounced back from a pair of losses earlier in the week with a dominating performance over a very young, but talented, UIC Flames squad by the lopsided score of 87-49 on Sunday afternoon at the Nutter Center.
“That team is so young. Sometimes they don’t have somebody to feed off of with so many freshmen,” Wright State head coach Scott Nagy said. “We caught them on a good night. We were good and they were down. So it ends up looking like that.”
UIC opened the contest with a Marcus Ottey jumper to go up 2-0 — a lead that lasted 59 seconds – for their only lead of the game.
Justin Mitchell began the scoring for the Raiders, with a jumper and layup to begin a stretch of twelve-straight Wright State points, to give his team an early 12-2 advantage.
UIC (14-17, 7-11 HL) narrowed the margin to 16-11 with 8:15 left in the half, but Raiders took the gas out of the Flames early.
Wright State (20-11, 11-7 HL) proceeded to put the game away, for all practical purposes, by going on a 21-4 run over the next seven minutes. Ryan Custer hit a trio of three-pointers during that span. His last two were back-to-back buckets that made it 37-15, before the Raiders headed into the halftime locker room with a commanding 41-19 lead.
Wright State opened the second half where they left off after the first twenty minutes. Grant Benzinger hit a three-pointer off of his own missed shot to make it 51-21 with 16:04 left. The Raiders stretched their advantage to 73-35 midway through the half, and 87-40 with 4:42 to play. UIC scored the game’s last nine points against WSU’s second-stringers to make the final score 87-49.
“We took way better care of the ball today,” Nagy said. “It’s really an indicator for our team about how ready and locked-in they are. And number two, our defense was really good.”
Steven Davis scored 21 points in the second half to finish with 27 for the game. Other Raiders to score in double figures were Mitchell (17), Mark Alstork (14), and Benzinger (12). Ryan Custer added nine points for a new personal career-high. Benzinger also grabbed a team-leading nine rebounds.
The Flames were held to 30-percent shooting from the field and hit a dismal 3-of-25 from beyond the arc.
The game concluded the regular season, and coach Nagy shared some thoughts about his team.
“We’ve got pretty tough kids that want to win, and are very competitive,” Nagy said. “It’s definitely an overachieving group, but that’s OK. They like that role anyway. They do believe, and that’s the most important thing”
Experience versus Youth
According to KenPom.com, in terms of experience, UIC is the second youngest of 351 Division I teams in the country (through February 24), with an average of 0.71 years of playing experience on the roster. The Flames do not have a scholarship senior in the program, and have started at least two freshmen in all 31 games this season.
Wright State is the second-oldest team in the Horizon League with an average of 2.02 years of experience (70th overall).
With the win, Wright State leads the all-time series versus UIC 29-27.
Post game audio
Davis & Mitchell
Up next is the Horizon League tournament to be played in Detroit from March 3 through March 7. The Raiders will be the #5 seed and open tournament play on Sunday March 5 at 7:30 pm.
What are coach Nagy’s thoughts heading into the tournament?
“The most important thing is that you believe you can go up there and win,” Nagy said. “My guess is not every team believes that, but I know that our team does. At least it gives you a fighting chance. If I felt I had a team that didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t even want to go up there.”
“We are a little bit up and down. We’re a very emotional group. If we’re going to do it, we’re going to need to go three nights in a row, which is a little bit of a disadvantage for us because we are not very deep. We’re going to have to figure out a way to do it, but our kids know that they can.”
By Mike Klingshirn
DAYTON, Ohio – On a night in which a severe winter thunder-and-hail-storm could be heard inside the Nutter Center — like never before in its 26-year history — the Wright State Raiders could not hold on to a 10-point second half lead, and eventually fell to the Valparaiso Crusaders by the final score of 84-74.
“We’ve lost three conference home games,” WSU head coach Scott Nagy said. “That’s the difference between being a conference champion and finishing fifth.”
On several occasions during the storm outside — especially midway into in the first half — loud thunder and the deafening sounds of hail striking against the arena roof could be heard inside. It was so loud that many in attendance pointed up, towards the roof. At one point, a few pieces of hail made their way, possibly through some vents, onto the floor during play. Although the referees didn’t seem to notice, a few players on the Valpo bench could be seen pointing to the hail on the court.
The Crusaders came to town, sporting the best record in the Horizon League, but unknown to most until just before game time, Valpo would be without the services of their best player and NBA prospect, Alec Peters. Peters has been wearing a boot cast over his ankle, since his team’s Green Bay game, three weeks ago. He was also walking with crutches, but could have played if necessary.
With the number-one or number-two seed in next week’s Horizon League tournament a certainty, Valpo’s coaching staff decided to hold Peters out of the lineup to help ensure that he is as healthy as possible for tournament play.
Peters is averaging a double-double, with 23.0 points (ranked eighth in the nation) and 10.1 rebounds per game.
Not only were Crusader fans disappointed to see him out of the lineup, but so too, were four NBA scouts that made the trip to the Nutter Center to watch him. All four were gone by halftime.
“They (Valpo) had a lot to play for in not having their best player with them,” Nagy said. “A lot of other kids stepped up for them.”
Although the first half of the game saw eleven lead changes, the early going was a game of streaks.
Wright State (19-11, 10-7 HL) jumped out to an early 8-2 advantage, before Valpo scored the next seven points to go on top 9-8. Grant Benzinger followed with a jumper and three-pointer to make it 13-9 Raiders.
Valparaiso (24-6, 14-3 HL) promptly answered by scoring 10-straight to go back on top 19-13, before the Raiders followed that with 7-straight of their own to go back up 20-19 at the 8:54 mark of the half.
Trailing 30-27 with 6:10 to play before the intermission, Ryan Custer and Benzinger began a 15-4 Raider run, with a pair of free throws each, to close out the first half and send WSU into the locker room with a 42-34 lead.
With an 8-point WSU halftime lead, had your psychic friend told you that the Raiders would shoot 55-percent in the second half, you would have felt pretty good about Wright State’s chances of holding on for the victory.
Well, the Raiders did shoot 55-percent in the second half, but they were outscored 50-32 the rest of the way, due in part to 13 second half turnovers and some defensive miscues.
“We’re just not good enough defensively to sustain it,” Nagy said. “We could do it in Detroit (HL tournament) for three games, but we haven’t been good enough over a long period of time to win a championship.”
“Some of it is because we’re naturally not physical. There’s nothing we can do about that. We don’t weigh a lot. So we just can’t push people around. We’re not that athletic, and we don’t have a shot blocker. So it’s hard to be a great defensive team when you throw all three of those together.”
The Raiders enjoyed their largest lead of the night 46-36 with 17:42 to play, but it was all Valpo after that.
The Crusaders drew even at 53-all on a Tevonn Walker free throw with 12:32 left, and pulled ahead 60-57 on a Shane Hammink 3-pointer.
Mark Alstork tied it up 60-60 at the 8:45 mark on a shot from behind the arc. It was his 1,000th career point as a Raider, but it was the last time that WSU would be even with Valpo on the night.
The Crusaders scored the next seven points to go up for good at 67-60. Wright State drew to within 74-73 on a Justin Mitchell layup with 3:35 to play, but Valpo closed the game with a 10-1 run to win 84-74.
“We shot 54-percent (from the field), 50-percent from three, 83-percent from the free throw line, outrebounded them, had 17 assists, and lost the game. It’s unbelievable.” Nagy said. “We had 22 turnovers. That’s all you’ve got to look at.”
Mark Alstork led the Raiders in scoring with 28 points.
Three Crusaders picked up the slack, for a missing Alec Peters, by scoring in double figures: Shane Hammink (25), Lexus Williams (19), and Tevonn Walker (17).
Horizon League Been Berry, Berry, Good To Valpo
In ten seasons since joining the Horizon League, Valpo now has a 115-58 (.665) league record.
Since Butler left the conference five years ago, the Valpo men’s basketball program has assumed the role as the premier team in the Horizon League. With tonight’s win, Valpo is guaranteed at least a share of the Horizon League title for the fifth time in the last six years.
The three winningest season’s in Valpo program history have come in the last five years: 26 wins (2012-13), 28 wins (2014-15), and 30 wins (2015-16).
By winning last year’s regular season league title, Valpo received an automatic bid to the NIT tournament. They defeated Texas Southern, Florida State, and Saint Mary’s. After advancing to the semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York City, they beat BYU, before falling in the championship game to George Washington.
Post game audio
Alstork and Davis
After tonight’s game, the all-time series between Wright State and Valparaiso is tied at 15-all. The loss drops WSU to 9-6 versus Valpo at the Nutter Center. The Crusaders now hold a 13-10 advantage in the series since rejoining the Horizon League ten years ago.
The Raiders conclude the regular season with a match-up against the Illinois-Chicago Flames on Sunday February 26. Tip-off for that on is set for 2:00 pm.
By Mike Klingshirn
DAYTON, Ohio – On Saturday night at the Nutter Center, Justin Mitchell became just the third player in Wright State University men’s basketball history to record a triple-double in a game. He led his team to an 88-79 victory over the Green Bay Phoenix by dishing out 10 assists, grabbing 11 rebounds, and scoring 14 points on 5-of-5 shooting from the floor, and 4-of-4 from the free throw line.
The two other Raiders to record a triple-double for the Green & Gold are Keion Brooks and Vernard Hollins. Coincidentally, all three players are from Fort Wayne, Indiana.
“It just doesn’t happen very often,” WSU head coach Scott Nagy said about Mitchell’s triple-double. “This is my twenty-second year of coaching, and it’s only the second time that it has happened for me.”
“It flat-out takes a guard that is a consistent rebounder. Let’s face it. He’s our best, and it’s not even close. For a guy that’s not a natural point guard, ten assists is tremendous.”
Trailing 24-19 with 7:46 left in the half, Wright State (17-9, 8-5 HL) scored eight straight points on a Mitchell jumper, and 3-pointers from Ryan Custer and Mark Alstork to put the Raiders up 27-24.
Both teams traded blows, the rest of the half, before heading into the intermission locker room tied at 38-all.
The first twenty minutes saw seven lead changes and seven tied scores. That would not be the case in the second half.
The Raiders set the tone for the rest of the game by opening the second stanza with a 7-2 run on an Alstork trey, a Steven Davis layup, and an Alstork jumper. It put Wright State up for good, 45-40, with 17:37 to play.
Green Bay (15-11, 9-5 HL) got to within three points, on three occasions, over the next three minutes (45-42, 49-46, 51-48). WSU pulled away from there, stretching the margin to 62-52 and 71-57 with 5:51 left.
One difference in the second half was WSU’s ability to keep the Phoenix off of the offensive glass. UWGB had six offensive rebounds in the first twenty minutes but were held to only two on their end of the court after halftime.
“We had a lot of nice hustle plays tonight,” Nagy said. “Our kids really fought. They are a hard team to beat on the glass. They’re athletic. They’re deep. And they just wear you down.”
Green Bay didn’t go away easily, however. They scored the next eight points on 3-pointers by Turner Botz and Tevin Findlay, and a jumper by Jamar Hurdle to close to within 71-65 with 4:29 remaining.
Wright State scored the next six points to stretch their lead to 77-65 with 3:10 to play, and 87-76 with 42 seconds left, before coming away with the 88-79 victory.
Besides Mitchell’s triple-double, the Raiders were led in scoring by Alstork (20), Davis (17) and Benzinger (16).
Wright State won the battle of the boards 30-29. They made 22 assists, while committing 13 turnovers.
Was Mitchell aware that he was coming close to a triple-double? “Yah, he came and told me,” Alsork commented. “I said, ‘I got you. I got you.’”
Post game Audio
Alstork and Mitchell:
With the win, Wright State’s all-time series record against Green Bay improves to 26-31.
The Raiders hit the road for three games before returning home for their final two games of the regular season at the Nutter Center. They will host Valparaiso on Friday night February 24. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 pm. Illinois-Chicago will be the final regular season opponent on Sunday afternoon February 26. Tip-off for that on is slated for 2:00 pm.
By Mike Klingshirn
DAYTON, Ohio – The curse of the Blackout Night uniforms continued on Saturday night at the Nutter Center for the Wright State Raiders against the Northern Kentucky Norse. Tonight was the annual Blackout Night promotion, in which black t-shirts were handed out to the first 5,000 fans in attendance and the Raiders wore black uniforms.
As history usually has it, the Raiders have played some of their worst games at home in the black uniforms, usually for inexplicable reasons, sometimes against some of the worst teams in the league, and usually in front of one of the largest crowds of the season. And tonight was no different.
Maybe the Raider Basketball Gods prefer the official school colors of green & gold over the color black, because on yet another Blackout Night, the Wright State Raiders lost, this time to NKU by the final score of 83-79 in front of the largest home crowd of the season. Attendance cracked the 4,000 barrier for the first time in twelve contests this year, with an announced attendance of 5,993.
The early going of this contest was a back-and-forth affair, as there were nine lead changes and five tied scores in the game’s first twelve minutes. However, the seven offensive rebounds grabbed by NKU before the first media time out was an indicator that trouble was brewing for the Raiders.
“In terms of energy, it shows up in rebounding and number of free throws taken,” Wright State head coach Scott Nagy said. “I couldn’t get the message through about how important this basketball game was, and it showed up that it was more important to Northern Kentucky. We had several opportunities to get loose balls in the second half, to dive on the floor, and we wouldn’t do it.”
Trailing 22-21 with 8:23 left in the half, a Mark Alstork dunk, followed by a Steven Davis tomahawk dunk off of a steal, and a pair of Altork free throws put the Raiders on top 27-22. It was a lead that they maintained over the next 15 minutes.
Wright State (15-9, 6-5 HL) had several opportunities to stretch the margin, but went into the halftime break with a slim 39-35 advantage.
“I thought that we lost the game in the first half,” Nagy said. “We should have been up 15. Had we played with the energy, payed attention to the scouts, we should have been and we weren’t. It was a concern of mine and it showed up in the second half.”
The Norse (15-9, 6-5 HL), reclaimed the lead 47-46 on a pair of Carson Williams free throws seven minutes into the second half.
With the score tied 50-all, Mark Alstork scored the next eleven WSU points, but the Raiders were unable to pull away and led just 61-60 with 8:02 to go. That’s when the momentum of the game shifted in favor of Northern Kentucky.
NKU’s Dantez Walker hit a layup and three-pointer, and Drew McDonald made a tip-in to put the Norse up 67-61. They stretched their lead to 70-63, before Wright State answered with six-straight points to narrow the margin to 70-69 with 3:23 to play.
Down 76-74 with just under a minute to play, it looked like the Raiders were on the verge of making a much-needed defensive stop. They forced the Norse away from the basket, and with the shot clock winding down to one second, Jordan Garnett tossed in a desperation circus-shot for a three-pointer with 28 seconds left to play, stretching the Norse lead to 79-74.
Four free throws in the closing seconds by NKU’s Drew McDonald sealed the game, as the Norse came away with an 83-79 win in front of the disappointed Raider faithful.
Northern Kentucky went to the charity stripe 27 times — hitting on 18 of them — while the Raiders were 11-of-15.
“It’s hard to win when a team shoots twelve more free throws than you,” Nagy said.
“They were more physical,” he added. “You would think that more physical would mean that they would foul more, but that’s not the way it works. When a team is more aggressive and more physical, they end up on the free throw line.”
Post game audio
Seventy seems to be the magic number for NKU. The Norse improved to 15-3 in games when they have scored at least 70 points. They are 0-6 when being held to less than 70.
With the loss on Blackout Night, Wright State’s all-time record against NKU falls to 21-8.
The Raiders return home for two more games before hitting the road: Thurs. Feb. 9 vs. Milwaukee and Sat. Feb. 11 vs. Green Bay. Tip-off for both games is set for 7:00 pm.
By Mike Klingshirn
DAYTON, Ohio – The Wright State Raiders avenged an earlier 19-point loss to the Oakland Grizzlies, with a lopsided 88-67 victory Sunday afternoon at the Nutter Center.
Wright State (14-7, 5-3 HL) opened the game by building a 29-12 lead, eight minutes before the end of the half, with one of their best 12-minute performances of basketball in a very long time.
“I was pleased with our players’ effort,” head coach Scott Nagy said. “Defensively, we were good. We did a way better job of not turning the ball over. We had thirteen turnovers for the game, and at Oakland, we had thirteen turnovers at halftime.”
“It’s hard to be a great offensive rebounding team and get back in transition. And we did both today. We shot 45-percent, get fourteen offensive rebounds, and we did a great job of getting back and keeping them out of transition.”
“When you out-rebound somebody by fourteen (44-30), you’re almost always going to win.”
It didn’t appear that things would start out that way, however. Steven Davis was sent to the bench after picking up his second personal foul, just two minutes into the contest and his team trailing 4-3.
A supporting cast of Raiders were up to the task of keeping their team close with Davis out of the lineup. Not only did they keep it close, they went on a 13-5 run over the next seven minutes before he returned. Mark Alstork contributed with 18 first half points and Parker Ernsthausen had already tied his career high in scoring with ten points by halftime. Ryan Custer also came off of the bench and gave his team some great minutes.
Oakland (15-6, 5-3 HL) battled to within 35-26 at the 1:53 mark, before both teams headed into the half with the score Wright State 42 Oakland 30.
The Grizzlies came out of the locker room with a lot of energy and Wright State was a little flat. The Grizzlies grabbed five quick offensive rebounds in about two minutes, while cutting the WSU lead to 45-39 with 16:21 left. That’s when Custer hit a big three-pointer to push the margin to 48-39. His shot sparked another great 12-minute stretch of basketball — a 34-12 Raider run – to put WSU on top 79-51 with 5:14 to play.
The Raiders picked up their tenth team foul with thirteen minutes left in the game, and it appeared that Oakland might work their way back into the game from the free throw line. But after the Grizzlies got into the double-bonus, Wright State quit fouling and kept them off of the line.
A great no-look pass from Justin Mitchell to Ernsthausen, for a basket under the hoop, in the final minutes, put an exclamation point on the 88-67 victory.
Alstork and Ernsthausen finished the game with 24 points each. Davis added 17.
The 24 points by Ernsthausen was a career-high, shattering his previous career-high of 10 against Ohio Dominican earlier this season.
“I try to judge how well I’m playing by my defense,” Ernsthausen said. “They kind of had a game plan of ‘Let’s make Parker beat us.’ They were sitting in the paint. That’s how Oakland guards. It was good to see the ball go in the basket, but I don’t want to lose track of my defense because that’s why I play.”
“He’s such a great teammate. He does whatever we need him to do,” Nagy said. “We also need him to be a little more offensive-minded, and this will give him the confidence to do that without trying to get 20 every game. When he’s going to get 20, it’s going to come to him like that.”
Justin Mitchell played an outstanding game at point guard, grabbing a career-high 15 rebounds, while handing out six assists and committing just one turnover in 36 minutes of action.
“Some of that, you just can’t teach,” Nagy said. “There are some guys that you think would be unbelievable rebounders but they are not, because they don’t have a great feel for it. But Justin has a great feel for where the ball is going, and he gets it at the height of where it is coming off.”
Oakland’s worst margin of defeat prior to today’s 21-point loss to Wright State was against the Michigan State Spartans by the score of 77-65 on December 21. They never trailed by more than 13 in that contest, or at any other time in the season.
With the victory Wright State leads the all-time series record with Oakland 9-7.
The Raiders hit the road for a pair of games against Valparaiso (Fri. Jan. 27) and Illinois-Chicago (Sun. Jan. 29), before returning to the Nutter Center to open a three-game home stand beginning with Northern Kentucky on Saturday February 4. Tip-off is slated for 7:00 pm.
Post game audio
Alstork and Ernsthausen
By Mike Klingshirn
DAYTON, Ohio – The Wright State Raiders scored 100 points against a Division I opponent for the first time in more than 17 years, when they defeated the Detroit Mercy Titans by the final score of 106-88 on Friday night at the Nutter Center.
The last time that the Raiders (13-7, 4-3 HL) hit the century-mark was on December 16, 1999, when they beat Prairie View A & M 104-74. The last time that they reached 100 points against a league opponent was at UIC on January 4, 1999 by the score of 100-74.
Detroit (4-15, 2-5 HL), winners against just one Division-I team in their first 16 contests, introduced a new pressure defense four games ago. The new defense caused 89 turnovers over that four-game span, and helped produce a two-game Titan winning streak entering the contest. One week ago, they forced Oakland into 25 turnovers on the Golden Grizzlies own court, while pulling off a stunning upset over the previously unbeaten (in league) league-leaders.
And Detroit’s pressure defense on this night, led to a fast-paced high-scoring affair for both teams. The Raiders trailed 26-25, barely eight minutes into the game. At that point, WSU turned up the defense and started to guard. It resulted in Wright State outscoring UDM 35-12 over the remainder of the half, sending them into the intermission with a 60-38 lead.
Detroit’s newly implemented defense didn’t seem to bother the Raiders, as they dished out 15 first half assists while committing just four turnovers.
“It’s the best we’ve passed the ball all year, by far, particularly in the first half,” head coach Scott Nagy said. “We were really good offensively. We shared the ball extremely well. We had 15 assists. I’m not sure we’ve had 15 assists in a game all year.”
The Raiders maintained a twenty point advantage for nearly the entire second half. They enjoyed their largest lead of the night 84-56 with 8:25 left to play. Detroit got to within 16 points on a couple of occasions at 89-73 and 96-80, but Wright State never allowed them to make a serious challenge.
Memories of some large second half leads that slipped away against Miami and Youngstown State were the topic of conversation in the halftime locker room.
“We’ve come out flat a lot of times in the second half,” Steven Davis said. “We wanted to break that streak and come out and play like we did in the first half. We finally strung together a full forty minutes, and we feel good about it.”
“As a team, we have to grow up,” Nagy added. “When you get a lead like that, you’ve got to put people away. We were much more focused in the start of the second half. We were much sharper than in those other games.”
Five Raiders scored in double figures: Davis (27), Justin Mitchell (22), Grant Benzinger (22), Mike La Tulip (13), and Mark Alstork (11). Benzinger pulled down nine boards, while Davis grabbed eight and Mitchell had seven.
The Raiders shot 49 percent from the field, and hit 33-of-45 free throw attempts.
“Because of their pressure, they foul a lot,” Nagy said. “If you’re weak with it, they’ll rip it out of your hands, but I thought that our kids did a really nice job passing the ball.”
“I wish we would have shot free throws a little better, but you’re generally going to win those games when you’re shooting 45 free throws.”
Post game audio
Benzinger and Davis
The 60 first half points scored by the Raiders, fell 20 points shy of the school record for points in a half. On March 2, 1983, Wright State scored 80 points in a half against St. Joseph’s. No, it was not the St. Joseph’s, Hawks, who are members of the Atlantic 10. It was the St. Joseph’s Pumas, a small school from Rensselaer, Indiana.
Tonight’s 106 Wright State points was 30 shy of the school record for points in a game, set on January 6, 1993, in a 136-91 victory over Chicago State.
This is the 38th year in the Horizon League for the University of Detroit Mercy, the eldest program in the league. In their 111 years of men’s basketball, Detroit Mercy has made six NCAA tournament (1962, 1977, 1979, 1998, 1999, 2012) and seven NIT appearances (1960, 1961, 1965, 1978, 2001, 2001, 2013).
With tonight’s win Wright State’s all-time series record against Detroit Mercy improves to 29-26. The Raiders hold a 19-7 upper hand, dating back to December 2, 2006. Wright State began that stretch with a perfect 10-0 record against the Titans under head coach Brad Brownell.
The Raiders return to action on Sunday afternoon at the Nutter Center against the Oakland Grizzlies. Tip-off is set for 2:00 pm.
By Mike Klingshirn
DAYTON, Ohio – On this cold January afternoon, with temperatures outdoors in the single digits, the Wright State Raiders built a commanding 14-point halftime lead against the Youngstown State Penguins. But in the end, it was a story of two halves as the Wright State defense melted like a Popsicle in a hot Arizona desert.
The Penguins, who were held to 34-percent from the field in the first half, came back after halftime to connect on 20-of-33 shots, most of them layups, to outscore the Raiders 50-31 in the game’s final twenty minutes.
“We got away from what we usually do,” WSU’s Steven Davis said. “We had some slip-ups and we let our offense affect our defense. We’ve got to pride ourselves on our defense, not our offense.”
Youngstown State (8-9, 2-2 HL) held the early upper hand, taking an 11-8 lead five minutes into the contest. The Raiders (11-6, 2-2 HL), however, answered with the next seven-straight points to go up 15-11.
Grant Benzinger had the hot hand in the early going for Wright State. He hit four consecutive shots from behind the arc, for twelve points, over a four-minute span midway through the first half. It was the spark that ignited a Raiders rally that stretched his team’s lead to 37-24, before heading into the halftime locker room with a seemingly comfortable 44-30 lead.
The Penguins climbed the tall mountain to go back on top 63-62, when Braun Hartfield hit one-of-two free throws with 7:57 left to play.
Mark Alstork sank a 3-pointer to tie it 68-all at the 4:26 mark. The Penguins followed with a Francisco Santiago jumper and a Cameron Morse layup to put the stunned Raiders into a 72-68 hole with 3:12 remaining.
Another Mark Alstork 3-pointer on the next possession made it 72-71, but YSU’s Santiago answered with a trey of his own to reestablish a 4-point Penguin advantage with 1:52 to play. The Raiders drew to within 75-73, but a Cameron Morse jumper with 20 seconds left and three YSU free throws sealed Wright State’s fate 80-75.
“They had more energy and out-toughed us in the second half,” Benzinger said. “It’s hard to swallow, but we’ve got to own it.”
Four Penguins scored in double figures: Santiago (20), Morse (16), Jorden Kaufman (14), and Matt Donlan (11).
Justin Mitchell and Grant Benzinger recorded double-doubles for the Raiders. Mitchell had 18 points, while Benzinger added 12. Both pulled down ten rebounds. Three other Raiders scored in double figures: Steven Davis (19), Alstork (12), and Parker Ernsthausen (10). Davis also contributed with eight rebounds.
“We had five players in double figures, two guys with double-doubles, and ten turnovers,” Nagy said. “We did all of those things right, but if you don’t guard, you don’t win.”
“Not only did we not guard in the second half, everything offensively just went out the window, and it became one-on-one in frustration. We’re not good enough to do that. We have to be able to score off of team offense.”
Raider sophomore Mark Hughes was carried to the locker room after suffering a leg injury on a drive under the basket midway in the second half. Coach Nagy had no update on his status shortly after the game.
Announced attendance for the game was 3,977 … the largest crowd through nine home games this season.
With this afternoon’s loss to the Penguins, the Raiders fall to 42-12 in their all-time series against Youngstown State. The Penguins have won two of the last three encounters at the Nutter Center. They last won at Wright State 74-69 on Feb. 15, 2015 over a Raider team that finished 11-20 in an injury-riddled season.
The Raiders travel to the state of Wisconsin for a pair of games against Green Bay (Jan. 12) and Milwaukee (Jan.14), before returning home for a brief two-game home stand beginning with the Detroit Mercy Titans on Friday January 20 at 7:00 pm. The Raiders then return to action at the Nutter Center, less than 48 hours later, to battle the Oakland Grizzlies on Sunday afternoon January 22 at 2:00 pm.
Benzinger and Davis
By Mike Klingshirn
DAYTON, Ohio – The Wright State Raiders completed a three game sweep over all three opponents in the MABC Classic with a hard-fought 75-67 victory over the North Florida Ospreys on Sunday afternoon in front of 2,975 at the Nutter Center.
WSU head coach Scott Nagy was pleased with three victories in three days over quality programs.
“This was a really good tournament,” Nagy said. “Every team that we played here is going to win 20 games and they all have a chance to win their leagues, so these were good wins.”
“We’re happy to be 6-1, but I don’t think that there is anyone in there that feels like we’re playing unbelievable either.”
The first twenty-eight minutes of this contest was a game of streaks.
Wright State’s Mike La Tulip and Grant Benzinger opened the contest by hitting a pair of treys in the opening minute to go up 6-0.
The North Florida Ospreys (3-5) countered by going on a 19-5 run over the next eight minutes to take their largest lead of the game 19-11.
The Raiders answered by scoring 9-straight on a Mark Hughes 3-pointer, a Parker Ernsthausen layup, a tip-in by Benzinger, and two Mark Alstork free throws to recapture the lead 20-19 with 8:30 left in the half.
After a 27-all tie, WSU went on a 13-2 run to go up 40-27, and eventually into the halftime locker room with a 40-31 lead.
After a Justin Mitchell layup, to open the second stanza made it 42-31, the Raiders went into a scoring drought, similar to the one two nights before against Cal State Bakersfield. The Ospreys outscored Wright State 11-2 over the next eight minutes to close to within 44-42 on a jumper by Dallas Moore.
Nagy offered a possible explanation for the droughts. “We’re not very deep, and I think that there are times where we get tired,” he said. “I think that’s when it happens to us. Maybe I’ve got to do a better job using and spacing our time outs.
With the Raiders still up 47-44 and 10:54 to play, Grant Benzinger caught fire by hitting four 3-pointers over the six minutes to stretch the lead to 63-53 with 5:02 left. It turned out to be the difference in the game.
Benzinger has been playing the four-position and mixing it up more this year.
“That’s not because I think it’s his best position, but just because we don’t have great depth. We’re not that big,” Nagy said. “The one reason we feel like we can play him at the four is because he’s a tough kid. That’s why we start him there. He plays the two for us. He plays the three. He plays the four. He’s not just a three-point shooter any more. He has worked hard and it is to his credit.”
A Steven Davis layup gave WSU their largest lead of the night at 67-55 with 3:31 remaining. North Florida closed it to within 69-65 with 37 seconds left, but La Tulip (4-of-4) and Davis (2-of-2) sank six straight free throws to ensure the victory.
“We had three tough games,” Steven Davis said. “Our goal was to protect the Nutter. We did what we needed to do to get our wins.”
“Six out of seven were at home. We did a pretty good job protecting our house,” Benzinger added. “We let one slip by with Toledo, but we learned from it. Now in December, we’ll be going on the road a lot, and that will really show what we’re about and how tough we are.”
Four Raiders scored in double figures: Benzinger (21), Davis (16), La Tulip (13), Justin Mitchell (11).
Dallas Moore led North Florida with 29 points.
“Now we go on the road. We’ve had a lot of games at home,” Nagy said. “Average teams can win at home. Great teams win on the road. So it will be a good test for us.”
Wright State and North Florida met just one time prior to tonight’s game. That encounter resulted in a 69-52 Raider loss on November 23, 2011, in the fourth and final game of the Global Sports Shootout. Billy Donlon was the head coach. His team also played Ohio State (73-42 loss), Jackson State (56-39 win), and Florida (78-65 loss) in the Shootout.
MABC Classic Sunday Game One
Connor Avants tipped in a missed Cortez Seales’ shot at the buzzer to lift North Dakota (4-2) over Cal State Bakersfield (4-3) by the score of 57-55. The Fighting Hawks overcame a 16-point deficit with less than ten minutes to play for the win.
MABC Classic All-Tournament Team
Damiyne Durham (Cal St. Bakersfield)
MABC Classic Most Valuable Player
Grant Benzinger (Wright St)
Benzinger and Davis
The Raiders hit the road for nearly the entire month of December. Their lone home game will be Tuesday December 13 against Division-II Urbana University. Game time is scheduled for 7 pm.
The slate of December road games begins with buy-games at Penn State (Dec. 3) and Loyola of Chicago (Dec. 7). Following a game at the Nutter Center against Urbana, the Raider will travel to Kent State (Dec. 18) and Murray State (Dec. 22), before beginning Horizon League play at Oakland (Dec. 29) and Detroit (Dec. 31).