DETROIT – Grant Benzinger grew up watching the NCAA Tournament, looking up old highlights and locking in for “One Shining Moment,” with his dad, hoping to play in it someday.
His dream is about to come true.
Benzinger had 19 points and nine rebounds to help second-seeded Wright State beat eighth-seeded Cleveland State 74-57 on Tuesday night to win the Horizon League Tournament title and earn an NCAA Tournament bid.
“It’s great to be a part of it now,” he said.
The Raiders (25-9) will play in the NCAAs for the third time in school history and the first since 2007.
“I’m sure we’ll probably have a pretty high seed and we’ll play one of the top nine or 12 teams in the country,” coach Scott Nagy said.
The Vikings (12-23) took their last lead with 7:36 left in the first half and seemed to wear down, playing their fourth game in five days.
Wright State took control late in the first half with a 13-2 run, taking an eight-point lead at halftime. The Raiders outscored Cleveland State 10-2 early in the second half to pull away.
“There’s no excuse about being tired,” Cleveland State guard Kenny Carpenter said.
Loudon Love made his first field goal with 14:42 left to put the Raiders up 44-33. The 6-foot-9, 275-pound center finished with nine points and 12 rebounds, setting the school’s freshman scoring record and its single-season mark for rebounds. Wright State’s Cole Gentry and Jaylon Hall scored 11 points apiece.
“Love displaced us all game,” Cleveland State coach Dennis Felton said. “We did a very, very good job establishing position, but he was just very persistent and very physical.”
Carpenter, playing in his hometown, had 18 points and Tyree Appleby scored 15 for the Raiders.
“To play in front of family, it’s just special,” Carpenter said. “It was a great experience and I’ll never forget it.”
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