“My freshman year was one of the biggest struggles I’ve ever faced,” Benzinger said. “Since then I’ve grown an inch and I’ve put on 15 pounds. I was listed as as 190 my freshman year, but I was really 180. Now I’m actually 195.
“Sometimes it’s still guys that are 6-10, 6-9 that I’m guarding, and I’m only 6-4, so there’s only so much I can do,” he added. “But it’s fun. Now I kind of like playing it more because you can be more physical with the guys instead of when you’re on the perimeter and you touch them and it’s a foul.”
After shooting 43.1 percent from 3 and averaging 9.1 points per game as a freshman, Benzinger saw his numbers drop to 39 percent and 7.6 ppg as a sophomore. A big reason for that was he was just patrolling the perimeter, and opponents stayed on top of him, knowing they couldn’t leave him a sliver of space.
The approach was the same earlier this year, and it led to poor shot selection and a further dip in accuracy.
“Earlier in the season I was taking some tough ones with guys in my face, taking ones I shouldn’t have,” Benzinger said. “Now instead of trying to force the issue, I’m letting the game come to me and sometimes you just get hot and you take the 3s you’re not supposed to take and they just go in. So it feels good.”
Benzinger has made 17 of his last 32 3-point attempts, a streak that began with him hitting four in a row in the first half of the Youngstown State game Jan. 7.
In the eight games prior to that, when he was struggling to get free on the perimeter, he was just 9 of 29 (31 percent).
“Shooting is so much about confidence, and you get confidence by being in the gym and getting repetitions, and he does that,” Nagy said. “He’s in there getting in extra shooting. He takes a lot of pride in it.”
Benzinger’s average (11.5 ppg) and 3-point shooting percentage (42.2) are not the only things climbing. He’s averaging 5.5 rebounds per game, the second-highest total of the team. His 116 rebounds this season are approaching the 153 he had during his freshman and sophomore years combined.
And he’s found a way to be simultaneously effective on the boards and at the arc. In that YSU game when he hit four consecutive treys in a five-minute span, he also finished with a career-high 10 rebounds.
“One of my goals this year was to be a little more active rebounding, defensively and offensively, because you get a defensive rebound, you have the ball in your hands and you’re able to push the ball,” he said. “You have it in your hands more instead of me just being in a corner, a catch-and-shoot guy. Being able to do more and create more for the team. I wanted to be more involved, and so far it’s been working out really well.”
Wright State (14-7, 5-3) at Valparaiso (16-4, 6-1)
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Athletics-Recreation Center, Valparaiso, Ind.