DALLAS — Wright State basketball senior Grant Benzinger is the kind of player that scares opponents to death.
Benzinger, at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, plays hard, defends well and scores for the Raiders. A difference-maker, and a team leader, Benzinger leaves an impression.
“He’s the hardest-playing guy I’ve seen in over 20 years of coaching,” said Oakland assistant Tony Jones, a former Tennessee coach who opposed Benzinger twice this season.
“Tennessee better not sleep on Wright State.”
No doubt, the No. 14-seed Raiders plan to beat the No. 3 Vols in the 12:40 p.m. (ET) game on Thursday at American Airlines Center in the South Regional.
It’s not just talk, as Benzinger explained during an exclusive interview with SEC Country on Wednesday.
Tennessee is a 13-point favorite over the Raiders, but Benzinger was very convincing in relaying the message that Wright State is very confident it will win, and he explained why and how.
What jumps out at you on film about Tennessee?
Benzinger: “How well built they are. The whole team has incredible bodies, they must put the time in the weight room and what they eat must be good stuff.
“Then, just how physical they are. You watch their big guys post, even the 6-11 guy, Alexander, he posts unbelievably hard.
Then, how they rebound. When their offense isn’t going great, they can always rely on their offensive rebounding, and their putbacks. Every clip we watched this week if they didn’t make it, they got the offensive rebound
The three things you can control, they control and they do it well.”
What will it take for Wright State to beat Tennessee?
“You’ve got to believe, first off, you can’t just go into the game show up and think if things go our way we’ll win. You have to know you’re gonna win, you have to believe it, and it’s not a bad mindset as long as you do the things you are supposed to.
It can be an arrogant mindset if you just believe you’re gonna win and just show up, but if your guys put the time in and the work in …. and this week leading up to selection Sunday we were all in the gym getting better on our own.
“So this team believes and they put the work in to make things happen, and we think we can do it.”
How will you match up?
Benzinger: “I’ll be on (Jordan) Bowden, and you know we focus so much on Admiral (Schofield) and Grant, (Williams) those three guards, Bowden, (Jordan) Bone and Lamonte (Turner), all three of them are really good players.
“Teams focus on the big guys so much and forget about the guards, and you can’t, because they’ll burn you, they can all shoot it, they love the pull-up jumper and they are super quick.
Everyone has their work cut out for them tomorrow and you can’t just forget about a guy or they’ll kill you.”
What type of defense and tempo will you play?
“We’re gonna stay man (-to-man), it’s all we do, the only time we went zone was against Loyola-Chicago the first game of the year, and we haven’t since then.
“We’re gonna stay man no matter what, we believe we have the guys that can defend them, and we’ll see if we can.
“We’ll press the tempo a little bit more tomorrow, that’s what our coach has been harper on us about.
Because they crash three to four guys, so if we can get that rebound and go we’ll have opoortunies to get great shots
But before this game, we’re kind of a slow it down team, grind them up, run our motion, we don’t score a lot of points, typically, but teams don’t score a lot of points on us. Kind of like Tennessee, so we’re pretty similar teams, they just have a little bit better athletes, I would say.”
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