- By Jay Morrison Staff Writer
For the fifth time this season Wright State rallied from at least eight points down to win, beating Cleveland State 72-63 Monday night to remain tied with Northern Kentucky for first place in the Horizon League.
The win sets up a three-team weekend showdown between the Raiders, NKU and UIC to determine the regular-season champion and No. 1 seed for the conference tournament.
WSU finished the season 14-2 at the Nutter Center, tying the Division I program record for home victories in a season. And the Raiders improved to 21-8 overall and 13-3 in the HL, tying the school record for conference wins in a season.
Here are five things to know about Monday night’s game as the Raiders sent Grant Benzinger and Trey Stacey out winners on Senior Night:
Half and half
Coming off his huge game Friday night in a 69-67 victory against Northern Kentucky, Parker Ernsthausen was making things happen again in the first half against CSU. Ernsthausen scored all 10 of his points in the first half while recording a career-high two blocks.
Then Mark Hughes owned the second half, hitting a short jumper and a 3-pointer in the first 82 seconds. Hughes scored 14 of his 16 points after halftime.
“Coach Nagy really got into me a little bit and told me I wasn’t playing like I should have been,” Hughes said. “I made a couple shots early and that really got my aggressiveness going. I got to the free throw line a lot.”
Hughes was 6 of 6 from the line, all in the second half.
Among those in attendance to celebrate Benzinger and Stacey’s Senior Night were their high school coaches from Moeller.
“I think it was supposed to be a surprise, but (WSU assistant coach Brian) Cooley before shoot-around was like ‘Hey, you’re coaches are coming up today,’” Benzinger said. “So he ruined the surprise. But it was awesome for them to be here.
“They instilled the man who I am, the basketball player I am, the work ethic,” Benzinger added. “They get all the credit for that.”
Moeller assistant Fred Hesse said attending Senior Night for former players is not something the staff is usually able to do because of conflicts with games and/or practices. But with Monday being President’s Day, there was no school or practice.
Benzinger put on a show for his former coaches, scoring 20 points while hitting five 3-pointers. He also tied his career high with five assists and shared team-high rebounding honors with Mark Hughes and Loudon Love at six apiece.
The chants of “Trey! Trey! Trey!” started with about two minutes left in the game. And they continued until Nagy sent senior Trey Stacey to the scorer’s table to check in with 7.4 seconds to go.
Nagy said he wished he could have inserted Stacy into his final home game sooner.
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“If we’d just taken care of business a little bit and made some free throws, I could have,” Nagy said. “Some people were cussing me out coming off the floor because I didn’t get him in. Certainly I’m going to do what I think is right. We love Trey. I’m going to do everything I can do to help Trey.”
Cleveland State was on a 6-0 run to reclaim a three-point lead with a little more than nine minutes to go when the Raiders caught a lucky break to get even.
Cole Gentry threw a poor entry pass into the post that should have been stolen, but two CSU players ran into each other and fell down, allowing Love to pick up the loose ball and lay it in while drawing a foul. Love hit the free throw to tie the game and start a 17-2 run.
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“Not how we usually execute out pick and roll,” said Love, who finished with 15 points. “But it worked out in our favor. We did a lot of other things to help it go our way, but that play definitely helped.”
Cleveland State regained a 59-57 lead with a little less than nine minutes to go and at the time was shooting 50 percent from 3-point range and 46.7 percent overall.
But the Raiders held the Vikings scoreless for more than seven minutes and didn’t allow a field goal over the final 8:56.
Here is a look at CSU’s final 15 possessions:
Two free throws