- Jay Morrison Staff Writer
Green Bay came into Saturday’s Horizon League tournament quarterfinal averaging 98.7 points in its last three games.
Wright State sent the Phoenix home but making sure they got nowhere close to that.
The Raiders dialed up a smothering defensive performance early and hung on to advance with a 87-72 victory at Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit.
The second-seeded Raiders (23-9) will play at 9:30 p.m. Monday in the semifinals against the winner of Sunday’s game between No. 3 UIC and No. 6 Milwaukee.
WSU senior guard Grant Benzinger was a perfect 5 of 5 from the field, including 4 of 4 from 3-point range, and finished with 15 points and a team-high nine rebounds as six Raiders scored in double figures.
Freshman Loudon Love had a team-high 17 points and 7 rebounds, the fifth of which came with 7:32 left in the game to break Thad Burton’s single-season school record of 305 set in 1997.
Sophomore guard Cole Gentry scored added 16 points while recording a game-high five assists, while freshman forward Everett Winchester (15), junior guard Mark Hughes (10) and freshman guard Jaylon Hall (10) also reached double figures.
But the biggest key to the win wasn’t the numbers the Raiders posted, but the ones they prevented.
WSU held Green Bay (13-20) scoreless on its first 11 possessions while jumping out to an 11-0 lead.
More than 12 minutes had elapsed before the Phoenix reached double digits, and the Raiders led 37-21 at halftime. It was the fewest points the Phoenix have scored in a half this season, and second fewest WSU has allowed (19 against IUPUI on Dec. 30).
Green Bay had made at least 11 3-pointers in six consecutive games, but the Raiders limited them to nine on 23 attempts (39.1 percent).
The Phoenix were 24 of 57 (42.1 percent) overall.
Wright State hit 8 of 17 from beyond the arc and 28 of 54 overall (51.9 percent)
The Phoenix trailed by as many as 21 but rose the hot hand of senior guard Khalil Small to close to within 13 with 6:31 to go after starters Sandy Cohen III, the team’s second-leading scorer (16.8), and David Jesperson, the fourth-leading scorer (8.2) had fouled out.
Small scored a career-high 34 points to lead all scorers and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds in his final collegiate appearance, but the Phoenix never were able to cut the deficit any lower than 12.