Benzinger goes for 22, Wright State races past Georgia Tech
ATLANTA (AP) — Grant Benzinger didn’t surprise his coach Friday when he scored 14 of his 22 points in the second half, but he sparked Wright State to an 85-81 win over Georgia Tech and caught the Yellow Jackets by surprise.
Wright State (8-5) was 1-30 against teams from Power Five conferences. And then the Raiders beat Georgia Tech (5-6) of the ACC.
Even Wright State head coach Scott Nagy was shocked that his team shot so well in the second half, when they scored 54 points to overcome a nine-point halftime deficit while making 6-of-9 3 pointers.
The Raiders entered the game shooting 30.8 percent from distance, and made just 3-of-11 in the first half. The second half, when Wright State outscored Tech (5-6) 18-0 on 3-pointers, was a different story.
“We’ve been here since Wednesday, and everybody I run into says, ’Wright State? Where’s right State?” Nagy said after the Raiders shot 66.7 percent following intermission. “We just don’t have that identity yet . . . Wright State is . . . in Dayton, Ohio.
“This team has struggled from 3. I think in the last game (a 66-50 loss Tuesday at Missouri State) we went 6-for-30 . . . obviously, we hit some big ones.”
Benzinger hit three from beyond the arc, and Gentry Cole, a reserve playing in his third game for Wright State after transferring from South Dakota State in the middle of his freshman season, made 4-of-5 3-pointers after halftime - for all of his points.
Loudon Love added 16 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
Jose Alvarado paced the Yellow Jackets with a career-high 23 points, but Tech missed all seven 3-pointers in the second half, when they suffered 11 of their 18 turnovers.
The Raiders trailed 40-31 at halftime after Tech shot 57.1 percent only to take a 55-53 lead on Gentry’s 3-pointer with 12:04 left.
“Coach (Josh Pastner) told us we’ve had a little trouble all season coming out in the second half . . . ” Alvarado said. “They just played harder than us. There’s no excuse. We weren’t tired or nothing; they just played harder than us.”
The Raiders stretched the lead to 66-55 on three free throws by Benzinger with 9:15 remaining.
Tech rallied to lead 77-75 on a layup by center Ben Lammers with 2:32 left, but Benzinger’s third 3-pointer, with 2:12 to go, gave the Raiders a 78-77 lead that they held.
Josh Okogie scored 21 points in his third game for Tech, and Lammers added 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Wright State’s Justin Mitchell went for 15 points and 10 rebounds.
“Our defense failed us the second half, unfortunately,” Pastner said. “We had 18 turnovers, 11 in the second half. You look at their numbers, the way they shot the second half, it’s just a recipe for disaster. We’re just not very good right now.”
Wright State: The Raiders spread the ball beautifully in the second half while scoring 54 points. Eleven of their 20 assists came after halftime, and they shot 66.7 percent (18-of-27). Mitchell scored 11 after halftime.
Georgia Tech: For the second straight game, the Yellow Jackets imploded on defense. Normally Tech’s calling card, the Jackets allowed 54 points on 66.7 percent shooting after Georgia hit them with 71.4 percent shooting after intermission. Tech trailed 36-34 at halftime in that game before losing 80-59.
IN THE MIDDLE
Love won the battle of big men, as the 6-foot-9, 275-pound redshirt freshman from Geneva, Ill., made 7-of-9 shots, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked a shot, mostly while matched up against Lammers, Tech’s second-team All-ACC center.
“He is 275 pounds and it’s legitimate,” Nagy said. “Two years ago, he was 320 coming off a knee injury out of his school. He didn’t play his senior year, so we decided to redshirt him . . . he got his body in shape.”
Wright State will look to jump start themselves in the Horizon League when they play host to the University of Illinois-Chicago Thursday.
Georgia Tech has one non-conference game left before jumping into ACC action, and after a couple days off for the holiday the Yellow Jackets will welcome Coppin State to McCamish Pavilion on Wednesday. Tech will open league play Saturday at Notre Dame