DETROIT– Grant Benzinger had 19 points and nine rebounds to help second-seeded Wright State beat eighth-seeded Cleveland State 74-57 on Tuesday night to win the Horizon League Tournament title and earn an NCAA Tournament bid.
The Raiders (25-9) will play in college basketball’s showcase for the third time in school history and the first since 2007.
The Vikings (12-23) took their last lead with 7:36 left in the first half and seemed to wear down, playing their fourth game in five days.
Wright State took control late in the first half with a 13-2 run, taking an eight-point lead at halftime. The Raiders outscored Cleveland State 10-2 early in the second half to pull away.
Loudon Love made his first field goal with 14:42 left to put the Raiders up 44-33. The 6-foot-9, 275-pound center finished with nine points and 12 rebounds, setting the school’s freshman scoring record and single-season mark for rebounds. Wright State’s Cole Gentry and Jaylon Hall scored 11 points apiece.
Kenny Carpenter, playing in his hometown, had 18 points and Tyree Appleby scored 15 for the Raiders.
Cleveland State: First-year coach Dennis Felton, who led Georgia and Western Kentucky to the NCAA Tournament, guided the low-seeded team to one-point wins over Northern Kentucky and fourth-seeded Oakland near its suburban Detroit campus to advance to the finals. That gave the Vikings their first four-game winning streak in four-plus years.
Wright State: Second-year coach Scott Nagy led South Dakota State to the NCAA Tournament in 2016 for third time in five years. The Horizon League Coach of the Year can use that experience to help his players, who were young kids the last time the Raiders were in the NCAA Tournament 11 years ago.
Cleveland State: Felton started two freshmen — Appleby and Stefan Kenic — and can build around them next season.