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Horizon League: Wright State takes control, while Oakland gets back on track

The Raiders are in the driver’s seat while Oakland rights the ship.

NCAA Basketball: Wright State at Penn State
Senior Grant Benzinger has helped lead Wright State to first place in the Horizon League.
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Week three of Horizon League play saw Wright State wrest control of the conference. The Raiders remained undefeated in league play with wins over Northern Kentucky and Youngstown State. While Wright State moved into prime position, others worked their way into the mix.

Wright State’s perfect start

The Raiders’ dream start to conference play continued with two more wins in week three, and Wright State now sits alone in first place at 6-0.

Wright State wasn’t expected to factor much into the conference race this season; the Raiders were picked to finish fifth in the preseason poll. But, the emergence of freshman Loudon Love has changed all of that. Love has quickly become one of the Horizon League’s top post players. During conference play, he leads the league in field goal percentage and is putting up 14 points and just under 10 rebounds per game. Love recorded a double-double in Wright State’s massive win at Northern Kentucky with 17 points and 10 rebounds. All the while, senior Grant Benzinger has paced the Raiders’ scoring efforts, averaging 18 points per game and shooting just shy of 44 percent from three in conference play.

The road win at Northern Kentucky puts the Raiders in an enviable position atop the league standings. Not only did the win give them sole possession of first place, but the Raiders now have road wins over both the Norse and Oakland. That means the two toughest road contests are already out of the way for Wright State. It is early to talk about running the table for the Raiders, but their schedule is favorable moving forward.

Oakland’s turnaround

The start of conference play had not been as kind to the Golden Grizzlies. However, Oakland ripped off three wins last week to pull back into the race.

Double-digit wins over Youngstown State, Cleveland State, and UIC improved Oakland’s record to 4-3. Kendrick Nunn and Jalen Hayes led the charge for the Golden Grizzlies. Nunn continues to score in bunches, putting up at least 20 in all three contests with a high of 32 at UIC. He sits second in the nation in scoring behind only Trae Young. Hayes also came through big with double-doubles against both Youngstown State and Cleveland State.

Oakland continues to have the Horizon League’s most potent offense, but the Golden Grizzlies were also able to hold their last two opponents of the week to 68 points apiece. Continued improvement on defense will be key if Oakland is to stay in the conference title race.

IUPUI sneaks into the race

Another team had a perfect week three and it isn’t one you would expect. IUPUI also pulled off three wins and sits at 4-3, tied with Oakland for third.

The week started off right for the Jaguars with a 72-71 win over Milwaukee. Evan Hall tipped in the game-winner as time expired to give IUPUI its best win of the season, according to KenPom rankings. The buzzer beater may have provided the spark for the Jaguars’ next two wins over Green Bay and Detroit.

IUPUI has a good chance to build upon its recent string of success with games against Cleveland State and Youngstown State coming this weekend. They are winnable games, but are both on the road. It seems unlikely the Jaguars will hang around the top of the conference standings for long, but it is encouraging to see IUPUI competing at this level in its first season in the Horizon League.

Week 3 Standings

Team Record
Team Record
Wright State 6-0
Northern Kentucky 5-1
Oakland 4-3
IUPUI 4-3
UIC 3-3
Youngstown State 3-3
Green Bay 3-5
Milwaukee 2-5
Detroit 2-5
Cleveland State 1-5

What’s to come in Week 4

The league’s top two teams, Wright State and Northern Kentucky, make the Wisconsin road trip this week. Winning road games at Green Bay and Milwaukee is often a challenge, but Wright State would solidify its position in first with a pair of wins while Northern Kentucky needs the wins to stay within striking distance of the Raiders.

Oakland and Detroit renew their rivalry this week in the first of two annual meetings. Expect the Titans to bring their best to take down Oakland. No matter how far apart the two are in the standings, this rivalry is always entertaining.

Thursday:

IUPUI at Cleveland State
UIC at Youngstown State
Wright State at Green Bay
Northern Kentucky at Milwaukee

Saturday:

Northern Kentucky at Green Bay
UIC at Cleveland State
Oakland at Detroit
IUPUI at Youngstown State
Wright State at Milwaukee