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Wright State cruises to Horizon League Championship

The Raiders put an end to Cleveland State’s surprise run

NCAA Basketball: Wright State at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

The Wright State Raiders captured the Horizon League Tournament championship on Tuesday night with a 74-57 victory over Cleveland State. With the win, Wright State advances to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007.

Wright State, the tournament’s 2 seed, followed up a solid regular season with a consistent performance in the Horizon League Tournament. On Tuesday night in Detroit, they outmatched a Cleveland State squad that was playing its fourth game in five days.

The Raiders also shook off some Horizon League Tournament demons with the win. Wright State had advanced to the Horizon League Tournament championship game three times in the previous five seasons but came up short each time. The Raiders finally finished the job this year.

Senior Grant Benzinger paced the Raiders in scoring with 19 points and was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. But Wright State’s win was truly the result of a balanced scoring effort. Cole Gentry and Jaylon Hall each tallied 11 points while Loudon Love, Parker Ernsthausen, and Mark Hughes put up nine apiece.

The Raiders did not shoot the lights out, but were able to control the rebounding game. While Love had an abnormally rough shooting performance, he turned in his usual, dominating game on the boards. He finished with 12 rebounds as the Raiders out-rebounded the Vikings by 10.

Meanwhile, Cleveland State’s admirable Horizon League Tournament run came to a close in the loss. The Vikings entered the tournament as the 8 seed and had a 9-22 record. However, three straight wins including upsets of top-seeded Northern Kentucky and fourth-seeded Oakland got the Vikings into the championship game.The Vikings luck and, perhaps, energy ran out as Tuesday night’s game against a superior Wright State squad.

Wright State awaits Selection Sunday to find out its NCAA Tournament matchup. The Raiders likely face a low seed, but they could be dangerous. Love presents a challenge down low for any team the Raiders face while Benzinger can be deadly from deep when he gets hot.