Grant Benzinger supplied a career-high 32 points Wednesday night, but a slow start to the second half undid Wright State in an 81-74 men’s basketball loss to Georgia State.
Coached by Dayton native Ron Hunter, Georgia State extended a 41-33 halftime lead to 24 points with 13 minutes left and the Raiders (6-2) spent the balance of the second half in chase mode.
They almost caught the Panthers, shaving the deficit to four before seeing their five-game win streak crash to a halt.
“I was proud of the way the kids didn’t quit,” WSU coach Scott Nagy said. “All that stuff is great, but you leave yourself no margin for error when you’re down by 24. You have to play perfectly.”
Benzinger sank 9 of 18 field-goal attempts, including six 3-pointers, in 29 minutes. He also grabbed eight rebounds.
Mark Alstork added 19 points and eight rebounds and Steven Davis chipped in 12 points for the Raiders, who are 5-1 at home and 1-1 on the road.
“Average teams win at home, but if you want to be consistently good, you have to win on the road, in tough places,” Nagy said. “We were pretty good until the last five minutes of the first half. Then we had a bunch of defensive breakdowns.”
The lead changed hands several times in the first half before a 2-for-14 cold snap from the field enveloped the Raiders.
Ultimately, not even the red-hot Benzinger could shift the tide. His previous career-high, set last year, had been 31 points. The junior is averaging just under 15 points this season, but has scored 76 over his last three games.
“He shot the ball well,” Nagy acknowledged, “but it doesn’t really matter. It’s really not about how many points guys score.”
Jeremy Hollowell scored 22 for Georgia State (4-2), whose bench out-pointed WSU’s 22-1.
“When you see yourself being on a championship level, you don’t play like this,” Nagy said. “We kind of went backwards tonight, but we’ll learn from it.”
The Raiders, who are at Penn State on Saturday, excelled from the free-throw line again, sinking 19 of 22. They entered play ranked second nationally in free throws made (159) and third in attempts (211).
Hunter and Nagy coached sans footwear to raise awareness for Samaritan’s Feet, an organization that distributes shoes to the needy around the world. Hunter improved to 10-0 barefoot.