College Basketball: Wright State tops Kent to extend home win streak

Wright State coach Scott Nagy prefers to go straight to questions instead of making an opening comment in his postgame press conferences, but he was so excited by what he saw against Kent State on Saturday that he interrupted the media’s first query.

“I’ll start with a statement if you want me to,” he said.

The Raiders were abysmal on offense, especially from the 3-point line. But they were the tougher, scrappier, hungrier team — flashing the traits Nagy has tried to instill in his players from the first practice.

“All the things that go into who we want to be, we did all those things tonight,” he said after the 63-54 win before 3,448 fans.

“Obviously, we’d like to be better on offense, and we’ll get there. I’m less concerned about that and more concerned about staying at this level that we were defensively — and the hustle plays. We saw kids on the floor making plays. I’m really pleased with the guys.”

The Raiders forced a whopping 24 turnovers and held the visitors to 19-of-52 shooting (36.5 percent).

While Nagy’s system isn’t designed to create havoc — he puts an emphasis on protecting the rim instead of extending the defense — they’re generating 17.5 turnovers per game.

“We’re not a team that forces a lot of turnovers,” senior wing Grant Benzinger said. “That’s just not how our defensive style is. But it’s always good when you do that because it makes offense easier.

“You get in transition more and have a lot more open looks. Even though we didn’t shoot it well, we had a lot of open shots that will fall eventually.”

The Raiders (6-4) made only 4-of-22 three-pointers and were just 20-of-52 from the field (38.5 percent). But they were able to get 18 points off turnovers, which was a big reason they won their sixth straight game at the Nutter Center — their longest streak since 2007-08.

Benzinger had 13 points to lead a balanced attack. Junior center Parker Ernsthausen had a season-high 11 points, while freshmen Jaylon Hall and Everett Winchester had 11 and 10, respectively.

The Raiders were in control most of the game. Hall’s inside bucket capped a 6-0 run that made it 29-19 with 2:49 to go in the first half. They led, 31-24, at the break.

The Flashes (5-5), who won the MAC tournament title last season, cut the deficit to five early in the second half, but Benzinger made a 3-pointer and then scored inside to make it 40-28 with 15:34 to go.

Kent State whittled the deficit to 41-35 with 11:58 left. But the Raiders built the lead back to 12 with 8:27 to go on a pair of three-point plays by Winchester.

Point guard Justin Mitchell chipped in six points and a season-high 11 rebounds.

The Raiders just had too many scoring threats for the Flashes to keep up.

“I like that,” Nagy said. “I mentioned when we played Western Kentucky that they have six players averaging in double figures in scoring, and I had never seen that. But we’re very, very close to having that.”

Going into the game, Benzinger was averaging 14.0, Mark Hughes 10.6, Winchester 10.2, Justin Mitchell 10.1, Louden Love 9.8 and Hall 9.6.

“We are very balanced,” Nagy said. “We just need to shoot a better percentage. We had good shots tonight, and that’s all you can ask for.”

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