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DDN: Benzinger goes all out — as always — in final game for Raiders

Excerpt from the Dayton Daily News

By Tom Archdeacon

Grant Benzinger has been especially known for two things in his college career:

  • The Wright State senior guard can shoot the lights out from long range.
  • He dives on the floor for loose balls with absolutely no regard for his body or his well-being.

One of the two happened Thursday as the Raiders were overwhelmed by Tennessee, 73-47, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

The top three-point shooter in WSU basketball history — a guy who has 1,451 career points and received All Horizon League first team honors this season — Benzinger had an uncharacteristically abysmal time of it against the Vols, making just two of 16 shots from the floor and one of nine from three-point range to finish with a season-low five points.

“This was the worst day to have one of those days,” he said in the Raiders dressing room afterwards. “That’s probably the worst I shot it all year.”

And yet, Benzinger – “the heartbeat of our team all year,” Coach Scott Nagy said after the game — didn’t hang back, slump or change who he was as the game wore on.

That was clear with just 4:30 left and his team trailing by 21 points.

Suddenly there was a loose ball near midcourt and Benzinger dove head first for it, hitting the floor as hard as Pete Rose ever went belly first into third base.

As soon as he crashed landed on the wooden playing surface, he felt it.

“Right away I knew it had busted open again,” Benzinger said.

He had torn his side open in on another dive in late December against UIC at the Nutter Center. That had left him with a gaping hole in his side that required five stitches.

This time, he got up, ran a hand down to his right side, then looked toward the Raiders bench. He started to motion, then thought better of it, waved off the acknowledgement and returned to the action.

Some 30 seconds later there was a time out and he was on the sideline, Benzinger was attended to by head trainer Jason Franklin and team physician Dr. Matt Lawless.

“When I went down and looked at it, it was probably two inches wide,” Nagy said of Benzinger’s wound.

While that would have been enough to sideline anybody, Benzinger is not your typical player. He’s like that old daredevil Evel Knievel whose body was held together by stitches and gumption and grit.

Freshman year Benzinger was kicked in the head in a game and needed stitches to close his eyebrow. As a sophomore his lip was split by an elbow and needed needle and thread, as well.

His first three years as a Raider he suffered bursitis in both elbows and a knee from all that diving and regularly needed the fluid to be drained off each joint. This past fall he underwent hernia surgery, missed the whole preseason and played 31 minutes in the opening game against Loyola.

“At first today they were just going to take me to the locker room and call it a day,” Benzinger said Thursday. “But I wanted to play the last four minutes. I wanted to finish on the court and then they said they could suture it right there on the bench.

Franklin said it was an effort “so he could go back in one more time.”