Valparaiso took a six-point lead just over one minute into the second half Thursday evening in Dayton, Ohio, but WrightState responded with a 17-4 run to take the lead for good, going on to a 68-58 victory over the Crusaders.
“I thought we did some good things in the first half, especially defensively after giving up 11 quick points,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “But Wright State showed why they have the second-best scoring defense in the nation during the key second-half stretch, forcing us into some tough shots, and once they got the lead, we were playing catch-up the rest of the way.”
Wright State jumped out to an early 11-4 advantage on the strength of three triples, including two from Todd Brown. But the Valpo defense locked down the Raiders for a long stretch, as WSU got just one field goal in a 13:49 stretch. The Crusaders outscored the Raiders 18-9 during that time period, including seven points from Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) and six by Erik Buggs (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell), to take a 22-20 lead.
Brown, who finished the first half with 18 points, put Wright State right back on top with his fourth 3-pointer of the opening stanza, and his tip-in with 1:14 to play in the half made it 27-23 Raiders. On the next Valpo possession, however, Howard Little (Chicago, Ill./Stoneridge [Calif.] School) beat the shot clock with a long triple off a feed from De’Andre Haskins (Long Beach, Calif./La Lumiere [Ind.] School), and following a Raider miss, Haskins grabbed the board and found Little on the fast break for a layup that gave Valpo a 28-27 edge at the break.
Igbavboa got Valpo started quickly in the second half, hitting his third 3-pointer of the season, taking a charge on the defensive end and then driving for a layup on the next offensive trip to put the Crusaders ahead 33-27. But that was when the Raiders went on their big run, as five different WSU players scored over the next seven minutes. Cooper Land gave Wright State the lead for good on a third-chance layup with 13:49 to play, and Cory Cooperwood closed out the 17-4 spurt with a second-chance jumper to make it 44-37 with 11:35 remaining.
Wright State extended its lead to as many as 11 points with 7:53 to go and still led by double figures (56-46) after a pair of N’Gai Evans free throws with 5:43 remaining. But a Haskins triple with 4:51 left cut the deficit to seven points, and following a pair of misses at the line by the Raiders, Haskins hit a shot in the paint to make it a 56-51 ballgame with 4:20 to play.
But that was as close as Valpo would get, as Cooperwood knocked down baskets on back-to-back possessions to extend the lead back to nine points with under three minutes to play. The Crusaders started to foul early, putting Wright State on the line 12 times between 2:35 and 1:03 to go. The Raiders left the door open, only hitting five of their 12 attempts from the charity stripe, but Valpo could score only two points on the ensuing six possessions.
Igbavboa led the Crusaders with 21 points and 14 rebounds, his second double-double of the campaign. Little added 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting before fouling out with 5:58 to play. Buggs chipped in eight points and a team-best four assists, while Haskins pulled down seven rebounds in just 14 minutes off the bench.
Brown paced Wright State (14-9, 8-4 Horizon) with 20 points and ten rebounds. Cooperwood finished with 12 points for the Raiders, while Will Graham scored 11 of his own.Valparaiso (6-17, 3-9 Horizon) concludes its three-game road swing Saturday afternoon in Detroit as the Crusaders face off against the Titans at 3 p.m. CST. As always, all the action can also be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City) and online at www.valpoathletics.com. Live video and statistics will also be available through the official Crusader website.