Down 63-62 with under four minutes to play, Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) hit his fifth 3-pointer of the game to put Valparaiso ahead for good and fellow senior Jarryd Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) hit four free throws in the final 12 seconds to give the Crusaders a 72-67 victory over Wright State in Horizon League Championship quarterfinal action Friday in Indianapolis, Ind.
“I’m just very proud of our team,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “We had four players in double figures, which is the strength of this team. They really share the ball. They like each other and make the extra pass.”
The game featured 14 ties and 16 lead changes, but the final lead change came with 3:53 remaining. Coming out of a 30-second timeout, Loyd found Huff for the triple to put Valpo ahead 65-63. For Huff, the 3-pointer pushed him over the 1,000-point milestone for his career, as he ended the game with 1,001 career points.
Wright State tied the game on a Jordan Pleiman layup with 2:53 to play, but that was the last field goal either team would score, as the rest of the game was decided at the free throw line. Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) hit a free throw with 1:50 remaining in the game, the last of his 17 points, to put Valpo ahead by one.
Two missed free throws by the Raiders gave the Crusaders the ball with under a minute to play with the chance to extend the lead, and Loyd made a great pass to a cutting Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North), who drew a foul with 37 seconds left. The junior calmly drained both free throws to give Valpo a 68-65 cushion.
Wright Statemissed a shot on its possession and Valpo corralled the rebound, but the Raiders forced a turnover and Troy Tabler was fouled with 16 seconds left. Tabler knocked down both freebies to bring the Raiders back to within one, but Loyd stepped up down the stretch. The senior hit both of his free throws when sent to the line with 12 seconds to play, and after a Raider miss, hit two more with under a second to play to secure the win.
“A lot of it came down to free throws tonight,” said Drew. “Our players can do it in their sleep sometimes because we’ve been practicing so much on free throws to put us in that winning situation.”
The game was back and forth right from the start, as neither team enjoyed more than a six-point edge the entire night. Huff scored the first five points of the game and gave Valpo its biggest advantage at 22-16 with 10:50 to play in the first half on a triple.
Wright Stateresponded with a 15-4 run, as Todd Brown gave the Raiders a 31-26 lead with 5:46 left in the half, but Igbavboa ended the run with just his second 3-pointer of the season. The Raiders took a 38-37 lead into the break, and the second half was even tighter, as neither team led by more than four points until Loyd’s final free throw. Vaughn Duggins put Wright State up one with a jumper with 4:10 to play, setting up the final stretch.
Huff led four Crusaders in double figures with 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting. Igbavboa scored 17 points and knocked down six of his seven field goal attempts. McPherson and Loyd scored 16 and 14, respectively, off the bench, and each went a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line, as Valpo hit 84.2% (16-of-19) of its attempts from the charity stripe.
Wright State(21-10) was led by 15 points each from Pleiman and Scottie Wilson. Brown and Duggins added 13 points apiece. The Raiders struggled from the free throw line, hitting just 43.8% (7-of-16) of their tries from the line.
Valparaiso (21-12) advances to the Horizon League Championship semifinals in its first season of league play and will face Cleveland State on Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. CST (4:30 p.m. local time). The game will be televised nationally on ESPNU, and as always, can be heard on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WWLO, 89.1 FM, Lowell) or online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.