Sophomore guard Michael Rogers (Kingston, Jamaica/Redemption [N.Y.] Christian) put up a double-double with 12 points and a game-high 15 rebounds Saturday evening, but Valparaiso came up on the short end of a 64-48 decision against Wright State at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
The game got off to an inauspicious start for the Crusaders, as after Erik Buggs (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell) and De’Andre Haskins (Long Beach, Calif./La Lumiere [Ind.] School) connected for triples in the first seven minutes, Valpo could not connect for another field goal for the next ten minutes. In that stretch, Wright State extended its lead from 11-6 to as many as 20 points at 27-7, with six different players scoring during the run for the Raiders.
Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) hit a pair of free throws with 4:18 remaining in the half, ending the WSU run and starting a run of Valpo’s own. 90 seconds later, Haskins picked up a loose ball and went coast-to-coast to end the Crusader drought from the floor, and the next time down, the freshman found Jake Diebler (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) for an open 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 13.
The Raiders split a pair of free throws on their next trip, but Haskins got a feed from Igbavboa on the next trip for another triple to make it an 11-point game. After a stop on the defensive end, Rogers gathered two offensive rebounds on one possession and put the second back up for a layup to bring the game to 28-19 going into the break as the Crusaders ended the half on a 12-1 run.
“I thought Wright State came out with their experience and hit some tough shots in the early going,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “I was proud of the fact we didn’t give in, we kept fighting and made it a game at halftime.”
The Crusaders started the second half with the same five of Buggs, Diebler, Haskins, Igbavboa and Rogers that were on the court for the run to end the opening stanza, and the quintet kept the momentum alive, as Igbavboa found Rogers for a 3-pointer to bring Valpo back within 28-22. But on the Crusaders’ next possession, Buggs went down with a game-ending injury and the Raiders got an open 3-pointer from John David Gardner with the man advantage on the other end to extend the lead to nine.
Valpo would get no closer than the six-point deficit, but did fight back a couple times after facing double-digit margins. Diebler split a pair of free throws to make it a 39-30 game with 11:31 to go, but Gardner knocked down another triple on WSU’s next possession to push the lead back to 12 points. A couple minutes later, Diebler hit a fast-break triple from Haskins to bring Valpo back within nine again, but again the Raiders answered, this time with a trifecta by Troy Tabler.
Rogers, who picked up his third career double-double and second against the Raiders, grabbed 11 of his 15 boards in the first half alone, helping the Crusaders to a 37-29 advantage on the glass. Haskins joined Rogers in double figures in the scoring column with ten points off the bench.
Todd Brown led Wright State (9-8, 3-3 Horizon) with 19 points, while Gardner added 18 for the Raiders. Tabler knocked down three triples off the bench en route to 11 points of his own.Valparaiso (5-12, 2-4 Horizon) goes on the road next weekend, taking on the league’s two Windy City entries. First up is a visit to UIC on Thursday evening at 7 p.m. As always, all the action can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WWLO, 89.1 FM, Lowell) and online at www.valpoathletics.com. Live video and statistics will also be available through the official Crusader website.