Valparaiso held a 57-48 lead with 7:09 to play Sunday
afternoon in Horizon League action in Dayton, Ohio, but Wright
State scored the game’s
final 11 points, including a long jumper by Vaughn Duggins with 4.7 seconds to
play, to steal a 59-57 victory from the Crusaders.
“This was a wonderful
college basketball game,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “Both teams
played hard and played well tonight. I
am very proud of our basketball team, coming into a hostile road environment
and battling to gain a halftime lead and working to extend it in the second
half. You have to give Wright State
credit, Cooperwood stepped up and hit some big shots, and obviously Duggins hit
the shot at the end for them. At the
end, their experienced lineup just outdueled us in the last few minutes.”
Fifth-year senior Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis,
Ind./Lawrence North) scored five straight points for the Crusaders on a triple
and a layup, the latter of which extended Valpo’s lead to 57-49 with just over
seven minutes remaining. But the
Crusader offense would get just three shot attempts over the final seven
minutes, missing them all while turning the ball over four times as well.
Meanwhile, the Raiders
chipped away at Valpo’s advantage slowly.
N’Gai Evans hit a long jumper to cut the lead to seven points with 5:46
remaining, and then Cory Cooperwood scored seven straight points over the next
3:46, including just his fourth 3-pointer of the season, to tie things up at
57-all with two minutes to play.
Valpo failed to score on
its next four possessions, while Wright
State went scoreless on
three straight before Duggins connected on the eventual game-winner. The Crusaders were unable to get a shot up in
time after running it upcourt, as a layup by Cory Johnson (Duluth, Minn./Duluth East [Iowa State])
came a split-second after the horn sounded.
The end of the game
mirrored the contest as a whole, as it was a close game throughout. The first half alone featured two ties and
seven lead changes, as neither team could gain more than a six-point advantage
in the opening 20 minutes. Two layups by
Johnson in the final minute of the opening half broke a tie and gave Valpo a 31-27
lead going into the break, as the redshirt junior capped a first half in which
he had 12 points and six rebounds.
Johnson knocked down a
triple on Valpo’s second possession of the second half, but the Raiders scored
on each of their first three trips to cut the Crusader lead to one point and
forcing a timeout. The lead was still
just two points at 38-36 just over three minutes into the half before a layup
by Brandon Wood (Kokomo,
[Highland C.C./Southern Illinois]) and a
3-pointer by Michael Rogers (Kingston, Jamaica/Redemption
[N.Y.] Christian) pushed the advantage to 43-36. Valpo maintained a 2-3 possession lead for
most of the rest of the game until the ending sequence.
Johnson finished the game
with 17 points, pacing the Crusaders for the second straight contest, while
also pulling down a team-best nine rebounds.
connected on four of his six attempts from behind the arc for a season-best 12
points. Wood, who entered the game
leading the league at nearly 20 points per game, scored just six points, but
also registered five rebounds and a game-high five assists.
“I thought Cory did an
extremely good job playing on the inside today,” said Drew. “Mike also stepped up as well. He did a great job for us in the middle of
our zone today, fronting Wright
State’s post player, and
also hit a number of key outside shots.”
Duggins led Wright State
(11-6, 4-2 Horizon) with 18 points, while Cooperwood recorded a double-double
with 13 points and 14 rebounds. Evans
chipped in 12 points and five assists as well.
Valpo locked the Raiders down defensively, holding them to 38.9%
shooting from the field and 29.2% from behind the arc versus the Crusaders’
clips of 48.9% and 50%, respectively.
But Valpo committed 19 turnovers and forced just 12 WSU miscues, as the
Raiders held a 16-7 advantage in points off turnovers.
“This was a very tough
road trip against two of the top-level teams in our league,” said Drew. “I was very pleased overall with the defense
and tenacity we played with over the two games.
We had opportunities in both games and need to learn from them, learn
how to take advantage, go the distance, play the full 40 minutes and win
Valparaiso (6-11, 1-4 Horizon) returns to the friendly
confines of the ARC on Thursday evening, continuing Horizon League action with Youngstown State at 7:05 p.m. As always, the game can be heard live on the
Valpo Sports Radio Network (WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City;
WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso)
and can be seen on the Horizon League Network. Valpo’s athletic website, www.valpoathletics.com, will have links for live audio,
video and statistics.