Valparaiso struggled shooting
the ball from the floor Thursday night at the Athletics-Recreation Center,
eventually falling in Horizon League action to Wright State, 75-71.
The first half saw the Crusaders unable to buy a bucket from
anywhere on the court, as they ended the opening 20 minutes hitting just 32%
from the floor while missing all nine of their attempts from behind the
arc. Meanwhile, the Raiders were on fire
from downtown, hitting 7-of-11 (63.6%) from 3-point range in the first half.
State put up a massive
18-2 run over a span of eight minutes in the middle portion of the half to take
control. The Raiders’ lead was as many
as 15 points in the opening half, but Brandon
Wood (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo
[Highland C.C./Southern Illinois]) hit a layup, and following a Tommy Kurth (Osceola, Ind./Penn) steal,
Cameron Witt (Launceston, Tasmania,
Australia/Launceston) hit a shot in the lane at the buzzer to send Valpo into
the locker room down just 31-21.
“You have to give credit to Wright State,
they are a very well-coached team and are one of the best teams in the league,”
said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “We did not come out aggressively enough in
the first half, especially defensively, allowing them to hit seven 3-pointers
and get that big lead on us.”
Just as they had done in their previous two games, however,
the Crusaders came out of the locker room and quickly erased a sizable halftime
deficit. This time, it was a 13-1 run
that began with 16:30 to play, as Cory
Johnson (Duluth, Minn./Duluth
East [Iowa State]) kicked things off with a layup
on a feed from Wood. Johnson and Ryan Broekhoff (Frankston, Victoria,
Australia/Australian Institute of Sport) each posted four points during the
run, and when Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence
North) connected on Valpo’s first 3-pointer of the game with 12:30 remaining,
the Crusaders had gained a 40-39 advantage.
But Valpo would be unable to hold on, as Wright State
claimed back the lead for good just over two minutes later on a 3-pointer by
Vaughn Duggins. The Crusaders hung
within striking distance for the next five minutes, but a key four-point play
by Duggins with 5:20 to play increased the Raider lead to eight points. Wright State pushed the advantage to as many
as 11 points with 2:43 remaining before Valpo went on a 14-6 spurt, capped by a
long jumper by Howard Little (Chicago,
Ill./Stoneridge [Calif.] School) with 11 seconds to play to move within three
points. But Broekhoff was called for a
foul on a scramble for the loose ball on the ensuing inbounds, and Todd Brown
hit a free throw to put things out of reach.
“I thought Duggins’ four-point play was really a critical
moment in the game, giving [Wright
State] a little extra
cushion,” said Drew. “I was pleased with
the way we fought back early in the second half, and then again late, fouling
and making shots to get back to within three points.”
Valpo, which entered the game leading the league in 3-point
percentage, suffered through one of its worst shooting nights of the season
from downtown, hitting just one of its first 14 from deep and ending the game
at 4-of-22 (18.2%). Wood led the
Crusader effort with 18 points and nine rebounds, while McPherson scored 17 and
Johnson 16. Broekhoff set a new career
best, leading all players with 13 rebounds.
State (15-8, 8-4
Horizon), which moved into solo second place by virtue of its victory, was led
by 18 points from N’Gai Evans. Duggins
added 17 points, while Brown scored 12 in the winning effort.
Valparaiso (11-13, 6-6 Horizon) faces another key Horizon
League battle on Saturday afternoon as Detroit
comes to the ARC for a 1 p.m. tip in the HLN Game of the Week, which can be
seen locally on Comcast SportsNet Chicago.
As always, the game can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network
(WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WLPR, 89.1 FM, Merrillville) 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.