Valparaiso erased all but one point of a 15-point halftime deficit less than nine minutes into the second half of a nationally televised contest from the ARC Friday night against Wright State, but could never get over the hump, as the Crusaders fell by a 62-45 final score to the Raiders.
The Crusaders scored the first two baskets of the game and still led 12-11 with 13:15 remaining in the opening period, following a dunk from fifth-year senior Moussa Gueye (Thies, Senegal/SEED Academy [Alabama/Lake Land (Ill.) College]) and a fast-break two-handed slam while being fouled by senior Jordan Coleman (North Hollywood, Calif./Calabasas [Southwestern Ill. College/Hawai'i]). But Valpo would hit just one field goal over the next seven-plus minutes, as WSU ran off a 12-2 spurt over that stretch to go ahead by nine.
A pair of free throws from Gueye cut the deficit to 27-20 with 4:18 to play in the first half, but again Wright State put together a run, scoring 10 straight points in just over two minutes to earn its largest lead at 17 points. Two free throws by Coleman with 32 seconds remaining in the half made it a 37-22 game at the break.
Valpo would surrender just one field goal over the first 10 minutes of the second half in making a furious rally to cut the 15-point deficit to just one point. The Crusaders ran a set play which resulted in a 3-pointer for freshman Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington) right out of the break, while a dunk from junior Vashil Fernandez (Kingston, Jamaica/Princeton Day [Md.] Academy) and a tip-in by Coleman sandwiched WSU’s only make from the floor in the first 10 minutes as Valpo cut the Raider lead to 39-29 just over two minutes into the half.
The teams went scoreless over the next two and a half minutes before a Gueye slam dunk, and following another two-minute scoreless stretch, freshman Lexus Williams (Chicago, Ill./Marist) came up with a steal and hit Peters ahead of the field for a two-handed slam on the fast break to make it 39-33. On the next possession, sophomore Keith Carter (Maywood, Ill./Proviso East [Saint Louis]) drained a triple with the shot clock running down to make it a one-possession game, and then the next time down, Carter fed Fernandez inside for a layup as the Crusaders moved within 39-38 with 11:12 remaining.
Valpo actually had the ball back with a chance to take the lead following a defensive stop, but could not convert on a drive, and the Raiders’ Cole Darling nailed a 3-pointer with the shot clock running down to halt the Crusader run. Valpo would go over seven minutes without a field goal as Wright State answered the Valpo spurt and secured the game with a 14-3 run to push its lead to 53-41 with less than five minutes to play. The Crusaders were unable to get the lead inside 10 points the rest of the way.
The Crusaders, who shot just 31.9% (15-of-47) from the floor and 3-of-11 (27.3%) from 3-point range on Friday, were led by 10 points from Coleman to go along with nine points and six rebounds from Peters. Gueye chipped in seven points and seven rebounds, while Fernandez made his presence felt on both ends with six points, seven rebounds and a career-best five blocked shots.
Wright State (10-8, 2-1 Horizon) received a game-high 12 points from Miles Dixon, while Reggie Arceneaux posted 10 points, eight rebounds and six assists. AJ Pacher approached a double-double as well for the Raiders with nine points and nine rebounds. WSU ended the night shooting just 35.2% (19-of-54) from the floor, but were 85.7% (18-of-21) from the foul line and committed just four turnovers to 14 by the Crusaders.
Valparaiso (9-9, 1-2 Horizon) looks to get back on the winning track Wednesday in league play at Detroit. Tipoff is slated for 6 p.m. CT, and as always, all the action can be seen live on the Horizon League Network and heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network. Links for the live video and audio, as well as live stats, will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.