20 turnovers were too much for the Valparaiso men’s basketball team to overcome Tuesday evening in Dayton, Ohio, as the Crusaders fell by a 67-58 final to Wright State.
The loss drops Valpo into a tie for third place in the league standings with the Raiders. Since Wright State now owns the tiebreaker over the Crusaders by virtue of the season series sweep, the only way Valpo finishes as the third seed – earning a single bye – is with a win over Cleveland State Saturday, coupled with a WSU loss to UIC. Any other pair of results would lock the Crusaders into the fourth seed, where they would host UIC next Tuesday night at the ARC at 7 p.m.
Valpo never led Tuesday evening at the Nutter Center, as the Raiders scored the game’s first two baskets. The Crusaders finally got on the board over three minutes into the game on a dunk by junior Vashil Fernandez (Kingston, Jamaica/Princeton Day [Md.] Academy), and would be within two points on a number of occasions in the early going, but WSU would extend its lead, claiming its first double-digit advantage on back-to-back 3-pointers which put it ahead 20-10 with 8:18 to play in the first half.
The Crusaders cut quickly into the deficit, as Fernandez scored four consecutive points, and with 4:25 to play in the half, senior Jordan Coleman (North Hollywood, Calif./Calabasas [Southwestern Ill. College/Hawai'i]) knocked down a triple from the corner to bring Valpo within 23-18. Seven straight points from Cole Darling gave the Raiders their largest lead of the first half at 30-18 with 2:54 to go in the half, and while Valpo scored the next five, a pair of free throws from AJ Pacher inside the final minute made it a 32-23 deficit for the Crusaders at halftime.
The margin would barely budge from nine points for over 13 minutes into the second half, as the entire stretch saw the Crusaders trailing by somewhere from seven to 11 points. Four different times, Valpo cut the lead to seven points, but on three of those occasions, Wright State answered immediately with a basket, and the final time, the Raiders got a basket two trips later from JT Yoho to push their lead back to 53-44 with 6:45 to play.
But on their next trip, the Crusaders finally broke the seven-point barrier, as a triple by sophomore Keith Carter (Maywood, Ill./Proviso East [Saint Louis]) cut the lead to six points. Wright State responded with a basket, but two trips later, freshman Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington) drove for a layup and then a minute later, Peters was there for a tip-in to make it a 55-51 game with four minutes to go, as close as the game had been since the early stages of the first half.
But Valpo would be unable to get it any closer, as Pacher scored seven points over a three-possession stretch for the Raiders to keep the Crusaders at bay. Fernandez picked up another dunk and Lavonte Dority (Chicago, Ill./Foreman [USF]) hit a pair from the foul line to keep Valpo within 62-55 with 2:10 to play, but it would take the Crusaders nearly two minutes to score again.
Peters led the Crusaders with 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting, while Fernandez was a perfect 4-of-4 from the floor and 2-of-2 from the line for 10 points, his fourth double-figure scoring effort of the season. The junior also matched freshman Jubril Adekoya (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) for team-high honors with five rebounds, while Adekoya dished out five assists and Carter added four helpers.
Pacher paced Wright State (17-13, 9-6 Horizon) with 20 points and six rebounds. Darling added 12 points, while Yoho chipped in 10 points off the bench.
Valparaiso (17-13, 9-6 Horizon) closes out the regular season on Senior Day at the ARC Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. against Cleveland State. This year’s four seniors – Bobby Capobianco (Loveland, Ohio/Loveland [Indiana]), Coleman, Dority and Gueye – will be honored prior to the game and will address the crowd after the game. The game is an HLN Regional broadcast and will be available live locally on Comcast SportsNet Chicago. As always, the game will also be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, and links for live video, audio and stats will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.