INDIANAPOLIS –There is a stick that Valparaiso has used three times this year to beat Wright State with and the Raiders are on the short end of it as they lost their third game in a row to the Crusaders 72-67 in the quarterfinals of the Horizon League Championship.
Earlier this year at Wright State, Valpo pulled out a 71-67 win and then last Saturday on ESPN2 Valpo beat the Raiders in overtime 75-73.
“It is a lot like the other games when we played Valpo. Three terrific basketball games, but unfortunately we came up on the short end of the stick each time,” said a very subdued Wright State coach Brad Brownell. “It is a very bitter pill to swallow, but this was a very good season. I am very proud of my kids we just didn’t get it done tonight.”
With 1:55 left in the game the score was 65-65 Urule Igbavboa made one of two free throws to put Valpo (21-12) up by one.
After Wright State’s Scottie Wilson missed two free throws with 1:01 left, Valpo’s Brandon McPherson made two free throws with just :37 left after getting fouled by Jordon Pleiman to make it 68-65.
Wright State (21-10) got back within one at 68=67 with :16 left as Troy Tabler made two free throws after he was fouled by Shawn Huff.
The game ended after Valpo’s Jarryd Lloyd made four free throws after being fouled twice in the last 12 seconds of the game.
Lloyd had a lot going through his head at the end when he made the four big free throws. “I was praying actually that I would make them. We lost games on the free throw line and I was just going through my routine and it worked,” said Lloyd.
Wright State’s poor free throw shooting did them in. They made just four in ten attempts in the second half and shot just 43.8 percent (7-16) for the game, while at the same time the. Crusaders shot 84.2 percent (16-19) for the game.
“It came down to free throws. They can do it in their sleep sometimes because we’ve been practicing so much on free throws to put us in that winning situation,” explained the ever-smiling Valpo coach Homer Drew.
This game was tied 14 times and the lead changed 16 times and the largest lead of the game was just six points when Valpo lead the Raiders 22-16 at the 10:50 mark.
In the first half the lead just see-sawed back and forth. In the last five minutes of the half the biggest lead was two points when Wright State’s Vaughn Duggins made a 3-pointer with 3:55 left.
A free throw by Igbavboa at the 2:46 mark and then two by Lloyd with 1:38 left to put the Crusaders up by one at 37-36. A layup by Pleiman gave the Raiders a one point lead with :51 left at 38-37 and that was the score going into halftime.
Both teams had four players in double figures. For the Raiders Wilson and Pleiman both scored 15 points while Will Graham and Duggins scored 13 points.
Valparaiso’s Huff led all scorers with 21 points, Igbavboa put in17 points, McPherson got 16 points and Lloyd chipped in 14 points.
Drew pointed to the balanced scoring as a factor in the win saying, “We had four in double figures, which is the strength of our team. They really share the ball. They like each other and make the extra pass. Even when we’re small out there we play really, really big in the heart.”
-Valpo had more fans than Wright State at the game thanks to a major snowstorm that hit SW Ohio but missed Indianapolis. That is one of the few times in the HL that WSU did not bring the most fans.
-During a second half timeout there was a 3-point shootout between two Valpo students and two WSU students sponsored by a local pizza joint. As each team’s fans cheered them on the Wright State students prevailed 6-4.
-Wright State leads the all-time series 5-4.
-This is a banner year for Division I basketball in Indiana with six teams achieving 20 game win seasons. Those teams are Valpo, Notre Dame, Indiana, Purdue, Butler and IUPUI.
-Valpo plays Cleveland State tomorrow at 3 p.m. in the semifinals.