Jarryd Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) found Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) cutting to the basket with 1.6 seconds left in overtime Saturday afternoon at the Athletics-Recreation Center, and Huff converted the game-winning three-point play to give Valparaiso a 75-73 overtime victory over Wright State. The win, broadcast nationwide on ESPN2, means that Valpo will host a first-round Horizon League Championship game Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. at the ARC.
“What a great job by two of our seniors on that final play,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “Shawn did a fantastic job of cutting to the basket, and Jarryd recognized it and found him with a great pass, and what a finish by Shawn.”
Freshman Michael Rogers (Kingston, Jamaica/Redemption [N.Y.] Christian) stepped up in the national spotlight, having the best game of his rookie season. Rogers tallied new career highs with 21 points and 12 rebounds, his first career double-double. He knocked down eight of his 12 field goal attempts, including 5-of-8 from behind the arc, and also recorded two assists and two blocked shots.
“This was the best Mike has played this year,” said Drew. “He’s gotten the chance to play more with Sam being sidelined, and he really showed why today. His athleticism is a tremendous asset on both ends of the court for us, and he really hit some big shots on offense today.”
Rogers set a career high for scoring in the first half alone, going for 13 points, including three triples, as the Crusaders got off to a hot start as a team. Valpo knocked down eight first-half 3-pointers and held Wright State to just 32.1% shooting in the first half. A 17-5 run over the final seven minutes of the opening stanza opened up a 39-26 Crusader halftime lead.
The Raiders would not go away quietly, quickly scoring the first six points of the second half to cut the lead to seven. Valpo maintained an advantage of 7-10 points for the first nine minutes of the second stanza, and even once Wright State cut the lead down to one possession, the Crusaders would respond immediately.
N’Gai Evans cut Valpo’s lead to three with 10:35 remaining in regulation, but Rogers answered with a triple on the next Crusader possession. With 9:01 to play, Todd Brown brought Wright State to within one, but again Rogers knocked down a 3-pointer on the next trip. Brown cut the lead to two a minute later, but this time Loyd found himself open for a 3-pointer to push the lead back up to five points.
The Raiders crawled back to within one point at 58-57 with 6:26 to play on a Vaughn Duggins free throw, but again the Crusaders answered on their next trip, as Huff nailed a triple. Todd Brown answered with a three of his own, but two possessions later, Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) converted a second-chance dunk at the 4:52 mark and followed with two free throws with 4:16 remaining to put Valpo ahead 65-60.
Scottie Wilson knocked down two freebies for Wright State with 4:05 to play to cut the lead back down to three, and a Duggins layup a minute later brought the Raiders back within one. Loyd converted a layup of his own with 1:23 remaining to put the Crusaders ahead 67-64, but Wilson buried a trifecta with 1:04 to play to tie the game for the first time since the opening tip. Valpo held the ball for the remainder of regulation, but could not get any of its three shots to fall.
Playing extra basketball for the second time in a week in a nationally-televised game, the Crusaders found themselves down early, as Jordan Pleiman knocked down a free throw to put the Raiders ahead for the first time in the game. Huff would not let Valpo fall, however, hitting a layup and following with a 3-pointer to put the Crusaders up 72-68 with two minutes remaining in the extra session.
Duggins nailed a critical 3-pointer for Wright State with 55 seconds to play, and following a Crusader miss, Will Graham put the Raiders ahead again with a layup with 19 seconds on the clock. But that was just a precursor for the last-second heroics from the Valpo seniors, as they assured themselves at least one more home game.
Rogers’ 21 points and 12 rebounds led all players, while Huff scored 17 points, including all eight of Valpo’s points in the overtime period. Igbavboa added 13 points and seven rebounds, while Loyd and Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) each handed out four assists.
Brown led Wright State (20-9, 12-6 Horizon) with 13 points, with Graham and Pleiman contributing 12 points each. Duggins, the Raiders’ leading scorer entering the game, scored just six points on 2-of-9 shooting, thanks in large part to Jake Diebler’s (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) defensive effort on him.
Valparaiso (19-12, 9-9 Horizon) will learn its first-round opponent late Saturday evening. Game time is set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the ARC, and the ticket office will be open beginning 10 a.m. Monday morning. The game can be heard, as always, on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WWLO, 89.1 FM, Lowell) or online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.