Valparaiso held a 57-48 lead with 7:09 to play Sunday afternoon in Horizon League action in Dayton, Ohio, but Wright State scored the game’s final 11 points, including a long jumper by Vaughn Duggins with 4.7 seconds to play, to steal a 59-57 victory from the Crusaders.
“This was a wonderful college basketball game,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “Both teams played hard and played well tonight. I am very proud of our basketball team, coming into a hostile road environment and battling to gain a halftime lead and working to extend it in the second half. You have to give Wright State credit, Cooperwood stepped up and hit some big shots, and obviously Duggins hit the shot at the end for them. At the end, their experienced lineup just outdueled us in the last few minutes.”
Fifth-year senior Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) scored five straight points for the Crusaders on a triple and a layup, the latter of which extended Valpo’s lead to 57-49 with just over seven minutes remaining. But the Crusader offense would get just three shot attempts over the final seven minutes, missing them all while turning the ball over four times as well.
Meanwhile, the Raiders chipped away at Valpo’s advantage slowly. N’Gai Evans hit a long jumper to cut the lead to seven points with 5:46 remaining, and then Cory Cooperwood scored seven straight points over the next 3:46, including just his fourth 3-pointer of the season, to tie things up at 57-all with two minutes to play.
Valpo failed to score on its next four possessions, while Wright State went scoreless on three straight before Duggins connected on the eventual game-winner. The Crusaders were unable to get a shot up in time after running it upcourt, as a layup by Cory Johnson (Duluth, Minn./Duluth East [Iowa State]) came a split-second after the horn sounded.
The end of the game mirrored the contest as a whole, as it was a close game throughout. The first half alone featured two ties and seven lead changes, as neither team could gain more than a six-point advantage in the opening 20 minutes. Two layups by Johnson in the final minute of the opening half broke a tie and gave Valpo a 31-27 lead going into the break, as the redshirt junior capped a first half in which he had 12 points and six rebounds.
Johnson knocked down a triple on Valpo’s second possession of the second half, but the Raiders scored on each of their first three trips to cut the Crusader lead to one point and forcing a timeout. The lead was still just two points at 38-36 just over three minutes into the half before a layup by Brandon Wood (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo [Highland C.C./Southern Illinois]) and a 3-pointer by Michael Rogers (Kingston, Jamaica/Redemption [N.Y.] Christian) pushed the advantage to 43-36. Valpo maintained a 2-3 possession lead for most of the rest of the game until the ending sequence.
Johnson finished the game with 17 points, pacing the Crusaders for the second straight contest, while also pulling down a team-best nine rebounds. Rogers connected on four of his six attempts from behind the arc for a season-best 12 points. Wood, who entered the game leading the league at nearly 20 points per game, scored just six points, but also registered five rebounds and a game-high five assists.
“I thought Cory did an extremely good job playing on the inside today,” said Drew. “Mike also stepped up as well. He did a great job for us in the middle of our zone today, fronting Wright State’s post player, and also hit a number of key outside shots.”
Duggins led Wright State (11-6, 4-2 Horizon) with 18 points, while Cooperwood recorded a double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds. Evans chipped in 12 points and five assists as well. Valpo locked the Raiders down defensively, holding them to 38.9% shooting from the field and 29.2% from behind the arc versus the Crusaders’ clips of 48.9% and 50%, respectively. But Valpo committed 19 turnovers and forced just 12 WSU miscues, as the Raiders held a 16-7 advantage in points off turnovers.
“This was a very tough road trip against two of the top-level teams in our league,” said Drew. “I was very pleased overall with the defense and tenacity we played with over the two games. We had opportunities in both games and need to learn from them, learn how to take advantage, go the distance, play the full 40 minutes and win games.”
Valparaiso (6-11, 1-4 Horizon) returns to the friendly confines of the ARC on Thursday evening, continuing Horizon League action with Youngstown State at 7:05 p.m. As always, the game can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso) 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.