The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team rallied back from a nine-point halftime deficit and led by six points with inside of two minutes to play, but Wright State scored the final eight points of the game – capped by a tip-in from Biggie Minnis with one second remaining – to defeat the Crusaders 61-59 on Saturday evening at the ARC.
The loss snapped Valpo’s program-record 25-game winning streak on its homecourt, which entered the day tied for the sixth-longest home winning streak in the nation. The Crusaders had not lost at the ARC since falling to New Mexico on Dec. 6, 2014 and had not fallen in a Horizon League home game since losing to Cleveland State on Mar. 1, 2014, as 14 of the wins in the winning streak were in regular season league play.
Valpo actually had possession with the six-point lead and under two minutes remaining following an offensive foul on the Raiders, but a turnover on the ensuing possession returned the ball to WSU and Minnis banked in a 3-pointer – just his sixth triple of the year – with 1:18 to play to cut Valpo’s lead in half.
The Crusaders had an open look from the corner that wouldn’t fall, and the Raiders struck immediately in transition, as Minnis hit Grant Benzinger with a long lead pass for a 3-pointer that tied the game at 59-59 with 49.9 seconds to play. Valpo got the ball in the post to junior Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington) on its next trip, but he would be called for a charge to give the ball back to Wright State with the shot clock off. The Raiders wound the clock down, and while Michael Karena missed a contested foul-line jumper, Minnis flew in for the tip-in with one second remaining. After a myriad of timeouts, a long heave into the frontcourt by the Crusaders was knocked away to kill the clock.
Trailing by nine at the half, it took the Crusaders less than six minutes to reclaim the lead in the second half. Valpo’s first three baskets of the half were 3-pointers – two from senior Keith Carter (Maywood, Ill./Proviso East [Saint Louis]) and one from Peters – to cut the deficit to four points less than four minutes into the period.
Following a pair of WSU free throws, an old-fashioned 3-pointer play was converted by junior Shane Hammink (Millingen aan de Rijn, Netherlands/Oakley College [LSU]) to spark an 8-0 Crusader spurt. Carter knocked down a pair of free throws and then hit Hammink for the triple which returned the lead to Valpo’s side of the scoreboard, 41-39 with 14:05 to play.
Valpo was unable to pull away at that point, as the Raiders stayed within striking distance over the next few minutes and would re-take the lead on a Karena layup with 9:57 to play. That would be WSU’s final point for better than four minutes, however, as the Crusaders scored the next six points, including five straight from Peters, to go ahead 53-48.
Wright State scored five of seven points over a span of a minute to again close to within two points at 55-53, but the Crusaders forced four straight empty possessions from the Raiders and looked to pull away yet again. Sophomore David Skara (Zadar, Croatia/Ekonomska Skola Zadar) fed Peters for a layup with 3:20 to play and followed with a pair of free throws 45 seconds later to push the lead to 59-53 and set up the closing sequence.
The Crusaders found themselves trailing by nine at the half after surrendering a big run late in the period. A 3-pointer from Jubril Adekoya (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) with 4:20 to play in the half actually put Valpo ahead 22-21, but over the next three minutes, Wright State scored on each of its five possessions as part of a quick 12-0 run to go ahead by double figures. Carter drove and finished a layup with 43 seconds left in the half to cut the deficit to 33-24 at the break.
Peters led Valpo with 14 points and six rebounds on Saturday evening, while senior Darien Walker (Chicago, Ill./Simeon [John A. Logan/Arizona Western]) and Carter each added 10 points. Carter handed out six assists as well as Valpo assisted on 16 of its 20 made field goals. The Crusaders ended the game shooting just 41.7% from the field, however, and were just 7-of-26 from 3-point range.
Four Wright State (16-11, 10-4 Horizon) players finished in double figures, led by 14 points from Joe Thomasson on 5-of-6 shooting. Mark Alstork finished with 12 points, while JT Yoho posted 11 points and Karena added 10. The Raiders shot 48.9% from the field and were an efficient 6-of-11 from beyond the 3-point line.
Valparaiso (21-5, 11-2 Horizon) looks to get back on the winning track on Tuesday evening as the Crusaders travel to play Cleveland State at Quicken Loans Arena. Tip is set for 6 p.m. CT, and as always, the game can be seen live on ESPN3 and heard live on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso). Links for the live audio, video and stats will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.