Raiders fall to fourth in conference after loss to Valparaiso
Wright State’s chances of competing with Valparaiso for the top spot in the Horizon League took a big hit last week when the Crusaders came to town and defeated the Raiders 68-61.
WSU (17-9, 8-5) began the evening only a game-and-a-half behind Valpo in the conference standings. A win would’ve given the Raiders a chance at hosting the upcoming Horizon League Tournament, something they haven’t done since 2007.
Valpo was led in scoring by Kevin Van Wijk, who finished with 20 points and nine rebounds. Matt Kenney added 15 points and Ryan Broekhoff dropped 10 points for the Crusaders, who shot 18-20 from the free-throw line and never trailed.
For the Raiders, it was the AJ Pacher show on offense. The junior from Vandalia scored 23 points on 9-14 shooting, with six rebounds and three assists.
Pacher gave Valpo credit after the game for making big plays when they needed to.
“They (Valpo) made plays at the end,” Pacher said. “Everything they needed at the end of the game they got.”
WSU’s defense forced Valpo into 17 turnovers, but allowed the Crusaders to shoot 48.9 percent from the field and gave up nine offensive boards.
When WSU played at Valparaiso earlier in the season, the Raiders led for most of the game until the Crusaders scored on their final 10 possessions to come from behind and get the win. It seemed as if the tables were going to turn when the Raiders cut the lead to two after Pacher made two free-throws with 6:11 remaining. But WSU wouldn’t get any closer.
“Wright State kept getting close and close, but someone would come up with a big shot, and a lot of times Kevin (Van Wijk) came up with the big post up, so I’m just really proud of our guys,” Valparaiso head coach Bryce Drew said after the game.
With his team sitting at fourth place in the Horizon League after a 4-0 start to conference play, WSU head coach Billy Donlon is attempting to manage the emotions of his team.
“Our team will bounce back,” Donlon said. “As I told them in the locker room—and I said this to them when we got back and we lost three in a row or four out of five—you’re never as bad as everyone maybe thinks you are, and when you come back from Wisconsin, you’re not as good as you think you are.”
WSU’s next test is a road trip to the Wolstein Center Wednesday to play the Cleveland State Vikings (13-15, 5-9). The Raiders defeated the Vikings 69-53 at home earlier in the season.
Tipoff is at 7:00 p.m. and the game can be seen live online for free at www.horizonleague.org.