Raiders fall in championship game to Valpo
Wright State came close, but unfortunately for the Raiders close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, not basketball.
Despite trailing by as many as 14 in the first half and then grabbing a six point lead with 5:37 til the final buzzer, Wright State succumbed to Valparaiso in the Horizon League championship game 62-54 ending their hopes of an NCAA Tournament bid.
Valpo jumped out to 16-5 lead in the first 5:30 of the game and looked to be cruising to an easy championship game in front of their home fans leading 36-25 at the half.
But then Wright State came roaring out of the locker room for the second half.
WSU forced 15 second half turnovers – and 25 overall which lead to 24 points in return clawing the Raiders back into the game.
Things were looking good for the Raiders with just over five minutes left when Matt Vest drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key to give WSU a 50-44 lead but then all seemed to go awry as WSU wouldn’t score again until the clock only showed eight seconds remaining.
“This game was won by them (Valpo) in the first five minutes and the last five minutes of the second half,” Wright State head coach Billy Donlon said. “We just kinda lost our minds the last three minutes.”
Valpo has won games this year in many different ways, both low scoring and higher scoring and Donlon said that was on display tonight.
“They (Valpo) can win about every way,” Donlon said. “We held their two best players to 17 points and we still lost. That’s how good they are.”
Valpo’s Erik Buggs had a career night in the biggest game of his career shooting 9-13 from the field scoring 22 points and taking home the title of tournament MVP.
Donlon said the gameplan was to make Buggs beat his team and while Wright State limited the hero of the semifinals, Ryan Broekhoff, to seven points on 2-8 shooting – Buggs did beat Wright State.
Wright State ends a season where they were picked to finish last unanimously with a 21-12 record. Sophomore Reggie Arceneaux said that while his team accomplished a feat almost nobody expected, he’s not satisfied with this season.
“Getting to the conference championship is not good enough,” Arceneaux said.
Wright State may still qualify for the postseason in the NIT, CBI or CollegeInsider tournaments but Donlon said that would be addressed once the team returns home to Dayton.