Shorthanded Raiders forgetting about the past
The last time the Raiders visited Valparaiso, Wright State lost a second-half lead and a bid at the NCAA Tournament in the Horizon League finals on March 12, 2013.
That contest is ancient history to coach Billy Donlon and his Raiders who return nine upperclassmen from that contest. The Raiders are also putting behind their 58-53 loss at Detroit Saturday that gave Wright State its eighth road loss of the year.
“Whatever can go wrong has gone wrong for us on the road,” Donlon said. “I don’t want our guys to lose confidence because of our record.”
WSU is back on the road Friday to face Valpo for its first nationally televised conference game of the year. Like WSU, Valpo has struggled on the road to a 9-8 overall record, 1-1 in HL play.
The Raiders are going to have to win without two regulars. Forward JT Yoho and guard Kendall Griffin are both out this weekend versus Valpo and for the home game versus UIC Sunday. Griffin sat out Saturday’s contest after he was injured late Thursday’s victory against Oakland. Yoho is going to be out multiple weeks with an ankle injury.
Donlon also said he has a few players who are questionable.
The Crusaders are a different looking squad from last year’s NCAA Tournament team. Valpo lost six seniors over the offseason. Donlon said he does not want the team to remember the sour feeling after losing to Valpo in last year’s conference finals.
“With the season we’re having, we need to just worry about the controlables,” Donlon said. “It is a completely different Valpo team. For us to get caught up in the last time we were there is not going to do us any good.”
LaVonte Dority has stepped up in a big way for Valpo this year. He is leading the team with 15.6 points per game. He will be tough to guard from the perimeter as he shoots 41.7 percent from beyond the 3-point line.
Without Griffin guarding the perimeter, the Raiders will be challenged defensively.
“We have guys when they’re ready and locked in that can do a good job defensively,” Donlon said.
One player Donlon was quick to point out was WSU’s Matt Vest who shut down Detroit’s Juwan Howard Jr. last weekend.
“Matt Vest did a phenomenal job guarding Howard Jr. but they had a guy in Evan Bruinsma who stepped up and we didn’t have anyone to manage him,” Donlon said.
Donlon will be opposed by Bryce Drew; son of legendary Valpo coach Homer Drew. Bryce Drew is best known for the shot he made in the 1998 NCAA Tournament. Valpo went on to the Sweet 16 that year.
Since taking over the team from his father, Drew has had back-to-back winning seasons culminating in a NCAA Tournament berth last year.
“Bryce is really good,” Donlon said. “We had three games come down to the wire in the last two minutes of the game last year and unfortunately we came in on the short end of the stick.
“But it is a great league with great coaches every night. Every night as a coach, you’re going to be challenged.”