Raiders can’t weather storm against Valpo

February 25, 2017

By Mike Klingshirn

DAYTON, Ohio – On a night in which a severe winter thunder-and-hail-storm could be heard inside the Nutter Center — like never before in its 26-year history — the Wright State Raiders could not hold on to a 10-point second half lead, and eventually fell to the Valparaiso Crusaders by the final score of 84-74.

“We’ve lost three conference home games,” WSU head coach Scott Nagy said. “That’s the difference between being a conference champion and finishing fifth.”

On several occasions during the storm outside — especially midway into in the first half — loud thunder and the deafening sounds of hail striking against the arena roof could be heard inside. It was so loud that many in attendance pointed up, towards the roof. At one point, a few pieces of hail made their way, possibly through some vents, onto the floor during play. Although the referees didn’t seem to notice, a few players on the Valpo bench could be seen pointing to the hail on the court.

The Crusaders came to town, sporting the best record in the Horizon League, but unknown to most until just before game time, Valpo would be without the services of their best player and NBA prospect, Alec Peters. Peters has been wearing a boot cast over his ankle, since his team’s Green Bay game, three weeks ago. He was also walking with crutches, but could have played if necessary.

With the number-one or number-two seed in next week’s Horizon League tournament a certainty, Valpo’s coaching staff decided to hold Peters out of the lineup to help ensure that he is as healthy as possible for tournament play.

Peters is averaging a double-double, with 23.0 points (ranked eighth in the nation) and 10.1 rebounds per game.

Not only were Crusader fans disappointed to see him out of the lineup, but so too, were four NBA scouts that made the trip to the Nutter Center to watch him. All four were gone by halftime.

“They (Valpo) had a lot to play for in not having their best player with them,” Nagy said. “A lot of other kids stepped up for them.”

Although the first half of the game saw eleven lead changes, the early going was a game of streaks.

Wright State (19-11, 10-7 HL) jumped out to an early 8-2 advantage, before Valpo scored the next seven points to go on top 9-8. Grant Benzinger followed with a jumper and three-pointer to make it 13-9 Raiders.

Valparaiso (24-6, 14-3 HL) promptly answered by scoring 10-straight to go back on top 19-13, before the Raiders followed that with 7-straight of their own to go back up 20-19 at the 8:54 mark of the half.

Trailing 30-27 with 6:10 to play before the intermission, Ryan Custer and Benzinger began a 15-4 Raider run, with a pair of free throws each, to close out the first half and send WSU into the locker room with a 42-34 lead.

With an 8-point WSU halftime lead, had your psychic friend told you that the Raiders would shoot 55-percent in the second half, you would have felt pretty good about Wright State’s chances of holding on for the victory.

Well, the Raiders did shoot 55-percent in the second half, but they were outscored 50-32 the rest of the way, due in part to 13 second half turnovers and some defensive miscues.

“We’re just not good enough defensively to sustain it,” Nagy said. “We could do it in Detroit (HL tournament) for three games, but we haven’t been good enough over a long period of time to win a championship.”

“Some of it is because we’re naturally not physical. There’s nothing we can do about that. We don’t weigh a lot. So we just can’t push people around. We’re not that athletic, and we don’t have a shot blocker. So it’s hard to be a great defensive team when you throw all three of those together.”

The Raiders enjoyed their largest lead of the night 46-36 with 17:42 to play, but it was all Valpo after that.

The Crusaders drew even at 53-all on a Tevonn Walker free throw with 12:32 left, and pulled ahead 60-57 on a Shane Hammink 3-pointer.

Mark Alstork tied it up 60-60 at the 8:45 mark on a shot from behind the arc. It was his 1,000th career point as a Raider, but it was the last time that WSU would be even with Valpo on the night.

The Crusaders scored the next seven points to go up for good at 67-60. Wright State drew to within 74-73 on a Justin Mitchell layup with 3:35 to play, but Valpo closed the game with a 10-1 run to win 84-74.

“We shot 54-percent (from the field), 50-percent from three, 83-percent from the free throw line, outrebounded them, had 17 assists, and lost the game. It’s unbelievable.” Nagy said. “We had 22 turnovers. That’s all you’ve got to look at.”

Mark Alstork led the Raiders in scoring with 28 points.

Three Crusaders picked up the slack, for a missing Alec Peters, by scoring in double figures: Shane Hammink (25), Lexus Williams (19), and Tevonn Walker (17).

Horizon League Been Berry, Berry, Good To Valpo

In ten seasons since joining the Horizon League, Valpo now has a 115-58 (.665) league record.

Since Butler left the conference five years ago, the Valpo men’s basketball program has assumed the role as the premier team in the Horizon League. With tonight’s win, Valpo is guaranteed at least a share of the Horizon League title for the fifth time in the last six years.

The three winningest season’s in Valpo program history have come in the last five years: 26 wins (2012-13), 28 wins (2014-15), and 30 wins (2015-16).

By winning last year’s regular season league title, Valpo received an automatic bid to the NIT tournament. They defeated Texas Southern, Florida State, and Saint Mary’s. After advancing to the semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York City, they beat BYU, before falling in the championship game to George Washington.

Post game audio

Coach

Alstork and Davis

Series History

After tonight’s game, the all-time series between Wright State and Valparaiso is tied at 15-all. The loss drops WSU to 9-6 versus Valpo at the Nutter Center. The Crusaders now hold a 13-10 advantage in the series since rejoining the Horizon League ten years ago.

Up Next

The Raiders conclude the regular season with a match-up against the Illinois-Chicago Flames on Sunday February 26. Tip-off for that on is set for 2:00 pm.

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