Game #9-307: Wright State Raiders at Valparaiso CrusadersJanuary 19, 2013 8:05 pm
8 days ago, Reggie Arceneaux was the hero in Wright State's win at Loyola. Valpo just two days ago erased a 22-point early 2nd half lead at the home of the preseason pick for 2nd place, Detroit. WSU was picked to finish 9th (last) in the preseason poll, but while Detroit inflicted its heart-felt revenge on the unsuspecting UIC Flames, Valpo and WSU prepared to do battle for 1st place in the standings.
Naturally, it has been hard to take WSU's 4-0 record seriously - unless of course you actually have been watching their games. Furthermore, Valpo is finally home after a 3-game road trip, the students are back on campus, and free T-shirts guarantee that the Valparaizone will be full and rocking.
All of which means nothing to Billy Donlon and his Raiders as they go through one-on-one drills during warmups.
Technically, WSU is in the midst of a 4-game road trip that has their coach tweaking the Horizon League office via an interview in the Dayton Daily News
, but as he stated, "Our guys don't read the papers, so I don't mind saying it. With the players, our job is to win games. We're not talking about, 'Hey, we have it so hard.' With our guys, there's an expectation to perform and produce." Of course, this first leg of the trip included an 8-day rest period, but after tonight he has two more road games in the next 4 days. It would be the perfect scene for a smack-down - except that WSU is not known to let things like this ruin their focus.
Indeed, it did not. Nor did Valpo locking down the so-called hero at Loyola, Reggie Arceneaux. In his place, Cole Darling had a Nick Minnerath kind of day
, posting up, launching shots that more often than not went in. Valpo tried and tried but could not contain him for very long. But plenty of Raiders seemed to step up and hit key shots. It was a total team effort.
After an early 7-5 lead by Valpo, WSU gained the lead and did not relinquish it again until Ryan Broekhoff made 2 free throws to put Valpo up 60-59 late in the game. There were many ties, but for almost 35 minutes, WSU kept Valpo from taking the lead. They played methodically, providing a clinic to anyone paying attention why their demise is greatly exaggerated. They play smart basketball, and if you can't overpower them and their shots go in, they are going to be a handful.
For much of the game, this is precisely what happened. And yet, something bad happened in the final minutes: Valpo started hitting their shots, and WSU missed a couple of crucial ones. Despite an overall rebounding advantage of 10+ for visitors, crucial defensive rebounds off of crucial WSU misses helped upset their finely tuned apple cart. It was WSU that trailed in the final seconds, and once again, an opponent fell prey to the patented Ryan Broekhoff to Matt Kenney hail-mary play.
Valpo found them a handful tonight, and outside of one brief stretch in the 2nd half when WSU stretched the lead to 7, Valpo never came unhinged. Through sheer force of will - and a few lucky bounces here and there - they did scale that mountain and emerged victorious when it mattered most: at the buzzer.
When I was a kid growing up in Valpo, I can remember watching a Purdue game on some off-network channel, sponsored by the Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO), a company my Mom used to work for. The Boilermakers had been down by 20 at halftime, and like pushing spaghetti up a hill, they clawed their way back in the 2nd half. The comeback was excruciatingly gradual, if you were focused in on every play. Or if you were like me, it snuck up on you. All of a sudden you realize it's in overtime and a 20 point deficit was erased, one point per minute. Tonight's game reminded me of that game some 45 years ago. Valpo's comeback was like pushing spaghetti up a hill. Every time they inched closer, it seemed like they missed a chance to jump ahead, either through a turnover or a bad bounce. More than a few times I groaned as an easy or moderately contested layup missed the mark. The easy misses were the kind that makes you slap your forehead. The moderately contested misses left me screaming for a foul or helplessly watching the ball dance on the rim and drop over the edge on the outside instead of falling through for points.
The packed house was rocking and two teams filled with gifted, talented players competed relentlessly for 40 minutes. My twitter feed tells me the game was upstaged by the Butler-Gonzaga affair, and even that contest was ridiculed
by one of the smart-alecks I follow because it didn't measure up to his standards of high-class basketball. This is what we get for turning collegiate athletics into big-time entertainment. The price you pay for high-class exposure is professional critique at the expense of amateurs (at least nominally). Mid-major schools may grumble about this, but they all crave that exposure and thus have to take the biting sarcasm and mockery that goes along with it.Or, we can let our teams speak for themselves and take whatever exposure comes with it as icing on the cake. New transfer from SLU Keith Carter was in attendance tonight. He may be interested in playing on TV, but tell me the electric atmosphere at the ARC tonight all by itself wasn't a huge confirmation that he'd made a good choice for himself. It was televised on the Horizon League Network, which is only available on-line, and the play-by-play was done by the regular Valpo radio team. No snazzy graphics, no extra-curricular commentary geared toward the casual viewer who simply expects to be "entertained". Just a damn exciting basketball game geared toward 4 to 5 thousand fans packed into what one Wright State fan tweeted
was the worst arena in the Horizon League. It probably is - if you absolutely have to have all the bells and whistles of a modern arena. How silly. You don't have to have that. The fans were into the game from start to finish. The players served up a pretty decent brand of basketball. It went right down to the wire, and first place in the Horizon League hung in the balance. Who the hell cares how many millions of people yawn when told the news of this game? They don't know what they're missing, and their opinion doesn't matter.
at VALPARAISO 69, WRIGHT STATE 63
WRIGHT STATE 13-5 (4-1) -- K. Griffin 2-3 0-0 4; R. Arceneaux 3-9 6-6 14; M. Dixon 3-9 0-0 6; C. Darling 6-12 10-13 22; T. Sledge 4-6 0-2 8; J. Bramanti 1-1 1-2 3; A. Pacher 2-7 0-0 5; M. Vest 0-1 0-0 0; J. Young 0-1 1-2 1; J. Yoho 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-49 18-25 63.
VALPARAISO 15-5 (5-1) -- E. Buggs 2-3 2-3 6; R. Broekhoff 5-11 5-6 18; M. Kenney 4-8 5-8 15; W. Bogan 3-7 0-0 9; K. Van Wijk 6-9 6-8 18; L. Dority 1-5 0-0 2; B. Boggs 0-0 0-0 0; J. Coleman 0-1 0-0 0; B. Capobianco 0-0 1-2 1; V. Fernandez 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-44 19-27 69.
Three-point goals: WRIG 3-11 (M. Dixon 0-2; C. Darling 0-1; A. Pacher 1-3; M. Vest 0-1; R. Arceneaux 2-4), VALP 8-21 (W. Bogan 3-6; J. Coleman 0-1; M. Kenney 2-5; R. Broekhoff 3-7; L. Dority 0-2); Rebounds: WRIG 25 (T. Sledge 6), VALP 25 (R. Broekhoff 10); Assists: WRIG 13 (K. Griffin 4), VALP 16 (M. Kenney 6); Total Fouls -- WRIG 21, VALP 17; Fouled Out: WRIG-None; VALP-None.