The magic ran out for Wright State, for one night at least.
There’s a long way to go in the Horizon League race, and the Raiders at least proved they belong, that they’ll likely be a contender for weeks to come. They led Valparaiso for most of the game, but the defending regular-season champion Crusaders, who returned all five starters, showed their experience and pulled away in the final minute for a 69-63 victory Saturday at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
Ryan Broekhoff, the player of the year in the Horizon League a year ago, scored nine of his 18 points in the final 90 seconds, turning a 59-58 deficit into a six-point victory.
The Raiders (13-5, 4-1) fall a half game back of Valparaiso (15-5, 5-1) in the standings. Detroit, Wright State’s opponent on the road Monday, is 4-2.
“I like the kids’ effort,” Wright State coach Billy Donlon said. “They did a lot of positive things. I want to win championships, but I’m not disappointed in our effort or our fight tonight.”
The Raiders led 34-30 at halftime and by as many as seven points in the second half. They led 59-55 with 2:23 to play after two free throws by Cole Darling, but then Valparaiso showed its experience.
The Crusaders, who had come back from 22 points down to beat Detroit on Thursday, took the lead with a 5-0 run.
Reggie Arceneaux gave the Raiders their last lead, 61-60, with two free throws with 1:11 to play. Then Broekhoff drove the baseline and scored on a layup. After a Darling miss on the other end, Broekhoff hit the dagger, a 3-pointer after which he ran back up the court bouncing and pumping his fists.
Darling led the Raiders with 22 points, and Arceneaux scored 14. Tavares Sledge added eight. Sledge led the Raiders with six rebounds. Kendall Griffin had four assists. Eight players scored for Wright State.
Kevin Van Wijk scored 18 points for Valparaiso, and Matt Kenney had 15.
The Raiders controlled the boards for most of the second half and finished with a 32-28 advantage.
Each team had a big night at the line. Valparaiso made 19-of-27 free throws, and the Raiders made 18-of-25.
It was a clean game, overall. Wright State committed nine turnovers, and the Crusaders had seven. Each team had 26 points in the paint.
After Detroit, WSU visits Youngstown State at 7 p.m. Wednesday.