Valparaiso used 14 second-half points from Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) to fight off IPFW in Fort Wayne Monday evening, 75-67.
Zeljko Egeric, who came into Monday's game with just one career three-pointer, hit his fifth triple of the game with 8:13 to play to give the Mastodons a 55-53 lead. After the two teams traded buckets, Huff drove in for a layup with 6:36 to play to tie the game at 57. On the Crusaders' next possession, Huff drew a foul and nailed two free throws to give Valpo a two-point lead.
The Crusaders' lead fluctuated between one and four for the next couple minutes, but Huff's biggest shot was still to come. With the Crusaders up 64-61 with under two minutes to play, IPFW's DeWitt Scott missed the front end of a one-and-one to give Valpo possession. Huff quickly found himself open behind the arc on the wing for his first 3-pointer of the game to make the score 67-61 to ice the game for Valpo.
The first half was tight throughout, with the largest lead for IPFW coming at 3 points at 10-7. The Crusaders answered with a quick 7-0 spurt, including a three-point play from Calum MacLeod (Wellington, New Zealand/Hutt Valley [Northeastern J.C.]), to take a 14-10 lead with 13:56 to play in the half. Valpo would not trail again in the first stanza, and took a 35-33 lead into halftime.
Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) paced Valpo in the first half, scoring 11 points and pulling down eight rebounds. Jake Diebler (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) added seven first-half points on 3-of-3 shooting, while Huff chipped in seven of his own.
The Crusaders extended their lead to five at 40-35 on another MacLeod basket early in the second half, but the Mastodons roared back, scoring five straight points to knot up the score at 40 and eventually taking their first lead since early in the first half on a Chris Perkins triple to make it 45-44. The teams remained close until Huff started on his run to help give Valpo the victory.
Huff ended with a game-best 21 points, leading four Crusader starters in double figures. Igbavboa registered his second double-double in as many games for Valpo, ending with 17 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Diebler ended with 13 points and four assists, while MacLeod chipped in 10 points and nine rebounds.
Egeric led the Mastodons with 17 points, including his five 3-pointers, while Quintin Carouthers had 12 points and Kyle Savely added 10. Tyler Best led the home team with 10 rebounds.
Free throws were a key component of Valpo's victory, as the Crusaders hit 31-of-41 (75.6%) shots from the line, while IPFW only hit 6-of-12 free throws. Valpo attempted just 45 shots, making 21, versus 67 field goal attempts from the Mastodons. IPFW hit 11 triples out of 33 attempts, while Valpo was just 2-of-9 from behind the arc.
Valparaiso (2-0) continues its three-game road swing Saturday night as the Crusaders head east to take on Niagara at 6 p.m. Central time. All the action can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.