Valparaiso fought back from an 11-point second-half deficit and had a shot to tie on its final possession, but could not get the 3-point attempt to fall, as Oakland defeated the Crusaders in Rochester, Mich. Saturday afternoon, 64-61.
The Crusaders trailed 52-41 with 8:51 to play before they started to come back. Arden Skoglund (Hopkins, Minn./Hopkins) and Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) successfully converted 3-point plays to bring Valpo back to within five with 6:37 to play. Oakland's lead was at six at the 4:22 mark before a fast-break layup by Jarryd Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West), and a Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) jumper on Valpo's next possession cut the lead to two.
Oakland scored the next four points before Loyd hit a jumper to make it a 60-56 ballgame with 2:07 to play. Loyd forced a turnover two possessions later, and Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) drove in for a layup to cut the deficit to two. Erik Kangas missed a 3-pointer on the Grizzlies' next time down, but Huff was called for a loose-ball foul on the rebound, giving Oakland two free throws, which they converted to extend the lead back to four.
McPherson came down for the Crusaders and drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 17 seconds to play to bring Valpo back to within one. Brandon Cassise nailed two attempts from the charity stripe for Oakland with 12 seconds left to make it a 3-point game, and the Crusaders had the ball with a shot to tie. But Huff's off-balance 3-point attempt did not fall, and Oakland secured the rebound to end the game.
Oakland started the game out hot from the floor, scoring the first six points. The Grizzlies' advantage was 13-7 just under eight minutes into the ballgame before the Crusaders went on a 15-0 spurt over the next four minutes. Valpo received four fast-break layups by its guards during the run, giving the Crusaders their largest lead of the ballgame at 22-13 with 8:30 to go in the half. But Oakland responded with a 12-3 spurt to tie the game, and the teams went into the locker room tied at 32.
Four Crusaders finished in double figures in the scoring column, led by 14 points apiece from Huff and Igbavboa. Loyd added 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting, while McPherson chipped in 12 points. Igbavboa paced Valpo with six rebounds, while Loyd and McPherson dished out three assists each. Jake Diebler (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) matched a career-high with four steals, and Loyd recorded three thefts.
Oakland (15-11, 8-2 Mid-Con) was led by freshman Johnathon Jones, who registered 19 points, five rebounds, and five assists. Vova Severovas added 13, Derick Nelson scored 12, and Kangas finished with 10 points. Nelson also pulled down nine rebounds and tallied five assists.
Valpo shot 46.3% (25-of-54) from the floor for the game, but hit just six of 19 attempts from behind the arc. Oakland shot slightly worse at 44.9%, but hit 13-of-17 free throw attempts, versus just 5-of-6 for the Crusaders.
Valparaiso (13-13, 6-5 Mid-Con) returns to the friendly confines of the Athletics-Recreation Center next Thursday, as the Crusaders host Western Illinois. The tip is set for 7:05 p.m. , and all the action can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics. The game will also be videocast through the Athletics website.