For the second consecutive game, Valparaiso stormed out of the gate in the second half, going on a 19-0 run over the first four minutes of the second stanza and cruising to a 77-61 victory over UMKC on Senior Night Saturday in the regular season finale at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) tied Zoran Viskovic's school record by making 11 free throws without a miss in the win.
Moussa Mbaye (Dakar, Senegal/Life Center [N.J.] Academy), who was honored prior to the game as the lone Crusader senior, got his 14th start of the season in the final home game of his career. Mbaye contributed two points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals in 15 minutes of action Saturday. Over his four-year career, Valpo has won 66 games, including a 35-14 record at the ARC.
The Crusaders led by just one at the break, 23-22, after a first half in which both squads shot below 35% from the field. But Valpo came out charged up after the half, scoring on each of its first nine possessions to extend the lead to 20.
Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) started the run with a pull-up jumper on the fast break after a UMKC miss, and followed with a fast break 3-pointer the very next time down the floor. After a Kangaroo offensive foul, Huff was fouled shooting a triple, the second time it happened on the night, and hit all three free throws.
McPherson nailed a layup on the next Crusader possession to extend the lead to 33-22, the first double-digit lead for either squad on the night. After an offensive foul on Quinton Day, Huff got an offensive rebound and put it back up for two more of his game-high 21 points.
Huff followed with another jumper 40 seconds later to extend the lead to 37-22. Jake Diebler (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) drained another fast break 3-pointer after a UMKC miss to make the lead 18 and force Kangaroos head coach Rich Zvosec to call his second timeout of the half. Huff hit two free throws the next time down to close out the 19-0 run and make it a 20-point game.
UMKC got as close as 12 with 11:06 to play, but the Crusaders responded immediately. McPherson hit a layup, followed by two free throws from Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan). UMKC hit two foul shots of its own, but Valpo scored nine straight, getting buckets from four different players, capped off by a Jarryd Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) fast break layup with 7:55 to play to make the lead 62-39, basically sealing the game.
Three other Crusaders joined Huff in double figures, with Loyd and McPherson scoring 13 apiece and Igbavboa finishing with 11. Igbavboa also grabbed 12 rebounds, registering his ninth double-double of the season. Diebler grabbed six rebounds, while McPherson pulled down five boards to go along with five assists.
UMKC (11-19, 6-8 Mid-Con) placed only one player in double figures, as Brent Stephens came off the bench to score 19 points in the losing effort. Day, who entered the game second in the league with 17.3 points per game, was held to five points on 1-of-12 shooting, mainly by Diebler's pressure on the defensive end.
Valpo nailed 68% (17-of-25) of its shots in the second half to finish the game at a 52.1% clip. Meanwhile, the Kangaroos hit just 32.3% (21-of-65) of their shots for the game. Valpo got to the free throw line 27 times, hitting 22, while UMKC finished 15-of-21 from the charity stripe.
The Crusaders also hit 5-of-12 attempts from behind the 3-point arc, including a 2-of-6 effort from freshman Samuel Haanpaa (Kerava, Finland/Cornerstone [Texas] Christian). With his six attempts, Haanpaa has 155 tries from behind the arc on the season, which qualifies him for Valpo's career 3-point percentage chart. His 45.2% clip from behind the arc is currently tops in Crusader history, passing current associate head coach Bryce Drew's 43.5% career percentage.
Valparaiso (16-14, 9-5 Mid-Con) clinched its 13th winning season in the last 14 years with the win, and closed out the 2006-2007 home campaign with an 8-4 record, including a 7-1 mark since the start of the 2007 calendar year. The Crusaders move on to the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament in Tulsa, Okla. as the third seed, and will match up against the sixth-seeded Kangaroos in the first round Sunday night at 8:30 p.m. All the action, as always, 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 at www.mid-con.tv.