Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) scored the eventual game-winning basket with 2:45 to play and Valparaiso held Washington scoreless the rest of the way as the Crusaders earned a thrilling 72-71 victory over the Huskies in opening round action of the College Basketball Invitational Wednesday evening in Seattle, Wash. Valpo advances to the quarterfinals of the inaugural CBI and will face Houston on Monday.
The win was the first by the Crusaders in postseason play since the 1997-98 squad advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. In addition, it is Valpo’s first-ever victory over a current Pac-10 school.
Huff’s off-balance shot came right out of a Crusader timeout and gave Valpo the lead for good, after Washington had taken a one-point edge just 25 seconds earlier on a Joel Smith 3-pointer. Valpo’s defense took over from there, as the Huskies went 0-for-8 from the field in the game’s final three minutes, including two attempts from the paint and two missed free throws in the final five seconds.
The game, as many of the Crusaders’ contests have been this year, was tight throughout, as neither team enjoyed more than a five-point edge and featured 14 ties and 12 lead changes. Both squads found their largest lead of the ballgame come in the first half, as Washington led early on by a 10-6 count until Valpo went on a 13-4 run to take a 19-14 advantage. The Huskies came back, however, and led by three, 36-33, at the half.
The second half was even closer than the first, as neither Valpo nor Washington held a two-possession lead for the first 12 minutes of the half. A Jake Diebler (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) triple with 7:25 to play matched the Crusaders’ largest advantage at five points, and Valpo still led by four points at 70-66 with 3:55 remaining on an Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) layup. Jon Brockman responded with a layup for Washington (16-17) on its next possession to set up the game’s final two baskets.
The post players for both sides dominated the game’s play. For the Crusaders, freshman Bryan Bouchie (Washington, Ind./Washington) paced the team in the scoring column with 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting, the second-highest output of his career. Igbavboa added 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting to go along with six rebounds. The Huskies were led by Brockman, an All Pac-10 selection in the post, who recorded 22 points and 12 rebounds.
Valpo also got a significant contribution off the bench from Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North), who knocked down three triples on his way to 18 points and also dished out a team-best four assists. Diebler tied for team-high rebounding honors with six boards and also handed out three assists without a turnover.
Valparaiso (22-13) will look to advance to the semifinals of the inaugural CBI on Monday evening as the Crusaders face Houston (23-9). Game time and any television broadcast information will be announced later, but as always, the game will be heard on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WWLO, 89.1 FM, Lowell).