Senior guard Jarryd Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) beat the buzzer to end the first half with a half-court shot that cut UIC’s lead over Valparaiso to 40-33 at the break, and the Crusader defense took over in the second half, holding the Flames to just 16 second-half points as Valpo claimed the 60-56 victory Thursday evening at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
“Jarryd’s shot really gave us a ton of momentum going into the locker room,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “In the second half, we did a great job of matching up on defense, and I thought we denied UIC any easy looks at the basket.”
The Crusaders held UIC without a field goal for the first 7:27 of the second half and just one field goal in the half’s opening 12 minutes. Valpo’s offense slowly brought the team back into the game, finally erasing the seven-point halftime deficit with a Samuel Haanpää (Kerava, Finland/Cornerstone [Texas] Christian) triple with 10:48 remaining to put the Crusaders up 44-42.
Two minutes later, Valpo matched its largest lead of the ballgame to that point, going ahead 47-42 on a Loyd layup with 9:07 to play, capping a 17-2 Crusader run that began with his half-court shot. The lead fluctuated between three and six points for the next four minutes, with the Crusaders leading by just three points with 5:15 to play after a Josh Mayo 3-pointer.
Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) proceeded to score the game’s next five points, hitting a layup followed by a 3-point play with 4:14 left to give Valpo a 56-48 edge. UIC responded with six straight points, however, pulling back to within two points with 2:31 to play. A pair of Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) free throws were followed by a put-back by Scott VanderMeer on the other end to keep it a two-point game at 58-56 with 1:23 remaining.
After running the shot clock, Valpo could not knock down its shot at the basket on its possession, giving UIC the ball back with a chance to tie or take the lead. But Robert Bush was off the mark on a 3-pointer from the corner, and Huff came out with the rebound. The Flames put Loyd on the free throw line for a critical one-and-one with 13 seconds to play, but the senior calmly stepped up and hit both freebies to cement the game.
The first half saw both teams put together big runs. Valpo jumped out to an early 12-8 lead less than five minutes into the ballgame, but the Flames responded with an 11-2 spurt to take a 19-14 lead nine minutes in. The Crusaders answered with a 12-2 run of their own to take the lead back up to five points with 7:18 remaining in the half at 26-21. Valpo would be held scoreless for nearly six minutes, however, as UIC rolled off 15 unanswered points to go ahead 36-26, and the lead looked like it would remain ten points at the half until Loyd’s shot at the buzzer.
Haanpää paced the Crusader offensive effort with 15 points, hitting on five of his six 3-point attempts. Loyd added 13 points and a team-best four assists, while Huff reached double figures for the 13th time this season with 10 points to go with seven rebounds. Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) chipped in eight points, grabbed eight boards, seven of which came in the second stanza, and also blocked a season-high three shots.
Josh Mayo led UIC (10-9, 4-4 Horizon) with 16 points, while Robert Bush added 14 points. Scott VanderMeer scored nine points and pulled down 21 rebounds for the Flames, a mark which is tied for third-best all-time in a Horizon League game.
Valparaiso (14-6, 5-3 Horizon) continues its three-game homestand on Saturday evening, hosting the league’s other Chicago-based team when Loyola comes to town. Tipoff 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; WWLO, 89.1 FM, Lowell) or online at www.valpo.edu/athletics. The game will also be broadcast throughout Chicagoland on Lakeshore Public Television, and can also be viewed online through the Horizon League Network.