Valpo used yet another late first-half run to gain a ten-point halftime lead, and extended the lead to as many as 20 points in the second half on its way to a 77-58 victory over Youngstown State Saturday night at the ARC.
The Crusaders used their balance on the offensive end to earn the victory, as all seven players in the rotation Saturday night scored at least seven points. Freshman Bryan Bouchie (Washington, Ind./Washington) made the most of his first career start, going for 11 points and a game-high seven rebounds. Jake Diebler (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) showcased his shooting ability, hitting four 3-pointers on the night to tie a career high on his way to a season-best 14 points. Freshman Michael Rogers (Kingston, Jamaica/Redemption [N.Y.] Christian) put together one of the best games of his young career, playing a career-high 23 minutes and going for eight points and six rebounds, both career bests.
“I was really pleased with the play of Bryan and Michael tonight,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “Both freshmen stepped up tonight and really played good, hard basketball. I was very pleased with the way they handled the basketball, as both of them had a couple assists and neither of them turned the ball over, even when Youngstown State was in the press. I also was proud of Jake’s performance tonight. He spends a lot of time working on his shot, and it’s nice to see the practice pay off like it has the past couple games.”
Most of the first half was spent in a tight ballgame, as neither team could gain more than a five-point advantage. The first 16 minutes saw five lead changes and three ties, the last of which came on a jumper by YSU’s Byron Davis with 4:12 to play in the half to tie the game at 22. But, for the third time in the last four games, the Crusaders ripped off a big run to close the first half.
The run started innocuously enough, as Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) found Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) for a layup with 3:58 to play to put Valpo back in front by two points. Two possessions later, Diebler drained his second triple of the opening half to extend the lead to 27-22. Huff added two free throws with about a minute to go in the half to make it a seven-point game, and Jarryd Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) capped the 10-0 spurt into the locker room with a 3-pointer with 26 seconds remaining to put Valpo ahead 32-22.
“I thought we did a great job on both ends of the court during that run,” said Drew. “Offensively, we had four different guys score. Defensively, we collectively stepped up and forced Youngstown State to take tough shots during that stretch (0-for-4, 1 turnover in the half’s final four minutes) to help us extend the lead.”
Valpo extended the lead to 13 points early in the second half, but the Penguins responded with a 7-0 run, finished off by a Vytas Sulskis fast-break 3-pointer to cut the lead to 37-31 with 17:35 remaining in the game. But that was as close as Youngstown State would get, as the Crusaders responded emphatically with a 14-0 run of their own. Loyd scored six points during the run, while Bouchie added five as Valpo went up by 20 points with 14:31 to play. The Penguins would get no closer than 13 points the rest of the way.
Loyd led the Crusaders with 18 points on the night, and also added three assists to move into fourth place on Valpo’s all-time assist chart with 369 career helpers. Huff also scored in double figures for the 17th time this season, scoring 10 points. The Crusaders shot 54.2% (26-for-48) from the field on the ballgame and knocked down 11 triples.
Youngstown State (8-18, 4-12 Horizon) was led by 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting from Davis, who also pulled down a team-best six rebounds. Sulskis and Dwight Holmes each added 10 points as well.
Valparaiso (15-11, 6-8 Horizon) continues league play with a key matchup at Loyola on Wednesday evening. Tipoff is set for 7 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 be broadcast live throughout Chicagoland on Lakeshore Public Television and online at the Horizon League Network.