Valparaiso was within one point at the half at the Horizon League’s second-place team in Green Bay Wednesday evening, but the Phoenix took advantage of ten Crusader second-half turnovers, scoring 19 points off the miscues in the final 20 minutes to pull away for a 76-61 victory.
“I was very pleased with our first half, especially our performance on the offensive end, getting good spacing, which resulted in good shots,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “You have to give Green Bay a lot of credit, they have a lot of experience and made good adjustments in the second half. Their length on the defensive end really bothered us into a lot of our turnovers.”
Valpo got off to a quick start on Wednesday, as Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) opened the scoring with an old-fashioned 3-point play on the first possession. Erik Buggs (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell) found Howard Little (Chicago, Ill./Stoneridge [Calif.] School) for a 3-pointer on the next trip, and following a Green Bay turnover, Buggs set up Igbavboa for a triple of his own. The freshman racked up his third assist in the early going the next time down, hitting Cameron Witt (Launceston, Tasmania, Australia/Launceston) for a baseline jumper as the Crusaders got out to an 11-4 lead just 2:28 into the game.
The lead was still seven points at 19-12 with 13:44 remaining in the opening half after back-to-back 3-pointers by Jake Diebler (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky), but the Phoenix went on its first extended run of the game. Five different Green Bay players scored during a 13-4 run over the next four-plus minutes to swing the lead back to the Phoenix’s side.
Green Bay had as much as a six-point lead with 3:14 to play in the first half before the Crusaders put together a spurt to enter the break. Diebler knocked down a free throw, while Witt had two baskets in the paint and Buggs a driving layup during the stretch to close the half, as Valpo got within 38-37 at halftime.
The Phoenix quickly got up by five points to start the second half, going on a quick 6-2 spurt to open the stanza. Valpo righted the ship and was still within four points at 49-45 on a Little 3-pointer coming out of the first media timeout, but the Crusaders turned the ball over on the next three trips and Green Bay took advantage for seven points to jump start the game-changing run. A layup by Terry Evans off another Valpo turnover with 11:19 to play capped the 14-0 run, putting the Phoenix up 63-45 and the Crusaders got no closer than 13 points the rest of the way.
Igbavboa led the Crusaders with 15 points on just five field goal attempts, knocking down both of his shots from behind the arc, while Michael Rogers (Kingston, Jamaica/Redemption [N.Y.] Christian) added 13 points and six rebounds off the bench. Witt pulled down a game-high seven rebounds in his fifth start of the year.
All five Green Bay (20-8, 12-4 Horizon) starters ended the game in double figures in the scoring column, paced by 17 points from Evans, who also tallied seven rebounds, four assists and five steals. The Crusaders turned the ball over 18 times to the Phoenix’s seven miscues, and Green Bay held a 28-8 edge in points off of turnovers.Valparaiso (7-20, 4-12 Horizon) begins a three-game homestand to close out the regular season on Saturday evening as the Crusaders host Akron in a non-conference tilt. 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; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City) and online at www.valpoathletics.com. Live video and statistics will also be available through the official Crusader website.