Columbia, Missouri – After trailing by one point at halftime, Valpo fell to Missouri 65-47. Stalin Ortiz led the Crusaders (5-6) with 13 points, while Kikas Gomes added 12. Missouri’s Rickey Paulding topped all scorers with 22 points, including 17 in the second half.
The Tigers (7-1) were red-hot from 3-point territory in the second half, draining seven of 11. Ricky Clemons, who finished with 18 points, made four treys in the last 20 minutes, while Paulding swished three. Missouri shot a blistering 64 percent (16-25) in the second half.
Valpo controlled most of the first half, leading 14-8 with 9:10 remaining. Ortiz scored five points off the bench to ignite the Crusader surge. Missouri regained the lead briefly until Ali Berdiel’s basket gave Valpo a 16-15 advantage at the 6:13 mark. Arthur Johnson, who tallied 12 points, nine rebounds and five blocks, converted a short jumper and Missouri led by three before Raitis Grafs made two free throws to trim the Tigers’ lead to 21-20 at halftime.
Eight offensive rebounds in the first half aided Valpo’s cause as the Crusaders took 25 shots to the Tigers’ 14. Each team made seven shots before halftime.
Bolstered by a 3-point basket each from Paulding and Clemons, Missouri outscored Valpo 12-2 in the first 3:26 of the second half to take a 33-22 lead. The Tigers gradually increased their lead to 19 points (50-31) at the 8:49 mark behind eight points from Clemons and seven from Paulding during a 17-9 run.
Valpo’s deficit fluctuated between 14 and 18 points the remainder of the game. Gomes, who led the Crusaders with four steals, made two, 3-pointers and a layup in the last 5:30.
The Crusaders outrebounded Missouri 31-23. Ortiz topped Valpo with six boards. Missouri finished shooting 59 percent (23-39), while Valpo shot 33 percent (17-51) overall. The Tigers were successful on nine of 14 shots from 3-point range, while the Crusaders made three of 16 treys. Valpo (83 percent) and Missouri (77 percent) were even at the free throw line, converting 10 each. Grafs finished with nine points.
Valpo will play Notre Dame Jan. 4 at the United Center in Chicago beginning at 1 p.m. CST.