Indianapolis, Ind. – Raitis Grafs scored 18 points, including 14 in the second half, as first-place Valpo (9-7, 4-0 Mid-Con) defeated IUPUI 72-62. The Crusaders shot 55 percent overall in earning their first road win of the season. Ali Berdiel tallied 13 points and Stalin Ortiz added 12 for Valpo, which extended its win streak to four.
Despite controlling most of the game, Valpo used a huge scoring surge to come back from a 14-point deficit in the first half. Trailing 20-6 with 11:41 left in the opening period, the Crusaders outscored the Jaguars 29-7 the rest of the half to take a 35-27 lead at intermission. The scoring surge included a 9-0 run followed by a 13-1 run over an eight-minute, 18-second span.
Dan Oppland made three layups and Berdiel drained a 3-point basket and added a layup to give Valpo a 22-21 lead with 5:39 remaining. A sophomore, Berdiel closed out the half with another trey and a layup in the last 1:16. Ortiz scored six points and Grafs added four as the Crusaders led the rest of the game. Valpo made 55 percent of its first-half shots, while limiting IUPUI to 42 percent.
Grafs, who grabbed seven rebounds and blocked two shots, emerged quickly after halftime. The 6’11” senior made a layup and a dunk, and added a free throw to help extend Valpo’s lead to 13 (44-31) with 14 minutes left.
Josh Mullins, who led IUPUI (8-11, 2-2 Mid-Con) with 18 points, made a 3-pointer, and Odell Bradley (13 points, 10 rebounds) added two free throws to trim the Crusaders’ lead to seven (44-37) with 12 minutes remaining. The Jaguars again pulled within seven with 10:24 left before Grafs scored seven points to ignite a 12-3 run that gave Valpo its largest lead (59-43) with just under four minutes left. IUPUI could get no closer than eight points before the final outcome.
The Crusaders, who scorched the nets at a 55 percent clip in the final 20 minutes, outrebounded IUPUI 35-30. Kikas Gomes joined Grafs as Valpo’s leader on the boards with seven. Greg Tonagel (six points) led the Crusaders with six assists and made two steals. Berdiel added five assists and topped the Crusaders with four steals. Bradley led the Jaguars with 10 rebounds. Josh Murray scored 11 points and snagged eight rebounds for IUPUI.
Valpo concludes a two-game road swing on Saturday against Oakland beginning at 5 p.m. CST (6 p.m. EST).