Kansas City, Mo. – Matt Crenshaw made a 12-foot jumper with one second left to give IUPUI a 66-64 victory over Valpo in the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament Championship game. Raitis Grafs, a member of the all-tournament team, led the Crusaders (20-10) with 21 points and 13 rebounds. Stalin Ortiz added 14 points and eight rebounds.
Grafs scored five points in the last 37 seconds to help Valpo overcome a five-point deficit (64-59) and tie the game at 64-64. The 6’11” senior drained a 3-pointer with 22 seconds remaining to cut IUPUI’s lead to 64-62. After Ortiz made a steal with 13 seconds left, Grafs sank a short jumper with 10 seconds remaining after rebounding Ortiz’s 3-point attempt that rattled in-and-out.
Following a Jaguar timeout, Crenshaw drove to the right wing and made a difficult jumper with one second left. Valpo used a timeout to set up a final attempt, but Josh Mullins intercepted a long pass at the buzzer to send IUPUI to its first-ever NCAA Tournament.
IUPUI (20-13) made three, 3-pointers in the first five minutes to take a 13-3 lead. The Crusaders cut their deficit to five before the Jaguars pushed their advantage to 25-16 with 5:17 remaining before halftime.
Greg Tonagel swished two, 3-pointers to spark a 12-2 run that gave Valpo a 28-27 lead with 2:15 left in the half. IUPUI took a 30-28 halftime lead on Brandon Cole’s jumper.
The Crusaders began the second half with a 6-0 run that included a 3-point basket by Ali Berdiel. Valpo led by four on three separate occasions before the teams exchanged the lead seven times over nearly a nine-minute span. Valpo’s last lead was 52-51 with 7:46 left.
Mullins, who led the Jaguars with 18 points, gave IUPUI a 54-52 lead with a 3-pointer at the 7:28 mark. Two free throws by tournament MVP Josh Murray and a tip-in by Odell Bradley extended IUPUI’s lead to 58-52 with 5:38 remaining. A fast-break layup by Crenshaw increased the Jaguar lead to seven points (63-56) with 1:20 left before Valpo mounted its comeback. Ortiz made a 3-pointer with 1:06 left to ignite the 8-1 Crusader run that tied the game.
Valpo outrebounded IUPUI 42-27 as Kikas Gomes added eight boards. IUPUI outscored the Crusaders 34-24 in the paint. The Jaguars scored 20 points off of 19 Valpo turnovers, while the Crusaders scored 13 on 10 IUPUI miscues. Valpo finished shooting 41 percent overall and IUPUI shot 44 percent. Murray recorded a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Crenshaw dished out eight assists for IUPUI, while Tonagel and Roberto Nieves had five each for Valpo.
Mullins, Southern Utah’s David Palmer and UMKC’s Michael Watson joined Grafs and Murray on the all-tournament team.
Valpo awaits a possible invitation to a post-season tournament. The NCAA Tournament brackets and the NIT bids will be announced Sunday night.