Kansas City, Mo. ? Stalin Ortiz scored 23 points, including 16 in the second half, as Valpo (18-8, 12-1 Mid-Con) defeated UMKC 75-63. The victory was the Crusaders' 7th straight and 13th in the last 14 games. Roberto Nieves added 12 points and seven rebounds, while Ali Berdiel tallied 12 points and six assists.
Valpo used a 25-16 run in the final 8:33 to extend a three-point lead. Ortiz netted 11 points ? eight of which came on layups - during the decisive stretch. Dan Oppland aided the cause by scoring all nine of his points in the final 7:48. The Crusaders shot 54 percent from the field (15-of-28) in the second half.
Nieves drained three, 3-pointers in the first half to help propel Valpo to a 37-28 halftime lead. Berdiel scored eight points in the first 20 minutes, while Kikas Gomes and Ortiz added seven. The Crusaders, who made seven-of-11 treys in the first half, finished nine-of-17 from 3-point territory.
Valpo's defense was a major factor, limiting UMKC (7-19, 6-7 Mid-Con) to 32 percent shooting overall (21-of-66). Gomes and Raitis Grafs blocked three shots each. UMKC's Michael Watson, who was coming off a Mid-Con record 54-point performance against Oral Roberts last Saturday, was held to 15 points on five-of-20 shooting. Watson shared team-high scoring honors with Marc Stricker.
Ortiz made 10-of-12 shots as the Crusaders finished shooting 48 percent overall (28-of-58). Valpo held a 43-41 rebounding edge as Antti Nikkila had a team-high eight. In addition to Berdiel's six assists, Grafs and Nieves dished out four of Valpo's 21 assists. Brandon Lipsey added 11 points and Javon Clark contributed 10 for the Kangaroos.
Valpo's win avenged its only Mid-Continent Conference blemish of the season ? a 71-68 overtime loss to UMKC on Feb. 1 at the ARC.
The Crusaders, who have already clinched their 8th Mid-Con regular season championship, conclude the regular season on Saturday at Oral Roberts beginning at 7:05 p.m.