Valparaiso, Ind. - Stalin Ortiz scored a career-high 29 points and Raitis Grafs added 17 as Valpo (12-8) defeated Charlotte 73-59. The 49ers (8-11) were led by Curtis Nash with 17 points.
Charlotte opened the game scoring the first five points before Valpo tallied a basket of its own. The Crusaders went on a 23-4 run to lead 23-9 with 10:53 remaining in the half. Valpo shot 70 percent (7-of-10) from beyond the arc and held the 49ers to 29 percent (7-of-24) shooting to lead 42-23 at the half.
Ortiz shot 3-of-3 (4-of-4 for the game) from three-point range and scored 16 of his points in the first 20 minutes. Grafs scored 12 of his points in the half and Dan Oppland led the rebounding effort, grabbing six of Valpo's 22 first-half boards. The Crusaders also forced Charlotte to turn the ball over 12 times.
In the second half, Valpo traded baskets with Charlotte until the 49ers, behind 11 second-half points by Nash, began a run of their own. Charlotte went on a 15-5 run to pull within nine with 11:32 remaining.
Charlotte's second-half run was not enough as the Crusaders' strong defensive and offensive performances continued. With 37 seconds left, Kikas Gomes sealed the victory with a two-handed slam off a nice feed by Roberto Nieves.
Gomes scored eight and grabbed four rebounds, Grafs grabbed six rebounds, and Oppland finished with six points and seven boards. Nieves scored seven and Ali Berdiel led the Crusaders with five of their 17 assists.
Valpo shot 60 percent (9-of-15) from three-point land, 46 percent from the field and held the 49ers to 34 percent shooting overall. Charlotte's Demon Brown also finished in double figures with 12 points. Nash made 5-of-8 three-point attempts overall.
The Crusaders will be on the road the next three games. Valpo will play at Western Illinois on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.