Valparaiso, Ind. - Three Crusaders scored in double-figures as Valpo (7-7, 2-0 Mid-Con) defeated Southern Utah 74-44 to win its 18th straight at home. Roberto Nieves led all scorers with 15, Raitis Grafs contributed 13 and Dan Oppland scored a career-high 10.
The game started off and remained close midway through the first half with both teams knotted at 12. Southern Utah (7-8, 2-1 Mid-Con) then did not score for another six-and-a-half minutes as Valpo took a 19-14 lead with 3:29 remaining.
The Crusaders, behind Nieves' seven first-half points, led 28-19 at the break. The Crusaders and the Thunderbirds played great defense as both teams were held to just 39 percent shooting. Valpo also forced Southern Utah to turn the ball over 15 times and held the Thunderbirds to 17 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
The second half started off much better for the Crusaders as they opened up with a 32-5 run, holding Southern Utah to just one basket in the first 12 minutes. Southern Utah was held scoreless for an eight-minute stretch in the second half.
Valpo's defense continued to be strong as the Crusaders held Southern Utah to just 28 percent second-half shooting (33 percent overall), and did not allow one Thunderbird to score in double-figures. The Thunderbirds were led by Al Williams with nine points.
Valpo's offensive performance in the second half was a big factor as well. The Crusaders shot 70 percent from the field in the second half and 56 percent (5-9) from three-point range. Valpo finished the game with 22 assists on 25 baskets. Leading the way in assists for the Crusaders was Greg Tonagel with seven.
The Crusaders also controlled the boards, outrebounding Southern Utah 40-24 as Grafs grabbed nine rebounds and Oppland and Stalin Ortiz brought down six. Joaquim Gomes finished the game with nine points, Seth Colclasure tallied eight and Ali Berdiel scored seven points and dished out six assists.
With the victory, Valpo owns the 9th longest current homecourt win streak in the nation.
The Crusaders will be in action again on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. as they entertain Chicago State.