Syracuse, N.Y. – Valpo placed three players in double figures, but dropped its season opener to Syracuse 81-66. Raitis Grafs led the Crusaders (0-1) with 18 points, while Stalin Ortiz added 15 and Joaquim Gomes recorded a double-double with 14 points and a career-high 14 rebounds.
Freshman Carmelo Anthony topped four Orangemen (1-1) in double digits with 28 points and 10 rebounds. Gerry McNamara added 18 points, Hakim Warrick scored 15 and Kueth Duany had 14 for Syracuse.
The game was close throughout and Valpo held as much as a 10-point lead in the first half. The Crusaders, after trailing 32-30 at halftime, began the second half with a 7-1 run. Consecutive steals by Greg Tonagel and Ali Berdiel fueled the comeback as Grafs scored three points and Ortiz and Berdiel each added two points during the stretch. Valpo led 42-37 with 16:40 remaining before Syracuse used a 9-0 run to take a 46-42 lead.
The Orangemen’s lead fluctuated between one and five points (62-57 with 5:28 left) before they exploded with an 8-0 run to increase their advantage to 70-57 with 3:09 remaining. Anthony, who made nine of 11 free throw attempts, scored 18 of his points in the second half. Warrick added 11 points in the last 20 minutes.
In the first half, Grafs scored 11 points, making five of nine shots, and Tonagel added eight, which included two, 3-pointers. Gomes grabbed nine of his career-high boards in the first half.
Valpo outrebounded Syracuse 43-37 as Grafs and Ortiz snared eight rebounds each. Tonagel and Berdiel led the Crusaders with four assists each and Berdiel snagged three steals.
The Crusaders shot 36 percent overall (23-63), while Syracuse made 43 percent (25-58) of its field goal attempts. The Orangemen made 24 of 35 (69 percent) free throws to Valpo’s 16 of 23 (70 percent). The Crusaders were hurt by 20 turnovers leading to 21 Syracuse points, while 13 Orangemen turnovers led to 13 Crusader points.
Valpo hosts Indiana State on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. in the home opener.