Milwaukee, Wis. – Four Valpo players tallied double-figures, but Valpo lost to Wisconsin-Milwaukee 75-61. Raitis Grafs led the Crusaders with 15 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots. Dylan Page topped the Panthers with 25 points, including 16 in the second half.
Stalin Ortiz scored 14 points and made five steals for Valpo (2-4), while Greg Tonagel added 12 points and three steals and Ali Berdiel contributed 12 points and four steals. The Crusaders, who made 16 steals, committed a season-high 24 turnovers. Wisconsin-Milwaukee committed 22 turnovers.
Wisconsin-Milwaukee (6-2), which trailed 34-33 at halftime, took control in the second half by draining five, 3-point baskets. Overall, the Panthers sank nine of 20 from beyond the arc, including three each by Ronnie Jones and Dan Wiesse. Valpo struggled from 3-point range, sinking two of 18.
Page, who made eight of 11 shots and all eight of his free throw attempts, ignited UWM by scoring 10 points during a 20-7 run to take a 53-41 lead with 11:31 remaining in the game. Berdiel scored four points to help pull Valpo within six (55-49) with 8:51 left. However, 3-pointers by Justin Lettenberger and Jones, as well as a basket by Page, pushed the UWM advantage to 63-53 at the 5:57 mark.
The Crusaders, who made 23 of 27 (85 percent) free throws, were able to stay within striking distance (65-59 with 2:22 left) after Grafs completed a conventional 3-point play and Ortiz added a free throw and a layup. The Panthers withstood the 6-2 Valpo run with four offensive rebounds and by converting seven of eight free throws in the final 1:09.
The first half featured seven ties and seven lead changes. Led by nine points each from Ortiz and Tonagel, and eight from Berdiel, Valpo led by as many as four on four different occasions in the first half. Berdiel’s layup off an assist from Ortiz at the first-half buzzer gave Valpo the one-point lead.
Wisconsin-Milwaukee finished shooting 50 percent (26 of 52), while the Crusaders concluded the contest shooting 40 percent (18 of 45). Valpo was outrebounded for the first time all season, 34-25. The Panthers made 14 of 17 (82 percent) free throws and dished out 19 assists. Jones, who had 11 points, led all players with six assists.
Valpo begins a three-game homestand Saturday by hosting Samford at 7:05 p.m.