Chicago, Ill. – Five Crusaders scored in double figures as first-place Valpo defeated Chicago State 81-70. Raitis Grafs led the Crusaders with 18 points, while Roberto Nieves and Stalin Ortiz added 15 each. Kikas Gomes tallied 12 points and Greg Tonagel scored 10. Ali Berdiel dished out a career-high nine assists for Valpo (14-8, 8-1 Mid-Con). The Crusaders, who have won three straight games and nine of the last 10, made 64 percent of their shots, including eight of 14 from 3-point range.
A solid second half proved to be the difference for Valpo as the Crusaders outscored the Cougars 43-32 after the game was tied 38-38 at halftime. Nieves made two straight 3-pointers to give Valpo a 46-42 lead with 16:45 remaining. The Crusaders held a 48-45 lead with 15:19 left before orchestrating a 12-1 run to take a 60-46 advantage at the 9:54 mark. Grafs and Gomes scored four points each during the stretch.
Three-pointers by Nieves and Tonagel helped Valpo extend its lead to 18 (71-53) with 6:48 remaining. The lead fluctuated between 14 and 17 points until Chicago State (3-21, 0-10 Mid-Con) trimmed its deficit to 11.
Valpo outrebounded CSU 27-23 as Ortiz led the Crusaders with six boards. The Crusaders had 26 assists on 33 baskets as Tonagel joined Berdiel with five assists. Craig Franklin led the Cougars with 17 points. CSU shot 51 percent overall.
The Crusaders travel to play Southern Utah on Saturday at 8:35 p.m. CST (7:35 p.m. MST).