Rochester, Mich. ? Dan Oppland scored a career-high 23 points and Ali Berdiel netted a career-best 20 as Valpo defeated Oakland 79-76 in the Mid-Continent Conference opener. Berdiel made two free throws with 38 seconds remaining to break a 75-75 tie and Seth Colclasure drained two charity tosses with 9 seconds left before Oakland's Mike Helms missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. The victory extended Valpo's lead in the series to 11-0.
Kikas Gomes recorded his sixth double-double of the season with 13 points and 15 rebounds. A senior forward, Gomes has grabbed double-figure rebounds in six straight games. Helms led Oakland with 31 points and Rawle Marshall tallied 20 for the Golden Grizzlies.
The Crusaders limited Oakland to 37 percent (26-70) shooting. Valpo shot 47 percent overall (29-62) and converted 18 of 24 free throws (75 percent). Oakland made 17 of 30 (57 percent) free throw attempts. The Golden Grizzlies made 7 of 24 from 3-point range to 3 of 13 for the Crusaders.
Valpo (4-6, 1-0 Mid-Con) trailed by six (61-55) with 8:46 left in the game before Berdiel scored four points to key a 9-0 run. Colclasure gave Valpo its first lead of the second half with a 3-pointer from the right wing to give the Crusaders a 64-61 advantage at the 6:46 mark.
Jimmie Miles scored two baskets and Oppland added a layup to increase the lead to 70-65 with 4:09 left. Oakland (6-7, 0-1 Mid-Con) received two consecutive 3-pointers from Kelly Williams to regain a one-point lead (71-70) before Berdiel made a trey to return a two-point lead (73-71) to Valpo with 2:50 remaining.
After Marshall hit a driving layup to knot the game at 73-73, Gomes and Helms traded jumpers to tie the game (75-75) with 52 seconds left for the fourth and final time.
Oakland led for most of the first half and by as many as nine (25-16) before Valpo went on an 8-0 run to close the gap to 25-24 with 6:47 remaining. Berdiel scored five and Oppland had four points during the stretch. The Golden Grizzlies expanded their lead to five before Valpo trimmed its deficit to 41-39 at halftime.
Valpo hosts IUPUI on Monday at 7:05 p.m.