Valparaiso, Ind. - Valpo placed five players in double figures and held off a late comeback to defeat Oral Roberts 84-73. The victory propelled the Crusaders (9-4) into a first-place tie with IUPUI (8-3).
Ali Berdiel led Valpo (12-10 overall) with 17 points, six rebounds and six assists. Roberto Nieves scored 14 points, Oumar Sylla had 13, Kenny Harris recorded career highs of 12 points and seven rebounds, and Kikas Gomes added 10 points and eight rebounds.
The freshman tandem of Ken Tutt and Caleb Green scored 28 and 20 points, respectively. Green also grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds. Tutt scored 25 of the Golden Eagles' 45 points in the second half, while Green netted 13 after the intermission.
After Jimmie Miles drained an acrobatic 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer to give Valpo a 10-point lead (38-28), the Crusaders went on an 8-0 run to take an 18-point lead (46-28) with 17:38 left. Sylla scored four points during the opening second-half stretch.
The lead fluctuated between nine and 16 points before ORU (13-9, 6-5) orchestrated a 12-2 run to cut its deficit to 57-51 with seven minutes remaining. Tutt made two, 3-pointers and added a jumper to aid the comeback.
Nieves swished a 3-pointer to push Valpo's lead to nine (60-51). The Golden Eagles, due to the contributions of Tutt and Green, stayed close to the Crusaders, but could not trim the Valpo lead to less than five (74-69 with 1:18 left) the rest of the way.
Valpo shot free throws effectively down the stretch, making 11 of 14 in the final 1:27. Greg Tonagel converted all four of his free throws, while Sylla made five during than span.
The Crusaders made 28 of 38 free throws (74 percent) to ORU's 12 of 16 (75 percent). Valpo shot well, making 51 percent overall (25-49). ORU finished shooting 40 percent overall and drained 9 of 24, 3-point attempts, including six by Tutt. Valpo won the battle of the boards 42-30.
Berdiel made four of Valpo's eight steals. The Crusaders made 15 turnovers, just four in the second half, to 11 overall for the Golden Eagles.
Valpo hosts UMKC on Saturday beginning at 7:05 p.m.