Mt. Pleasant, Mich. ? Central Michigan raced out to a 15-2 lead and, despite Valpo's strong second-half comeback, held on to defeat the Crusaders 68-55. Ron Howard led Valpo (0-2) with 12 points.
The Chippewas (1-1) jumped out to a 12-0 lead by making their first five shots. Kevin Nelson, who led CMU with 16 points, scored six during the opening run, while fellow guard Giordan Watson netted the other six. A 3-pointer by Tony Bowne extended the Chippewas' lead to 15-2 with 16:43 remaining in the half.
Valpo trimmed its deficit to eight (20-12) at the 9:08 mark, but CMU outscored the Crusaders 15-6 the rest of the half to take a 35-18 lead at intermission.
In the second half, Howard and Ali Berdiel hit consecutive 3-pointers and Kenny Harris and Dan Oppland each made a layup during a 10-0 run to pull Valpo within 41-34 with 16:07 left. CMU pushed its advantage to 11 (45-34) before Howard tallied five points during a 6-0 run to bring the Crusaders within five (45-40) with 10:36 remaining. After CMU regained a seven-point lead, Shawn Huff drained a jumper to cut the deficit to five (47-42) with under 10 minutes left.
Led by Nelson's four free throws, CMU went on a 10-0 run to expand its lead to 57-42 with 6:49 left. Valpo could get no closer than 11 the rest of the game.
Central Michigan held an advantage at the free throw line, making 27 of 35 (77 percent) to Valpo's 16 of 24 (67 percent). Valpo shot 36 percent (18-50) from the floor to CMU's 42 percent (19-45). The Crusaders outrebounded the Chippewas 36-31 as Harris topped Valpo with seven boards.
Oppland and Berdiel scored nine points each for Valpo, while Bowne had 15 and Watson added 13 for CMU.
Valpo hosts Charlotte in the home opener on Saturday beginning at 7:05 p.m.