The UMKC Kangaroos used a 27-7 run midway through the second half to erase a big Valpo lead, and Quinton Day buried a three-pointer with 2.7 seconds left to give the hosts a 73-70 win over Valpo Thursday night at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.
The UMKC run started with Valpo up 15 points with 13:03 to go and the Crusaders looking poised to break the game open. But the offense went cold, and the Kangaroos started clicking, tying the game at 58 with 6:43 to go. Three minutes later, an impossible left-handed layup from Day gave the junior 30 points and UMKC their biggest lead at 66-61.
Even when the Valpo offense got going in the final three minutes, Day had an answer, hitting a driving layup and then finding Kalu Guasco under the hoop for two more to make it 70-64. But the Crusaders were not done, getting a layup from Ron Howard
(Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) and a steal from Jimmie Miles
(Country Club Hills, Ill./Rich Central) with 42 seconds left. On the ensuing Crusader possession, Ali Berdiel
(Ponce, Puerto Rico/Andrean) drained a three-pointer from the top of the key to tie the game at 70. That only set the stages for Day's heroics, however, sealing the Kangaroo win with Howard in his face.
The Kangaroo star finished with a career-high 37 points, more than half of his team's total. Dan Oppland
(Saint Louis, Mo./Whitfield) led Valpo with 20 points and 12 rebounds, his sixth double-double of the season and third in his last four games.
After a tight first five minutes, the Crusaders turned things on during an impressive 18-2 run, opening a 24-11 lead by making a sizzling eight of their first nine shots from the field. The Brown and Gold also knocked down five of their first six attempts from three-point range after hitting on only 5-of-25 from long distance in a loss earlier this season to the Kangaroos.
But Day, the Mid-Con's leading scorer in conference, would not let UMKC go down lightly. He hit a pair of deep triples and converted a steal into a breakaway layup to close the Kangaroos within 25-21 with 8:20 remaining in the half. The junior struck again four minutes later, burying his fifth three-pointer of the half with 3:24 left to give UMKC a 36-33 lead, capping a 15-4 spurt from the hosts.
With 1:35 to go and the Kangaroos still up 37-35, Valpo's answer to Day, Oppland, scored four straight points to regain the lead for Valpo. And when Miles put back a miss in the final seconds, the Crusaders headed into the locker room back up 41-37.
The Brown and Gold shot 53.3% in the first 20 minutes, including 5-of-9 from three-point range, and held a commanding 22-12 lead on the glass, but turned the ball over 12 times. Day had an incredible first half, raining in his threes from well beyond the arc and netting 17 points to lead all scorers. Oppland tallied 13 points and pulled down eight first half rebounds to lead the Crusaders.
The Valpo defense buckled down to start the second half, allowing only two points in the first 7:51, and extending their lead to from 41-37 to 54-39 on back-to-back baskets from Howard and an uncontested layup from Oppland.
But when the Crusader offense went cold, Day found the range again, draining a triple from the top of the key to narrow the Valpo lead to 56-50 with 9:25 to go. Two possessions later, Dee Ayuba banked one in from the post to make it 58-56, and Day completed the comeback on a pair of free throws with 6:43 left.
Howard joined Oppland in double-figures with 15 points, the 14th time in his last 15 games he's scored at least 10. Miles had a season-high 13 on 5-of-8 shooting, and Berdiel chipped in 10 points with seven assists. Berdiel's seven assists give him 501 for his career, joining Bryce Drew and John McIlvain as the only players in Valpo history with at least 500 career helpers.
The Crusaders shot 50.9% from the field and made 7-of-17 three-pointers, but hit only 7-of-15 free throws. Valpo finished with a strong advantage on the glass, out-rebounding the Kangaroos 39-22, but struggled with turnovers, giving the ball away 22 times.
Guasco was the only UMKC (13-13, 10-5 Mid-Con) player in double-figures besides Day, finishing with 14 points. Tim Blackwell had seven assists for the Kangaroos, who shot 46.7% from the field and committed only nine turnovers.
The win clinches the third seed in next week's Mid-Con tournament for UMKC, while the Crusaders can finish anywhere from fourth through sixth in the league.
Valpo (16-10, 8-7 Mid-Con) closes out the regular season Saturday night at Oral Roberts at 7:05 p.m. That game can be seen live throughout Chicagoland and Northern Indiana on WYIN 56 and WHME 46. Live coverage is also available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics beginning at 6:50 p.m.