(Saint Louis, Mo./Whitfield) is going to miss playing at Western Hall. One year after scoring 29 points in Macomb, the senior dropped a career-high 35 points on the Leathernecks Saturday night in Valpo's 82-68 win, their sixth straight.
Oppland scored 24 in the first half, including a trio of landmark buckets. The 6'8" forward scored his 1,500th career point in the early going and passed Harry Bell for seventh all-time on scoring list with his 23rd point late in the period. With 1:30 left in the second half, Oppland made a lefty hook in the lane for his final points of the night, and passed Dick Jones for sixth all-time in the process. Oppland now has 1,521 points in his career.
The Crusaders scored the game's first seven points, four from Oppland, before Western Illinois came back to tie the score at 11 on a Troy Okeson three-pointer. From there, Oppland took over, scoring eight straight points to put Valpo up 19-11, and when he buried his 18th point of the half with 11:30 remaining, Valpo was out in front 28-13. Fred Oguns single-handedly kept the Leathernecks in it, rattling off seven straight points on three very difficult shots, and chopping the Crusader lead to nine with eight minutes left in the half.
Oppland scored his 20th point of the night with seven minutes remaining in the half, but Western Illinois followed with six unanswered to make the score 33-28 Valpo. Out of a timeout, Seth Colclasure
(Decatur, Ind./Bellmont) hit a deep three-pointer to ignite a 10-4 run, and the Crusaders took a 45-37 lead into halftime.
Oppland's 24 came on 8-of-10 shooting and 8-of-8 free throws, while Oguns led the Leathernecks with 13. The Brown and Gold shot 61.5% in the first half and made 7-of-12 three-pointers, including 3-of-4 from Colclasure.
In the second half, neither team made a move early and the Valpo lead hovered around 10 points for the first 10 minutes. Then, with 9:46 to go, Oppland set a new career-high in emphatic fashion, picking up a loose ball, going coast-to-coast, and dunking home his 32nd and 33rd points of the night. The dunk was also part of a 10-0 run that put the Crusaders out in front 71-52 and finished off the Leathernecks.
Two others joined Oppland in double-figures, with Ron Howard
(Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) and Colclasure each chipping in 12 points. The Crusaders finished the night shooing a season-high 63.8% from the field and making 55.6% of their three-pointers. The Brown and Gold also won the battle on the glass, out-rebounding Western Illinois 28-24. Valpo had 22 assists on 30 made baskets, including seven from Ali Berdiel
(Ponce, Puerto Rico/Andrean) and six from Howard.
Oguns led the Leathernecks (5-10, 1-3 Mid-Con) with 17 points, while David Jackson had 14 and Sammy Hunter added 12. The Leathernecks forced the Crusaders into a season-high 24 turnovers, but committed 20 of their own.
Valpo (11-4, 4-1 Mid-Con) continues their four-game road swing Thursday night at Chicago State with a 7:00 p.m. tip-off. That game can be seen live on WYIN 56 in Merrillville, Ind. and WHME, channel 46 in South Bend, Ind. The action will also be carried live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics, with pregame coverage beginning at 6:50 p.m.