The cold-shooting Crusaders hung tough with Marquette but came up short in the end, falling 69-54 Wednesday night at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wis.
Valpo shot a meager 35.1% from the field, making only 20-of-57 field goal attempts. The results from three-point range were even worse, where the Crusaders hit just 6-of-23 shots. The Golden Eagles did not shoot much better, particularly in the second half, when they made only 11-of-29 shots.
The margin was ten for most of the second half, with Marquette struggling to put the Crusaders away, and Valpo unable to put together a run of their own to close the gap. The two teams sat at a 49-39 stalemate for more than four minutes midway through the period, before the Golden Eagles iced the game with a 7-2 run.
Marquette transfer Ron Howard (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young), led the Crusader offense with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Howard spent one season at Marquette before transferring to Valpo following the 2001-02 season. Mohamed Kone (Lyon, France/Jean Paul Saltre) put together arguably his most impressive game of the season, making 5-of-8 shots and finishing with 15 points and eight rebounds to go along with four more blocked shots. The senior has blocked a Mid-Con best 17 shots through the first five games of the year.
Dan Oppland (Saint Louis, Mo./Whitfield) was the only other Crusader in double-figures, scoring 10 points to go along with eight rebounds and three assists. Oppland was not immune to Valpo's shooting struggles, making 4-of-13 field goals, 1-of-5 three-pointers and only 1-of-3 foul shots. The senior was held below twenty points for the first time since February 19, a span of nine games. Ali Berdiel (Ponce, Puerto Rico/Andrean) made his first start of the season, and responded with nine points and seven assists.
Valpo burst out to a quick 12-3 lead, getting three-pointers from Oppland and Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne), and four quick points from Kone. But the hosts would respond quickly, scoring 10 unanswered to take a one-point lead, and Marquette blew the lead up to 42-29 lead at the intermission. The Golden Eagles shot 46.4% in the first 20 minutes, going 5-of-11 from three-point range and knocking down 11-of-12 free throws, while the Crusaders shot just 35.5%.
The Crusader starting five of Oppland, Huff, Berdiel, Kone and Howard scored all 54 of Valpo's points, as the Brown and Gold reserves combined to shoot 0-of-11 from the floor.
Valpo committed 15 turnovers on the night and forced only 12 Marquette miscues. The Crusaders did out-rebound the Golden Eagles, 37-35. The loss was Valpo's 20th in 25 all-time meetings with Marquette, and third straight in the series.
Marquette (6-2) was led by freshman Dominic James' 12 points, five rebounds and four assists. Fellow freshman Jerel McNeal poured in 12 points for the Golden Eagles.
The Brown and Gold (3-2) will try to snap a two-game losing streak Saturday when they venture to North Carolina to take on Charlotte at 6:00 p.m. CST. That game can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.