The red-hot Crusader offense went into a deep chill Saturday night, and Valpo trailed from start to finish in a 73-61 loss to Southern Utah at Centrum Arena in Cedar City, Utah.
Averaging 87.9 points in their last seven games, the Crusaders scored just 25 points in the first half and finished 20 points below their season average. Valpo never led, and trailed for every minute of the game after tying the score at two.
The Thunderbirds jumped out quickly, opening a 12-4 lead on seven quick points from Henry Uhegwu. Valpo worked the lead down to two, but a balanced Southern Utah attack pushed the hosts to a double-figure lead, 36-25 at the break.
Uhegwu led the way with nine points on 4-of-4 shooting for the Thunderbirds, who got points from nine different players and shot 53.6% from the field in the first half. The Crusaders turned the ball over eight times in the first 20 minutes, and were out-rebounded 19-12 by Southern Utah, statistically the 316th ranked rebounding team in the country. Dan Oppland
(Saint Louis, Mo./Whitfield) led Valpo with 10, scoring in double-figures for the 24th consecutive game.
The second half started the same way the first did, with Valpo hitting just four of their first 11 shots, and falling behind 49-35 with 10:58 left. On the next Southern Utah possession Urule Igbavboa
(Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) drew a charge in the paint, and the Valpo offense awoke for a few minutes. Oppland kick-started a 7-0 run with a hook in the lane, and twice the Crusaders would cut the lead to seven. The Brown and Gold had chances to get even closer but missed three straight free throws during the middle portion of the half, never getting closer than seven the rest of the way.
Oppland finished with a game-high 20 points on 9-of-17 shooting, and led the Crusaders with eight rebounds. Ron Howard
(Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) was the only other Valpo player in double-figures, adding 12 points. Igbavboa played a strong 19 minutes off the bench, scoring eight points and pulling down six rebounds. The Crusaders hit just 6-of-19 three-pointers, and were 7-of-18 from the free throw line
Uhegwu led the Thunderbirds (5-14, 4-3 Mid-Con) with 15 points, pacing four players in double-figures. Southern Utah shot 51.0% from the floor and dished out 18 assists, led by five for Steve Barnes. SUU out-rebounded the Crusaders 36-32.
The Crusaders played without three of their top six players for the second
consecutive game, missing Mohamed Kone
(Lyon, France/Jean Paul Sartre), Shawn Huff
(Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) and Jimmie Miles
(Country Club Hills, Ill./Rich Central).
Valpo (11-6, 4-3 Mid-Con) wraps up a four-game road trip Thursday night at Oakland. That game, set to tip off at 6:00 p.m., will be carried live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics, with pregame coverage set for 5:50 p.m.