Valparaiso took on its third ranked opponent in a six-day span, but could not come up with a victory Saturday afternoon, falling 78-58 to #3/1 Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio.
The Crusaders, who were facing the nation's top-ranked team for a third consecutive season (Illinois in 2004-05 and Duke in 2005-06), jumped out to an early lead over the Buckeyes. Four different players scored the first four buckets of the game for Valpo, and Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) converted a 3-point play to make the lead 12-7 five and a half minutes into the game.
Ohio State fought back, and the two teams battled back and forth over the next five minutes to two ties and three lead changes. Ron Lewis nailed a three to give OSU an 18-16 lead with 10:32 to play in the half, but Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) answered two possessions later with a layup to tie the game again at 18.
The Crusaders went cold from the field after that point, however, as Ohio State ended the half on a 15-4 run, including eight points from Daequan Cook. Valpo looked like it might keep the lead at single digits at the half after a layup by McPherson, but Cook hit a triple with five seconds left in the first stanza to give Ohio State a 33-22 lead at the break.
The second half started much like the first one ended for the Crusaders, as Ohio State started with a 14-0 spurt to extend the lead to 25. Three different Buckeyes hit 3-pointers during the run, which lasted for the first 5:24 of the half until Samuel Haanpaa (Kerava, Finland/Cornerstone [Texas] Christian) nailed a shot of his own from beyond the arc. The two teams played even for the rest of the game, as the lead varied between 20 and 25 the rest of the way.
Haanpaa paced the Crusaders with a career-best 18 points, while McPherson had 11 points and Igbavboa added 10 points of his own. Jake Diebler (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky), playing on the same floor where he led the Rams to the 2005 Ohio Division II state championship, added five points and a team-high six rebounds.
Two-time national high school player of the year Greg Oden made his collegiate debut for the Buckeyes, and did not disappoint the 17,311 in attendance, registering 14 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocks in 25 minutes off the bench. Cook led all scorers with 20 points, hitting 4-of-5 3-point attempts, while Ron Lewis added 10 for Ohio State (7-1).
Valpo struggled from behind the arc for the second consecutive game, hitting just 4-of-16 (25.0%) triples, to 10-of-22 (45.5%) shooting from downtown for the Buckeyes. The Crusaders hit 37.7% of their shots from the field overall, and nailed 14-of-19 (73.7%) free throw attempts.
Valparaiso (3-4) will take the court again Tuesday night, as the Crusaders travel to take on in-state foe Evansville in Evansville, Ind. Opening tip is set for 7:05 p.m., and all the action can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.