Valparaiso stormed back from a nine-point deficit with under two minutes to play in regulation, forcing overtime on a Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) 3-pointer with five seconds to play, and held Oral Roberts to just two points in the extra session as the Crusaders downed the Mid-Con leaders, 70-67, Thursday night at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
The win was Valpo's tenth in 11 all-time matchups against the Golden Eagles at the ARC, and moves Valpo into third place by itself in the Mid-Con standings. The Crusaders used a stellar defensive effort down the stretch to come back for the win, as ORU did not hit a field goal for the last 11 minutes of the ballgame.
The Crusaders found themselves trailing 60-51 with 1:57 to play after a pair of Adam Liberty free throws, but Samuel Haanpaa (Kerava, Finland/Cornerstone [Texas] Christian) drained a triple on Valpo's next possession to cut the deficit to six. Liberty's pocket was picked on ORU's next trip by Jarryd Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West), who successfully converted a give-and-go with Jake Diebler (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) on the fast break to make it a 60-56 ballgame.
Valpo committed fouls on each of ORU's next two possessions, with Liberty and Kelvin Sango each nailing both of their attempts from the charity stripe. But the Crusaders traded off those free throws for 3-pointers, getting makes from behind the arc from Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) and Huff to cut the lead to 64-62 with 18 seconds to play. Diebler fouled ORU's Yemi Ogunoye immediately, and Ogunoye split the pair, setting the stage for Huff's game-tying shot.
The overtime session saw each team score on its first possession, with Liberty hitting a pair of free throws for ORU and Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) nailing a jumper in the lane to answer for the Crusaders. The game would remain tied at 67 for the next 2:30, before Huff hit his fifth triple of the game to give Valpo a 70-67 advantage, its first lead since midway through the second half.
Ken Tutt was fouled on the Golden Eagles' next time down the floor and missed the first free throw. Before he could attempt the second, a double lane violation was called and the ball awarded to Valpo on the possession arrow. After a Haanpaa miss for Valpo gave the ball back to the Golden Eagles, Caleb Green was called for an offensive foul, fouling him out of the ballgame with 53 seconds to play. ORU stopped the Crusaders and got the ball back with 26 seconds to play, but neither of Tutt's 3-point attempts would fall, giving Valpo the victory.
The game was tight throughout, as neither team held more than a five-point advantage in a first half that featured six ties and nine lead changes. ORU went into the half with a two-point advantage at 31-29 on a Tutt runner at the buzzer. The second half went back and forth for the first 10 minutes, with eight lead changes until the Golden Eagles grabbed a 45-44 lead at the 9:55 mark on a Green layup.
Oral Roberts scored seven straight points, making the run 11-0, to extend its lead to eight at 52-44 with 7:31 to play. Igbavboa answered for Valpo, scoring five straight points to cut the deficit to three at 54-51 with 5:02 left. The Golden Eagles scored the next six points, however, setting the stage for the final minutes.
Huff led the Crusaders with 21 points, setting a career-high with five made 3-pointers. Igbavboa finished with 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting, while Loyd finished with 10 points, giving Valpo three players in double figures. McPherson chipped in nine points to go along with team-high total of six rebounds and four assists.
Green led the visitors with 19 points, hitting 6-of-9 shots from the field and 7-of-8 from the free throw line. The two-time Mid-Con player of the year also grabbed five boards and dished out three assists, but committed eight turnovers as well. Tutt added 14 points, but had just three points on 1-of-7 shooting after halftime. Liberty contributed 13 points in the losing effort.
The Crusaders used their advantage from behind the arc, hitting 11-of-28 (39.3%) triples versus ORU's 4-of-20 (20.0%), to offset the Golden Eagles' advantage at the free throw line. Oral Roberts (15-8, 7-1 Mid-Con) knocked down 23-of-29 shots from the charity stripe, while Valpo hit just 7-of-12 attempts from the line. Valpo dished out 15 assists against just 11 turnovers, while the Golden Eagles committed 17 turnovers to go with 12 assists.
Valparaiso (11-11, 5-3 Mid-Con) returns to the hardwood at the ARC Saturday night, hosting Centenary. Tipoff is set for 7:05 p.m., and all the action, as always, can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.