Valparaiso used key 3-pointers late in the second half from Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) and Samuel Haanpaa (Kerava, Finland/Cornerstone [Texas] Christian) to pull away from Niagara Saturday evening, 70-58.
The Crusaders start the season 3-0 for the second consecutive season. In addition, Valpo has won its first two road games of the season for the first time since the 1966-67 campaign.
Niagara's Rydell Brooks converted a three-point play at the final media timeout of the game to cut Valpo's lead to three at 54-51. But the Crusaders moved the ball around the Purple Eagles' zone, and Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) found a wide-open Huff in the right corner to extend the lead to six.
Just over a minute later, McPherson again found an open shooter, but this time it was Haanpaa about 25 feet away from the basket. The freshman coolly drained his fifth 3-pointer of the contest to ice the game for Valpo.
The Crusaders jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead at the start of the game and extended the margin to eight (14-6) at the second media timeout. The Purple Eagles answered, however, going on a 9-3 run to cut the Valpo lead to two at 17-15.
Huff scored five points to propel the Crusaders on an 11-0 run of their own, capped by a fast break layup by Calum MacLeod (Wellington, New Zealand/Hutt Valley [Northeastern J.C.]) to make it a 28-15 game. The teams would trade baskets over the next two minutes before a three-point play from Brooks with two seconds left in the half cut the Valpo led to 33-24 at the half.
Niagara began the second half on a 9-2 run, including two fast-break buckets by Tyrone Lewis, to cut the Crusaders' lead to 35-33, the closest the game had been since midway through the first half. But Haanpaa drained his second 3-pointer of the game to quiet the Gallagher Center crowd and extend the lead back to five.
Haanpaa hit another triple with 11:52 to play to make Valpo's lead 45-37, but the Purple Eagles answered with a 9-3 run over the next four minutes to cut the lead to two. The two squads traded baskets over the next four minutes before the Huff and Haanpaa 3-pointers gave Valpo a comfortable lead.
Igbavboa registered a new career-high with 19 points to lead three Crusaders in double figures. Haanpaa came off the bench for 15 points, his career-best output, while Huff added 10 points of his own. Igbavboa also pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds for his third double-double in as many games. McPherson led all players with seven assists, while Jake Diebler (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) pulled down six rebounds and dished out four assists without a turnover.
Tyrone Lewis paced the Purple Eagles with 15 points. Brooks and Clif Brown added 12 points apiece, while Stanley Hodge led Niagara with 10 rebounds.
The Crusaders hit 24-of-46 (52.2%) shots from the field, compared to just 22-of-69 shooting for Niagara (0-2). The Purple Eagles especially struggled from long range, hitting a miniscule 2-of-26 from behind the arc, whereas Valpo nailed 10-of-22 3-pointers.
Valparaiso (3-0) will conclude its three-game road trip Tuesday evening, traveling to Raleigh to take on ACC foe North Carolina State for the first time in program history. The tip is set for 6 p.m. Central time, and as always, all the action can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.