Valparaiso took a 31-25 lead into halftime Thursday evening at IUPUI, but the Jaguars scored 13 of the first 17 points of the second half to take the lead for good, eventually pulling away for a 68-54 victory over the Crusaders.
The Crusaders owned the halftime lead in large part to 65% shooting from the floor in the opening stanza, hitting 13 of their first 20 shots, including five of seven from behind the arc. Jake Diebler (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) drained all four of his 3-point attempts for 12 first-half points, while Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) also hit all four of his shots from the floor, scoring nine points.
The guards' offensive play, combined with the stellar post defense of Calum MacLeod (Wellington, New Zealand/Hutt Valley [Northeastern J.C.]), Moussa Mbaye (Dakar, Senegal/Life Center [N.J.] Academy) and Arden Skoglund (Hopkins, Minn./Hopkins), helped the Crusaders rally from an early 9-0 deficit with a 16-2 run to take a five-point edge. Valpo maintained the lead for the rest of the half, using a combined seven blocked shots from the aforementioned post trio and back-to-back baskets from McPherson to close the half with the six-point edge.
The second half was a different story, as Valpo turned the ball over five times in the first six minutes, helping the Jaguars take their first lead of the game since the opening minutes. A triple by Samuel Haanpaa (Kerava, Finland/Cornerstone [Texas] Christian) tied the game at 38 with 13:49 to play, and the Crusaders were still within one at the under-12 minute media timeout. But IUPUI used a 12-2 run to pull ahead by double figures, and Valpo could get no closer than nine the rest of the way.
McPherson ended the game with a team-high 15 points in front of his hometown crowd, hitting six of his eight shots from the floor. He also ended the game with a team-best five rebounds. Diebler finished the game with 12 points, while MacLeod came off the bench, hitting all five of his field goal attempts to add 10 points to go along with a career-best four blocked shots.
IUPUI (11-12, 4-5 Mid-Con) placed four players in double figures, with Austin Montgomery and Gary Patterson sharing team-high honors with 15 points. Angelo Smith chipped in 14 points, and Craig Swoope came off the bench to score 11. Montgomery grabbed a game-high seven rebounds, while David Barlow dished out six assists in the winning effort.
Valpo shot just 31.8% from the field in the second half to end the game hitting at a 47.6% (20-of-42) clip, versus 44.4% shooting from the Jaguars. The Jags held a distinct advantage at the charity stripe, making 22-of-27 free throws to the Crusaders' 7-of-8 effort. IUPUI also out-rebounded the Crusaders 32-19, including an 11-1 edge on the offensive glass.
Valparaiso (13-12, 6-4 Mid-Con) plays its final Mid-Con regular season road game Saturday afternoon, traveling to Michigan to take on the Oakland Golden Grizzlies. The opening tip is set for noon Central time, and all the action 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.