Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) matched his career-high output with 24 points, and the Crusaders hit free throws down the stretch to defeat San Francisco, 64-59, in the seventh place game of the 43rd Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic Saturday in Honolulu, Hawai'i.
McPherson, who broke the 20-point barrier for the third time in five games, hit six of his nine field goal attempts, including all four of his shots from behind the arc. He also hit 8-of-9 shots from the charity stripe, including four straight with under 20 seconds to play after the Dons had cut Valpo's lead to two.
The Crusaders hit three 3-pointers over a two-minute span, two of them from McPherson, midway through the second half to extend their lead to 52-37 with 9:25 to play. After the two squads traded baskets, San Francisco turned up its pressure, forcing five Crusader turnovers during an 18-5 run to cut the Valpo lead to 60-58. That was as close as the Dons would get, as McPherson hit his four free throw attempts to secure the win.
The first half played out much like the Crusaders' previous game against Charlotte, with Valpo jumping out to an early lead and the Dons putting together a quick run of their own to gain the advantage. Valpo put together a 9-0 run over a five-minute span in the latter stages of the half, led by four points from Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan), to take a 25-16 lead with 4:34 left in the stanza. The lead was still nine with under a minute to play, but Armondo Surratt hit a jumper and Antonio Kellogg beat the buzzer with a triple to make the halftime score 28-24 in favor of the Crusaders.
Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) and Samuel Haanpaa (Kerava, Finland/Cornerstone [Texas] Christian) joined McPherson in double figures, with Huff scoring 14 points and Haanpaa adding 13 of his own. For Huff, it was his first double-digit output since starting the season with five straight games of at least 10 points.
Moussa Mbaye (Dakar, Senegal/Life Center [N.J.] Academy) enjoyed a stellar game in the post for Valpo, grabbing a team-high seven rebounds while not committing a turnover in 26 minutes of action. As a team, the Crusaders cut their turnovers down to 17, their lowest number of miscues in the last six games.
Armondo Surratt led the Dons with 23 points, including four triples, while Antonio Kellogg joined him in double figures with 19. Alan Wiggins chipped in seven points for San Francisco (4-10) and also grabbed a game-high eight rebounds.
The Crusaders shot just 40.8% (20-of-49) from the field on the game, their worst percentage in a win this year, but excelled once again from the 3-point line, drilling 11-of-21 (52.4%) attempts from beyond the arc. Valpo also continued its stellar free throw shooting, extending its streak of consecutive foul shots made to 24 (over a three-game span) before finally missing Saturday. The Crusaders ended the game 13-of-15 (86.7%) from the charity stripe.
Valparaiso (4-8), which broke an eight-game losing streak with the win, returns to action after Christmas and returns home for the first time in a month when the Crusaders host Chicago State on December 30 at 7:05 p.m from the Athletics-Recreation Center. 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.