Valparaiso tied Evansville at 58 with 4:03 to play, but an 8-0 spurt for the Purple Aces put them ahead for good, as the Crusaders fell Tuesday night, 69-64, in Evansville, Ind.
The Crusaders forged the tie, the sixth of the ballgame, on Arden Skoglund's (Hopkins, Minn./Hopkins) second three-point play of the game. But Evansville's Matt Webster, who led all scorers with 30 points, scored the next four points to give the Purple Aces the lead, and they would close the 8-0 run with a pair of free throws with 1:40 to play.
Valpo did not go down without a fight, using three-pointers by Jarryd Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) and Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) sandwiching a defensive stop to creep back within two. But Evansville hit a pair of free throws with 21 seconds to play, and Huff's final 3-point attempt was off the mark.
The Crusaders trailed from the opening tip, falling behind 14-6 ten minutes into the game, and after a pair of free throws by Webster, trailed by eight again, at 20-12 with 5:50 to go in the half. But Valpo reeled off a 12-1 run over the next three minutes to take its first lead of the ballgame, buoyed by eight points from Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North), who ended the game with a career-best 20 points.
Loyd added five points in the final minute of the half to give Valpo a six-point lead, but Evansville's Jason Holsinger drained a 3-pointer with seconds left in the half to cut the halftime lead to 29-26.
The second half began much like the first, as Evansville started the second stanza on a 7-1 run to take a 33-30 lead at the first media timeout. The Crusaders answered with another run of their own, going on a 10-0 spurt with baskets from four different players to take the lead back, and extended it to as much as eight, at 42-34 with 11:38 to play.
But the Purple Aces went on a run to take the lead for good, getting 13 out of their next 15 points from Webster, including seven free throws, over a 5-minute span to take a 49-47 advantage. McPherson hit a driving layup to tie the game at 49, but Evansville converted two free throws just seconds later and would not ever relinquish the lead.
Loyd added 11 points off the bench, joining McPherson as the only Valpo players in double figures. Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds and also rejected two shots for the Crusaders. Webster scored a career-high 30 points for the Purple Aces, hitting 15 of 16 free throw attempts.
The Crusaders hit 51.0% (25-of-49) shots from the field, compared to just 37.7% (20-of-53) shooting from Evansville (5-3). Valpo also knocked down 38.9% (7-of-18) from behind the arc, and hit seven of nine free throw attempts, versus a 24-of-33 effort from the foul line for the Purple Aces. The Crusaders were plagued by 24 turnovers, which Evansville converted into 31 points. Valpo held advantages in points in the paint (30-28) and second chance points (15-7).
Valparaiso (3-5) takes an 11-day break for the final exam period before returning to the court on Saturday, December 16 as the Crusaders take on in-state foe Ball State. Opening tip is set for 1 p.m. Central time, and all the action can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.