Valparaiso held or shared the lead for the first 17 minutes of the second half, but Wisconsin went ahead for good on a Trevon Hughes 3-pointer with 2:20 to play and pulled away for a 68-58 victory over the Crusaders in Madison, Wis. Saturday evening.
The Crusaders started out the game strong, scoring the contest’s first eight points and earning their largest lead at 13-4 on Samuel Haanpää’s (Kerava, Finland/Cornerstone [Texas] Christian) second triple five minutes into the game. Wisconsin responded with an 11-0 spurt to take the lead, and eventually pulled ahead by eight points with eight minutes responding in the opening stanza.
But Valpo stepped up the defensive intensity, forcing seven Badger turnovers over the remainder of the period, and allowed Wisconsin just four points over the half’s final eight minutes. Offensively, the Crusaders put up 15 points during the same time frame, with Jarryd Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) canning a 3-pointer with 1:02 left before halftime to give Valpo the lead back and following with a layup with four seconds remaining to give Valpo a 31-28 halftime lead.
“I thought we got off to a good start because our defensive intensity was superb,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “We got some steals and some easy baskets, and Sam really started well from the floor offensively. We also did a great job on the boards in the first half, giving up just two offensive rebounds.”
The Crusaders extended the lead to seven just two possessions into the second half and held the advantage for most of the stanza. Wisconsin attempted numerous times to re-gain the lead, but each time Valpo would hit a big basket to keep the advantage. Even when the Crusaders went through a nearly five-minute stretch without scoring a point, their defense allowed the Badgers just three points over the same time frame to maintain the lead.
A Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) 3-pointer with 7:05 to play gave Valpo a six-point lead at 50-44. Wisconsin got a triple the next time down, however, to kick off a 13-4 spurt over the next 4:45, capped by the Hughes triple to give the Badgers their first lead since late in the opening half. McPherson drained two free throws on Valpo’s next possession to cut the lead to one, but the Crusaders could not tie the game up from that point.
Haanpää finished the game with 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting, while McPherson added 14 points. Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) led the Crusader effort on the boards with eight rebounds. Jake Diebler (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) dished out three assists without a turnover while also picking up a career-best four steals, while McPherson also matched his career high with three picks.
“Our defense really was superb tonight,” said Drew. “Starting with Jake and Brandon, we got nine steals as a team and forced 20 turnovers, which really helped keep us in the game. The difference was that Wisconsin got 10 offensive rebounds in the second half and got 14 second-chance points off of them.”
Hughes led three Badgers in double figures with 14 points. Joe Krabbenhoft registered a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds to go with seven assists, while Jason Bohannon added 10 points off the bench. Wisconsin (9-2) hit 48.9% of its shots, versus Valpo’s 38.5% accuracy, and got to the free throw line 36 times, but made just 17 of its attempts from the charity stripe.
“This game will go a long way in preparing us for league play, especially on the road,” said Drew. “The physicality of this game and the intensity it was played with will really help us in the long run.”
Valparaiso (10-2) returns to the court on Sunday, December 30, as the Crusaders travel to Chapel Hill, N.C. to take on the current top-ranked team in the nation, North Carolina. If the Tar Heels remain on top in next week’s polls, it will mark the fourth consecutive season that Valpo has taken on the nation’s top-ranked team in regular-season non-conference action.
Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m., 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; WWLO, 89.1 FM, Lowell) or online at www.valpo.edu/athletics. The game will also be the second-straight nationally televised game for the Crusaders, as the contest will be carried on Fox Sports Net.