Valparaiso came back from a 44-31 halftime deficit to take a 53-50 lead with 12:30 to play, but Vanderbilt regained the lead with under ten minutes to go and never gave it up, downing the Crusaders 87-78 Tuesday night in Nashville, Tenn.
“I was very proud of our effort in the second half,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “We came out of the locker room fighting hard and came back to take the lead and never gave up down the stretch. If we play 40 minutes in each of our games like we did the second half tonight, we will win a lot of games.”
The two teams traded baskets in the first couple minutes out of halftime, and Vanderbilt led 48-36 with 17:39 to play before the Crusaders started their run. Valpo got layups from Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne), Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) and Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) to start the spurt, cutting Vandy’s lead to six with 15:55 left in the game. After a Commodore basket, Huff drained a 3-pointer off a feed from Jarryd Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) to slice the lead down to five points.
With under 14 minutes left, Loyd came up with a steal and came down the floor, hitting a trifecta of his own to cut the lead to 50-48. Loyd followed with a runner in the lane with 13:14 to play to tie the game at 50, the first time the Crusaders had touched the lead since the start of the game. Huff nailed another 3-pointer two possessions later to give Valpo a three-point lead, capping a 17-2 run over a five-minute span.
Valpo and Vandy traded the lead back and forth for the next three minutes before the Commodores started their key run. With Valpo holding a two-point edge, Vanderbilt’s Shan Foster hit a 3-pointer to give it the 61-60 lead. A.J. Ogilvy followed with baskets down low on each of Vandy’s next two possessions to close out the 7-0 spurt and give the Commodores a five-point lead. The Crusaders would cut the lead down to two points with six minutes to play, but could get no closer.
Vanderbilt led throughout the entire first half. Valpo was within six at 25-19 halfway through the opening stanza before the Commodores ripped off a 9-0 run over three minutes, getting five points from Andre Walker during the run. Valpo cut the lead briefly to single digits late in the half, but Vandy hit two baskets in the final 50 seconds to give itself the 13-point lead at the intermission.
Loyd enjoyed an outstanding game for the Crusaders, scoring a career-best 20 points while also grabbing four rebounds and dishing out four assists. Huff joined Loyd in double figures with 18 points, hitting 4-of-7 shots from behind the arc, and added a career-high nine rebounds.
Four other Valpo players scored at least eight points. Freshman Bryan Bouchie (Washington, Ind./Washington) chipped in nine points in 21 minutes off the bench, and also grabbed nine rebounds, including seven offensive caroms. Jake Diebler (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky), Igbavboa and McPherson each added eight points, while Igbavboa also ripped down a game-high 11 rebounds.
“I thought Jarryd played one of his best games in a Valpo uniform,” said Drew. “Not only did he score, but he also took care of the basketball, giving out four assists and only turning the ball over once. Shawn and Bryan also had great games, and Urule really played well for us in the second half.”
Vanderbilt (3-0) was led by 21 points from Ogilvy, while three other starters also reached double figures in scoring. Ross Neltner added 16 points and ten rebounds for the Commodores.
The Crusaders shot just 36.7% from the floor (29-of-79), but had 23 more shot attempts than the Commodores, who shot 50% (28-of-56), thanks to 21 offensive rebounds. The offensive caroms helped Valpo to a 45-37 rebounding edge, and the Crusaders also put up 20 second chance points. Valpo hit 13 three-pointers as well, but needed 33 attempts from behind the arc. Vandy and Valpo each scored 32 points in the paint, while the Crusaders held a 36-25 advantage in points off the bench.
Valparaiso (2-1) continues play in the South Padre Island Invitational in Texas this weekend. The Crusaders will kick off play down south with a matchup against Maryland Eastern Shore on Friday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. 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.