Valparaiso placed four players in double figures and shot at a 66.7% clip from the field to win at Detroit on Saturday afternoon, 81-68. The win gives the Crusaders a sweep of two road games in their first weekend of Horizon League action and moves the team to 8-1 for just the second time in the 19-year career of head coach Homer Drew.
The Titans led in the early stages of the game, with their last lead coming at 12-11 with 11:54 to play. Bryan Bouchie (Washington, Ind./Washington) and Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) got baskets in the paint on Valpo’s next two trips down the court to give Valpo the 15-12 advantage. Detroit would cut the lead back down to one on its next shot, but a little over a minute later, Valpo started an extremely efficient set of possessions to extend the lead.
Jake Diebler (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) began the run with a triple off a feed from Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) to make it a four-point game. After a Detroit turnover, it was Diebler’s turn to find Samuel Haanpää (Kerava, Finland/Cornerstone [Texas] Christian) for a 3-pointer to extend the lead to seven. The Titans hit two free throws on their next trip, but Bouchie answered with a turnaround jumper to keep the edge at seven.
Following a Detroit 3-pointer, Haanpää found McPherson for a triple to bring the lead back to seven, and after a Titan miss, McPherson popped a 3-pointer on the fast break that bounced off the rim several times before falling through to close out the run and give Valpo a 29-19 lead with 6:11 to play in the stanza. During the run, the Crusaders had just five possessions, but scored 14 points on those five trips to bump the lead to double figures. The advantage would remain between six and 11 the rest of the half, with Valpo taking a 37-29 lead into the break.
“Brandon and Bryan really were great getting us off to a good start, with Brandon hitting three 3-pointers and Bryan making all five of his shots,” said Drew. “They really gave us a good inside-outside presence to help us take the halftime lead.”
The Crusaders maintained the lead the entire second half, with it fluctuating between seven and 13 points for most of the stanza. A layup by Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) off a feed from Diebler gave Valpo a 10-point edge at 68-58 with 2:01 to play, but Detroit scored the next five points to cut the lead to five points.
That was when Valpo stepped up at the free throw stripe, hitting all seven of its attempts from the charity stripe down the stretch to hold off the Titans. Loyd and McPherson each hit two free throws, and for the second straight game, Igbavboa hit three clutch freebies to keep the game out of reach and give the Crusaders a sweep in their first weekend of league play.
“I thought Jake really did a great job defensively on Detroit’s best player (Jon Goode),” said Drew. “He really wore him out and made him work for his shots the entire second half. Jake and Jarryd also both made heads-up plays stealing inbounds passes and going in for a layup in the second half. Jarryd and Brandon did a good job handling their full court pressure, and Urule really stepped up for the second straight game making clutch free throws.”
McPherson led the Crusaders in scoring with 19 points, hitting six of his eight field goal attempts. He also dished out three assists without committing a turnover. Bouchie scored 16 points off the bench, missing just one of his nine shots. Huff added 15 points for his fifth straight double-figure scoring game, while Igbavboa chipped in 11 points. Diebler dished out a game-high four assists without a turnover and also tallied two steals.
Goode led Detroit (4-5, 0-2 Horizon) with 21 points, while Chris Hayes and Eulis Stephens each added 11 points. The Titans hit 50% (23-of-46) of their shots from the field, including 52.4% (11-of-21) from behind the arc, but also committed 16 turnovers which the Crusaders turned into 21 points. Valpo hit 30-of-45 shots for its 66.7% shooting percentage, and missed just five of its 25 attempts from inside the arc.
Valparaiso (8-1, 2-0 Horizon) looks to extend its 10-game winning streak at the Athletics-Recreation Center on Tuesday when the Crusaders host in-state foe Evansville. Tipoff is slated for 7:05 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 be broadcast live throughout Chicagoland on Lakeshore Public Television, with Dick Harlan and Joe Arredondo on the call, and can also be seen on the Horizon League Network at www.horizonleaguenetwork.tv.