Valparaiso led by six points with under six minutes to play Thursday evening in its Horizon League home opener at the Athletics-Recreation Center, but Milwaukee rallied to down the Crusaders by a 71-69 count. The loss snaps Valpo’s 13-game home winning streak at the ARC.
“You have to give Milwaukee a lot of credit,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “They hit a number of tough shots in those final few minutes.”
The Crusaders led throughout most of the second half and extended the lead to an seven point advantage on a three-point play by Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) with 8:44 to play. Milwaukee hit two free throws on their next trip to cut the lead to 56-51, but neither team would score for the next three minutes. Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) split a pair of free throws with 5:30 to play to bump the lead back up to six points.
Milwaukee would be almost perfect offensively from that point forward, however, going 5-for-6 from the field over the last 5:30, including 3-for-3 from behind the 3-point line. Deion James scored eight points over the next four minutes, including the game-tying triple with 1:40 to play following a jumper by Igbavboa.
After a Crusader turnover, the Panthers ran the shot clock down and got a mid-range jumper from Ricky Franklin with 39 seconds left to give them the lead at 66-64, their first lead since midway through the second stanza. After James split a pair of free throws on the next UWM possession, McPherson hit a driving layup to cut the advantage back down to one. But the Panthers went 4-for-4 from the charity stripe over the final seconds to seal the victory.
The game was tight in the early stages, until an 8-0 spurt by Milwaukee gave it a 19-12 edge just over seven minutes in. The Crusaders cut the lead back down to two points, but the Panthers pushed the advantage back up to 28-19 with 6:40 to play in the opening half. Valpo would take over in the end stages of the half, going on a 19-6 run, spurred by eight points from Jarryd Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West), to go into the half up 38-34.
Loyd paced the Crusaders with 18 points off the bench on 7-for-11 shooting, the fourth straight game he has led Valpo in scoring. McPherson added 15 points, while Igbavboa and Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) each scored 11. Samuel Haanpää (Kerava, Finland/Cornerstone [Texas] Christian) led the Crusader effort on the boards with eight rebounds.
James led all scorers with 20 points, including four triples, in 31 minutes off the bench for the Panthers. Three other Milwaukee (9-7, 4-2 Horizon) players each finished in double figures. Milwaukee hit 50% (24-for-48) of its shots compared to Valpo’s 52.9% (27-for-51) shooting, but the Panthers hit nine triples versus the Crusaders’ seven. Milwaukee also knocked down 82.4% (14-for-17) of its free throws.
Valparaiso (11-5, 2-2 Horizon) looks to get back in the win column Saturday as the Crusaders host the Phoenix of Green Bay. Tipoff is set 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 can also be seen online through the Horizon League Network.