Valparaiso jumped out to a 27-4 lead less than nine minutes into Saturday night’s exhibition game against St. Joseph’s (Ind.) at the Athletics-Recreation Center and led the rest of the way, defeating the Pumas 82-59.
“I thought we really had a good start to the game today,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “Jake and Brandon were really doing a good job moving the ball on offense, and Sam was on fire shooting the ball. Defensively, we were working hard and really controlling the boards.”
Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) hit a layup just 11 seconds into the contest off of a feed from Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) to set the pace for the opening minutes. Samuel Haanpää (Kerava, Finland/Cornerstone [Texas] Christian) proceeded to knock down back-to-back triples on Valpo’s next two possessions for a quick 8-0 lead.
The Pumas’ Brandon Mayse hit a layup just over two minutes in to get St. Joseph’s on the board, but the Crusaders continued their barrage from behind the arc. 3-pointers by Jake Diebler (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) and Jarryd Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) extended Valpo’s advantage to 17-2, and after another Puma basket, Haanpää knocked down two more 3-pointers to make it a 23-4 game.
Freshman Bryan Bouchie (Washington, Ind./Washington) followed by making his first mark on the scorebook as a Crusader, knocking down a jumper and hitting two free throws to extend the lead to 23. The margin the rest of the half would fluctuate between 15 and 20 points, and Valpo went into the break leading 43-25.
The Crusaders started the second half strong as well, scoring 16 of the first 25 points, including 10 points from Huff, to extend their edge to 59-34 with 15:55 to play. St. Joseph’s slowly crawled back into the contest, cutting Valpo’s advantage to 13 with 6:11 left, but the Crusaders went on a 13-1 run to solidify the victory.
Haanpää led Valpo in the scoring column with 21 points, knocking down six of his seven attempts from behind the 3-point line. Three other Crusaders posted double-figure scoring efforts, as Huff poured in 12 points, Loyd scored 11 points, and Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) added 10 points. Igbavboa also led the Crusaders in most other statistical categories, pulling down six rebounds, dishing out five assists and blocking four shots.
St. Joseph’s was paced by 18 points off the bench from Marcus Jackson, but he was the only Puma to reach double figures in scoring. The Pumas hit just 30.4% (21-of-69) of their shots from the floor to Valpo’s 58.3% (28-of-48), but they did out-rebound the Crusaders 38-36 and registered 13 steals.
“The wonderful thing about playing exhibition games is learning about what your team needs to improve on,” said Drew. “We really saw three things we need to work on tonight: rebounding, especially offensively; limiting our turnovers (29); and doing a better job hustling and coming up with loose balls.”
Valparaiso kicks off the regular season on Monday, November 12 as the Crusaders host Grace in their first game as part of the South Padre Island Invitational. 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; WEFM, 95.9 FM; WAKE, 1500 AM) or online at www.valpo.edu/athletics, where streaming video will also be available.