Senior Jarryd Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) scored all of his game-high 15 points in the second half, while fellow senior Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) put Valparaiso ahead for good with a pair of free throws with 1:01 to play as the Crusaders pulled out a 59-56 win over Detroit on Thursday at the ARC. The win keeps Valpo in the hunt to host a first-round game in the Horizon League tournament.
“I think we didn’t play relaxed in the first half,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “We were almost too anxious on senior night to send the seniors out with a win, and it seemed to cause us to play tight. But I was very proud of our team’s moxie in the second half when we faced the 10-point deficit. We relaxed and started hitting shots, and got the hard-fought win.”
The first half was a tightly contested 20 minutes of basketball dominated mostly by the defenses, as the Crusaders hit just seven first-half field goals and Detroit only six. Jake Diebler (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) broke a 17-all tie with a fast break 3-pointer 1:30 before halftime to put Valpo up 20-17 at the break.
Detroit’s defense held Valpo without a field goal for the first six minutes of the second half as well, enabling the Titans to go on a 16-3 run coming out of halftime. Four different Detroit players knocked down 3-pointers during the spurt, with Nemanja Jokic giving the Titans their biggest lead at 33-23 with 14:24 to play.
But the Crusaders slowly chipped away at the lead, with their seniors at the forefront of the effort. Huff knocked down a 3-pointer at the 13:54 mark to snap Detroit’s run, and another triple from the Helsinki native brought Valpo back to within five at 37-32 with 11:09 to play. Junior Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) also stepped up, scoring seven crucial points during the middle portion of the second half to keep Valpo within five.
Then it was Loyd’s turn to put the Crusaders on his back. Following a Detroit basket, Loyd converted a 3-point play on a baseline jumper to pull Valpo within four points. After Diebler deflected a Titan shot, Loyd grabbed the rebound and knocked down a fast break triple to cut the deficit to one point at 43-42 with 7:48 to play.
A 3-point play by the Titans put them ahead by four, but Loyd tallied a fast-break assist on Brandon McPherson’s (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) layup and put Valpo ahead for the first time since early in the second half on a 3-pointer with 5:20 to play. Jokic canned a triple on Detroit’s next possession, but Loyd found Diebler for a 3-pointer of his own to put Valpo up 50-49 with 4:30 remaining.
Detroit went back on top with four minutes to play on a pair of free throws, but again Loyd stepped up, nailing a long jumper on the Crusaders’ next trip down the court. An offensive foul on Detroit was followed by Loyd finding McPherson for a 3-pointer to put the Crusaders up 55-51 with 2:59 to play. The Titans scored the next four points to tie the game, but Huff and Loyd came through at the free throw stripe, as Huff broke the tie with 1:01 to play and Loyd knocked down two critical freebies with 33 seconds to play for the final margin.
“Our guys just stepped up and made a number of big shots in the second half,” said Drew. “They also did a great job at the free throw line, going 9-for-10 in the second half, with the seniors closing the game out there. Our defense did a fantastic job of forcing a tough shot on Detroit’s final possession. This was a great win for us, and it still gives us the chance to host a home game in the tournament.”
Loyd led the Crusaders with his 15 points, including a 5-for-5 night at the foul line, and added a game-high five assists. Huff scored 14 points on 4-for-5 shooting, while Diebler reached double figures with 11 points. Igbavboa chipped in nine points and a game-best nine rebounds.
Josh Samarco paced Detroit (7-21, 3-14 Horizon) with 15 points, while Eulis Stephens scored 14 points of his own. Jokic came off the bench to put up 11 points and seven rebounds.
Valpo celebrated Senior Night Thursday night at the ARC in the last regular-season night game for the Crusader seniors. Huff, Loyd, and Calum MacLeod (Wellington, New Zealand/Hutt Valley [Northeastern J.C.], the three Crusader senior players, were honored prior to the game along with senior managers Tim Oestmann and Paul Krueger, and each addressed the crowd following the game.
Valparaiso (18-12, 8-9 Horizon) hosts its third game on an ESPN network in under a month’s time on Saturday, as Wright State comes to the ARC for an 11 a.m. CST tip on ESPN2. The game can be heard, as always, 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. Todd Ickow and Adam Amin’s call will also be carried across North America on Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 127.