Led by 23 points and nine rebounds from freshman forward Bryan Bouchie (Washington, Ind./Washington), Valparaiso held off Maryland Eastern Shore Friday afternoon in South Padre Island, Texas, defeating the Hawks, 66-55.
“I really thought the difference in the game was our defense and rebounding,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “We held Maryland Eastern Shore to 26.4% shooting and got 50 rebounds to their 35. Once again, we did a great job getting to the offensive boards, getting 19 offensive rebounds, and we really needed to tonight because our shooting was as cold as the weather outside.”
The game was still within one possession with under four minutes to play when the Crusaders kicked off a key run to solidify their lead. Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) took a feed from Jarryd Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) and hit a layup to give Valpo a four-point lead. Bouchie blocked a Hawk shot on their next possession and drew a foul on the offensive end, hitting both of his free throws to extend the lead to 56-50 with 3:23 to play.
UMES’ Josh Bright hit a long jumper to cut Valpo’s lead back down to four points, but Bouchie answered again with a jumper of his own to bump the edge up to six. The Crusaders forced a miss from behind the arc by the Hawks to regain possession with under 2:30 to play in the game. Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) found a cutting Howard Little (Chicago, Ill./Stoneridge [Calif.] School) for a reverse layup to make it a 60-52 ballgame. While UMES responded with a three-pointer on its next trip, Bouchie scored the last two of his 23 points to take the lead back up to seven points, and Valpo would ice the game from the free throw stripe.
Valpo held the lead for most of the first half, taking the lead for good at 10-9 with 11:18 to play in the opening stanza. The Crusaders extended the lead to as many as six points, but could not shake off the feisty Hawks, who tied the score twice and were trailing by just one at 27-26 at the break. Igbavboa and Bouchie combined for 22 of Valpo’s 27 first-half points to keep the Crusaders on top.
Valpo slowly extended the lead throughout the first part of the second half and got its advantage to double digits for the first time with 9:47 to play. Igbavboa found Huff with a beautiful backdoor pass, and the senior finished the play, throwing down a one-handed reverse dunk while getting fouled and completing the three-point play to give Valpo the 48-38 edge. But UMES was not done yet, putting together a 12-4 run over the next 5:41 to close back to within two points and set up the closing sequence.
“Urule finding Shawn for the dunk and the three-point play was a really big key for us,” said Drew. “That gave us a lot of energy and momentum. Then, after Maryland Eastern Shore went on a run and cut our lead down, Urule’s layup with 3:56 to go was huge to help keep them at bay, and then Howard’s layup with two minutes left kept UMES from getting any closer than five points.”
Igbavboa was the only Crusader to join Bouchie in double figures, putting up 15 points and sharing team-high rebounding honors with the freshman with nine boards. Igbavboa has now scored 23 points and grabbed 20 rebounds over Valpo’s last two contests, while Bouchie has contributed 32 points and 18 rebounds over the last two games.
“Bryan was a very significant force for us in the win today,” said Drew. “As a freshman, he has given us a great physical presence in the low post, and has also showed very nice moves around the basket. To score 23 points in 23 minutes is a testament to how well he is playing right now.”
Maryland Eastern Shore (1-4) was led by 20 points from Ed Tyson and 12 points from Marc Davis, but the duo hit just 6-of-31 shots from the field, as the Crusaders held the Hawks to just 14 field goals for the game. The Hawks did hit 23-of-28 free throw attempts to keep the game close, however.
“I was really happy today that we were able to play eight guys at least 20 minutes and nobody more than 28 minutes,” said Drew. “It was nice to be able to divide the playing time up, especially with a tough battle against Austin Peay awaiting tomorrow. Austin Peay is a very good, very talented and very strong team that was picked to win the Ohio Valley Conference, so we will have our hands full with them.”
Valparaiso (3-1) looks to win at least four of its first five games for the first time since the 1998-99 campaign when it takes on the Governors of Austin Peay tomorrow afternoon at 2:30 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.z1071.com.