In front of a school-record 5,432 fans at the Athletics-Recreation Center and a nationwide audience on ESPN2, Valparaiso led #10/11 Butler for most of Tuesday night’s game. But the Bulldogs got a 3-pointer from Pete Campbell with 15 seconds remaining to go ahead, and would eventually win by a 71-68 count.
“I was very proud of our team’s effort tonight,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “The students and fans did a fantastic job of creating a great atmosphere, and everybody got to see a great game of basketball.”
Valpo jumped out to a very quick start, as four different Crusaders scored in the game’ first 4:11 to give them a 12-0 lead. The lead remained double figures at 17-7 with 12:17 remaining in the half before Butler hit triples on four of five possessions during a 12-2 run to tie the game at 19.
The Crusaders responded with the next five points to move ahead by five, and the lead would remain in single digits for the rest of the half. Brandon McPherson’s (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) third 3-pointer of the first half put Valpo ahead 41-32 with 53 seconds remaining in the stanza, but Butler’s A.J. Graves responded with a triple of his own to cut the lead back down to six points. Jarryd Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) ran the shot clock down on Valpo’s final possession and drove the lane for a layup with four seconds remaining to put the Crusaders up 43-35 at the break.
Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) converted two free throws early in the second half to put Valpo up 10, but once again the Bulldogs clawed their way back into the game, scoring 14 of the next 18 points over a six-minute span to tie the game for the second time at 49 apiece. That just sparked another Valpo run, however, as the Crusaders went on an 11-5 spurt to pull ahead by six with 6:49 remaining.
Butler held Valpo scoreless over the next 4:20, but could only score six points during that time span, pulling even again at 60-60 on a Graves jumper with 2:54 to play. The score was still tied at 62 with under two minutes left when McPherson stepped up and hit another triple to put Valpo up by three. But the Bulldogs answered, as Mike Green hit a free throw and, after he missed the second, Graves grabbed the rebound and knocked down a jumper with 1:01 to play.
After a Crusader timeout, Loyd hit the game’s biggest shot to that point, knocking down a triple from the top of the key with 37 seconds left on the clock to put Valpo up 68-65. Green came back with a quick layup for the Bulldogs, and a missed front end of a one-and-one set up Campbell’s shot to put Butler ahead for the first time in the contest.
A Crusader turnover followed, and Valpo was forced to foul with under 10 seconds left to play. Butler’s Willie Veasley hit the first attempt from the charity stripe to make it 71-68, but missed the second, and when Huff grabbed the rebound, the Crusaders still had a chance to tie. But Valpo’s last-second attempt from behind the arc was off the mark, and the Bulldogs corralled the rebound to secure the win.
Loyd led three Crusaders in double figures with 16 points, and also paced the team with three assists. McPherson added 14 points, while Igbavboa chipped in 11 of his own. Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) tied for game-high honors with eight rebounds. Valpo ended the night shooting 43.4% (23-of-53) from the floor and knocked down 86.7% (13-of-15) from the charity stripe. The Crusaders also enjoyed a significant edge on the boards, out-rebounding the Bulldogs 36-24.
Butler (20-2, 10-2 Horizon) got 20 points and eight rebounds from Graves. Campbell hit all five of his field goals from behind the arc on his way to 17 points, while Green added 14 points and six caroms.
Valparaiso (14-8, 5-5 Horizon) returns to the court Thursday evening, as the Crusaders travel up to Green Bay to take on the Phoenix. 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 can also be seen online through the Horizon League Network.