Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) nailed five triples in the first half on his way to matching his season-high with 20 points, but it was not enough, as Green Bay defeated Valparaiso in overtime, 76-71, Thursday night in Green Bay, Wis.
“Green Bay deserves a lot of credit,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “They did a really good job defensively, especially in the second half and overtime. They did a great job pressuring the ball, and it showed as we ended up with 19 turnovers that they converted into 23 points.”
The Crusaders went into halftime ahead by a 36-23 count, thanks in large part to McPherson, who hit all five of his 3-point attempts in the first 20 minutes as Valpo shot 8-of-11 from behind the arc in the opening half. The Crusaders’ ninth triple of the game, off the hands of Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) less than two minutes into the second half, put them ahead 40-24 with 18:28 to play.
Green Bay responded with 12 consecutive points, cutting Valpo’s advantage to four, but the Crusaders pushed the lead back up to nine on a Jarryd Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) layup with 13:43 to play. But the Phoenix put together another run, this time scoring 11 of the next 13 points over a three-minute span, to tie the game at 50 apiece with just over ten minutes left.
Valpo kept Green Bay from taking the outright lead for the next few minutes, as the Crusaders held either a slim lead or a tie. Two free throws from Calum MacLeod (Wellington, New Zealand/Hutt Valley [Northeastern J.C.]) put Valpo on top 56-54 with 7:11 to play, but once again the Phoenix rattled off a spurt. A Terry Evans free throw gave Green Bay its first lead since early in the game, and Cordero Barkley capped an 8-2 run with an old-fashioned three-point play to give the Phoenix a 62-58 edge with 4:31 remaining.
Green Bay kept the lead until two minutes to play in regulation, when Loyd drilled a 3-pointer to tie the contest at 64. McPherson followed on Valpo’s next possession by converting two free throws, and after a blocked shot by Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan), the Crusaders had the ball with a chance to make it a two-possession game with under a minute to play. But Valpo could not get a shot off on the ensuing possession, and the Phoenix’s Rahmon Fletcher converted a layup with 37 seconds left to tie the game at 66 and send it to overtime.
Huff hit a 3-pointer on Valpo’s first possession of the extra session to put the Crusaders in front, but Valpo would not score another point for the next 2:20. Green Bay took advantage, taking a one-point lead at 70-69 until Loyd hit a layup with 2:24 to play to put Valpo back in front. But Ryan Tillema knocked down a triple on the Phoenix’s next trip downcourt, and Valpo would not score the rest of the way as Green Bay hit 3-of-4 free throws down the stretch to ensure the win.
“This league is so tough and balanced that most of the games are going to go right down to the final couple possessions,” said Drew. “Earlier in the season, we were hitting shots in the late stages of games and winning the close games. Right now, those shots aren’t falling for us late. We need to figure out how to make those baskets when we need them.”
McPherson led the way for Valpo, scoring a game-high 20 points while also grabbing five rebounds. Huff added 14 points and Loyd 10 to go along with four assists. Igbavboa scored nine points and matched a career best with 15 rebounds.
Green Bay (13-9, 7-5) had four starters score in double figures, led by 16 points from Terry Evans, who posted a double-double with 12 rebounds. Fletcher contributed 14 points and six assists. The Phoenix hit just 40% of its shots to Valpo’s 46.3% and knocked down just four 3-pointers versus 12 by the Crusaders, but Green Bay took advantage of 40 trips to the foul line, making 28 free throws.
Valparaiso (14-9, 5-6) looks to snap its season-worst three-game losing streak on Monday evening, as the Crusaders head into the Second City to take on UIC. Game time is slated for 7 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.