Valparaiso was within one point of Miami for a
five-minute stretch of the second half and cut the RedHawks’ lead to
three points with 7:49 remaining, but the Crusaders could not take the
advantage, as Miami held off all of Valpo’s advances for a 62-50
victory Saturday afternoon in Oxford, Ohio.
“I thought today was definitely an improvement from Wednesday’s game,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “We played hard the entire game and made a number of plays that helped keep us within reach.
You have to give credit to Miami, they’re a well-coached team with six
seniors and they’re a team that has played a number of ranked teams
extremely tough already this year.”
The game, a return matchup from last year’s epic ESPNU
BracketBusters battle at the ARC, started out as a quick-paced
back-and-forth affair, as both squads scored on each of their first two
possessions just 76 seconds into the game. Miami locked down
Valpo defensively over the next 5:30, going on a 9-1 spurt over the
span with five points from Eric Pollitz and four from Michael Bramos.
After the teams traded baskets, the Crusaders put themselves right back
in the game with five quick points on a fast-break layup by Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) and a slam-dunk 3-point play from Cameron Witt (Launceston, Tasmania, Australia/Launceston).
The stretch was indicative of the way the first half would be
played, as every time the RedHawks seemed poised to extend their lead,
Valpo answered with points of its own. De’Andre Haskins (Long Beach, Calif./La Lumiere [Ind.] School) knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers at one point, while Michael Rogers (Kingston, Jamaica/Redemption [N.Y.] Christian) and Benjamin Fumey (Bremen, Germany/Freie Hansestadt) cut the Miami lead to two with consecutive baskets late in the frame. Miami eventually went into the half with a 29-26 lead after Howard Little (Chicago, Ill./Stoneridge [Calif.] School) found himself loose on the baseline for a layup in the final minute.
Rogers had Valpo’s first four points of the
second half, with his second basket of the stanza cutting Miami’s lead
to 31-30 with 17:25 to play. It was at that point that both
teams started having trouble handling the ball, as over the next three
and a half minutes, the sides combined for nine turnovers and zero
points. The RedHawks’ Tyler Dierkers finally ended the
scoring drought with a jumper to push Miami’s advantage to three with
Miami increased its lead up to nine points at
44-35 at the 10:32 mark thanks to eight quick points from Bramos and a
trio of free throws by Dierkers, but the Crusaders did not fold. Jake Diebler
(Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) knocked down a jumper in the
paint, and after a basket by Pollitz, freed himself for a triple on
Valpo’s next possession to make it a six-point game.
Fumey hit a 15-foot jumper the next time down the court to cut
the deficit to four points, and after Bramos split a pair from the
charity stripe, Igbavboa made a nice move in the paint to bring Valpo
back to within 47-44 with 7:49 to play. But again Bramos
stepped up for the RedHawks, knocking down a second-chance 3-pointer on
their next possession that hit every part of the rim before falling in. Bramos’ triple sparked a 13-3 Miami run over the next four-plus minutes to put the game away.
“I thought that Bramos three really was the turning point,” said Drew. “Up to that point, we were staying within reach, but his three seemed to give Miami momentum. They got a couple of defensive stops after that and converted on the offensive end.”
Diebler and Rogers tied for Crusader team-high scoring honors with ten points apiece.
Valpo connected on 51.3% of its field goal attempts (20-of-39), just
the second time this season it has been better than 50% from the floor. Igbavboa led Valpo with six rebounds, while Little handed out a team-best four assists.
Bramos connected on 6-of-9 from behind the arc on his way to a game-high 28 points for the RedHawks. Pollitz added 11 points for Miami (6-3), while Dierkers led all players with eight rebounds.
Valparaiso (3-6) returns to the court on
Saturday, December 20 at the United Center in Chicago, Ill., hosting
the nation’s unanimous top-ranked team in North Carolina in the Windy
City Hoops Classic at 1 p.m. This is the fifth consecutive
season that Valpo has taken on the nation’s top-ranked team, and the
third time in seven years that the Crusaders have hosted a top-ten foe
at the United Center.
Tickets are still available for the game by visiting www.ticketmaster.com or by contacting the Valpo ticket office at 219-464-5233.
Those unable to make it to the game can watch live on ESPNU or, as
always, tune in to the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WVUR, 95.1 FM,
Valparaiso; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City;
WWLO, 89.1 FM, Lowell) and online at www.valpoathletics.com.