A tenacious Valparaiso squad
earned its first lead of the game with just over six minutes to play, and
following 11 straight Butler points fought back to within two with 90 seconds
remaining, but the 13th-ranked Bulldogs hit enough free throws down
the stretch to hold off the Crusaders’ upset bid Friday evening, 59-51.
“I was very pleased with our
effort on the defensive end in both halves and with our moxie in fighting back
from deficits, both early on and in the second half,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “We just committed too many turnovers (21)
and gave up too many second-chance opportunities (Butler
ten offensive rebounds, 12 second-chance points), and Butler made the plays they needed to win the
Valpo trailed the Bulldogs by
eight points with 11:29 to play after a 3-pointer by Garrett Butcher, but
strung together eight straight points to force a tie at 37-37. Michael
Rogers (Kingston, Jamaica/Redemption [N.Y.] Christian) knocked down a
jumper to start the spurt, while Logan
Jones (Madison, Ind./Madison) and Urule
Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) each knocked down 3-pointers, the latter
of which drew the Crusaders even.
The two teams traded pairs of
points on their next two possessions, with Valpo getting layups by Jones and
Igbavboa on the offensive end to stay tied.
The Crusaders forced a Zach Hahn turnover to get the ball back with a
chance to take the lead, and Jones took advantage, finding his way into the
Bulldog defense and getting to the foul line.
The freshman stepped up and calmly knocked down both attempts at the
charity stripe to give Valpo its first lead at 43-41 with 6:05 remaining.
Butler responded in a big way, however, reeling off 11
points in a row. Willie Veasley scored
six points during the run, while Matt Howard added four, including a 3-point
play with 2:48 to play. Following a
Crusader miss, Howard split a pair of free throws with 2:15 left to give the
Bulldogs a seemingly insurmountable 52-43 advantage.
But the Crusaders would not
give the game up without one last surge.
Valpo got a quick 3-pointer from Rogers on its next trip down the floor,
as Howard Little (Chicago,
Ill./Stoneridge [Calif.] School) found him in the corner for the triple just
seven seconds after Howard’s free throw.
The defense forced a missed layup by Veasley, and on the offensive end, Jake Diebler (Upper
Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) converted a
rare 4-point play off a feed from Jones.
All of a sudden, Valpo was back within two at 52-50 with 91 seconds to
Ronald Nored hit two free
throws for the Bulldogs on their next trip to extend the lead back to four, and
the Crusaders missed a pair from the stripe on their offensive possession. Forced to foul, Butler’s Shelvin Mack split two attempts to
make it a five-point game, and after the teams traded steals, Igbavboa hit one
of two to cut the margin back to four points.
But Zach Hahn converted on a pair with 10 seconds to play to make it
57-51, and Valpo could not connect on their next trip as the Bulldogs held on
for the win.
Butler got off to a quick start to the game, scoring the
first ten points of the contest over the first five minutes. The Bulldogs maintained the lead for most of
the opening stanza, leading by as many as 11 points, 19-8 with 5:18 to go in
the half. But Valpo reeled off 11
straight points over the next three minutes, getting triples from Little,
Igbavboa and De’Andre Haskins (Long
Beach, Calif./La Lumiere [Ind.] School) to keep the game close, and Butler
would carry just a 24-22 lead into the break.
Igbavboa paced the Crusaders
with 15 points, eight rebounds, and season-high totals of five assists and four
blocks. Jones came off the bench for the
first double-digit scoring effort of his career, scoring ten points, including
5-of-6 from the charity stripe. The
freshman also handed out a pair of assists without committing a turnover while
running the point in his 22 minutes of action.
“I really thought this was
the best game of Logan’s
career so far,” said Drew. “He did a
great job handling the basketball for us and making sound decisions with the
ball in his hands, and also did a great job getting into the lane, drawing
fouls and converting at the free throw line.”
Butler (19-1, 10-0 Horizon), which won its record-tying 21st
straight Horizon League contest, was led by 18 points from Gordon Hayward. Veasley added 13 points, while Howard scored
nine points and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
The two squads shot similar
percentages both from the field (Butler 37.8%,
Valpo 36.2%) and from behind the arc (Valpo 35.7%, Butler 31.6%). But the Bulldogs took better advantage of
their trips to the free throw line, knocking down 19 of their 30 free throw
attempts to just 7-of-14 from the stripe for Valpo.
Valparaiso (6-16, 3-8 Horizon) continues its three-game league
road trip next Thursday, February 5, traveling to Dayton,
Ohio to take on Wright State. As always, all the action can also be heard
live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso;
WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City) and online
Live video and statistics will also be available through the official Crusader