Valparaiso men’s basketball
seniors Jake Diebler (Upper
Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) and Urule
Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) went out winners at the
Athletics-Recreation Center one last time on Saturday evening, as the Crusaders
rallied from nine points down to defeat Youngstown State, 67-59.
“I just can’t say enough
about these two seniors,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “They have added
so much to our program and have been great leaders. They truly exemplify what it means to be a
student-athlete here at Valparaiso.”
Diebler posted six points and
two assists in his home finale, including a triple which jump-started a key
second-half run for Valpo. Igbavboa
tallied 12 points and also added team-high totals of nine rebounds and six
Both teams shot just 33.3%
from the floor in the first half as they both struggled offensively in the
opening 20 minutes. Valpo held an early
7-5 lead, but went scoreless for nearly six minutes, enabling the Penguins to
go on a 10-0 run and take a 15-7 advantage with 9:48 to play. Youngstown State got the lead to as many as
nine points at 21-12 with 5:44 remaining in the half, but the Crusaders scored
eight of the half’s last 11 points, as Igbavboa capped the spurt with a late
layup to make it 24-20 Penguins at the break.
Youngstown State pushed the
lead back out to as many as eight points early in the second half, but
back-to-back baskets by Cameron Witt (Launceston,
Tasmania, Australia/Launceston) kept the Crusaders within striking
distance. The Penguins led 33-27 with
16:29 to play before the Crusaders went on a quick 8-0 spurt to take the lead
Diebler started the run with
a 3-pointer off a feed from Howard
Little (Chicago, Ill./Stoneridge [Calif.]
School). After the media timeout,
freshman Erik Buggs (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell)
came up with a steal in the backcourt and, sitting on the ground with the ball,
found Little for an old-fashioned 3-point play to tie the game at 33.
Michael Rogers (Kingston,
Jamaica/Redemption [N.Y.] Christian) came up with a steal on the next defensive
trip, and Igbavboa converted on the offensive end with a third-chance layup to
put the Crusaders in front, 35-33, with 14:59 to play. The Penguins tied the game on their next
trip, but Buggs responded, canning a triple and then coming up with another
steal in the backcourt.
The Crusaders continued to
maintain a small lead for the next few minutes, with Buggs finding Little for a
3-pointer with 7:43 to play to make it 48-44 Valpo. Four minutes later, it was a 50-48 Crusader
edge before Valpo put together one final run to ice the game.
The run started with a jumper
from the left side of the lane by Witt off a feed from Buggs with 3:14 to
play. On the next
defensive possession, it was Buggs with his third steal of the game taking the
ball the length of the court for a layup. Rogers then came up with his team-best fourth
steal of the game and took the ball coast-to-coast for a fast-break dunk to
push the lead to six points.
Vytas Sulskis split two free
throws for the Penguins with two minutes remaining to make it 56-49. But off the make on the second free throw,
Buggs took the inbounds pass and ran past everybody for another layup to push
the lead to nine and effectively clinch the game for the Crusaders. Valpo made seven free throws in the final 73
seconds to hold the Penguins at bay, as YSU never got closer than five points.
“Erik really was the key to
tonight’s game,” said Drew. “I give him
a lot of credit, as he’s seen less playing time recently, but he has kept
working hard, waiting for his chance to make an impact. His energy, especially on the defensive end
coming up with three steals, really set the tone for the entire second half.”
Little led a balanced
Crusader attack with 13 points. Rogers
and Witt joined Igbavboa with 12 points apiece, the former also adding eight
rebounds to go with his team-best four steals.
Buggs scored 10 points of his own in 20 minutes off the bench while also
handing out three assists.
Youngstown State (11-18, 7-11 Horizon) was led by 13 points from
Sirlester Martin. DeAndre Mays chipped
in 11 points and team-best totals of seven rebounds and four assists.