The Valparaiso men’s basketball exhibition opener was a high-scoring affair that saw the Crusaders fight nearly all the way back from a 16-point second half deficit, but in the end Valpo could not complete the comeback, as Indianapolis came away with an 88-83 victory Sunday afternoon at the ARC.
"Today’s game will only help us in the long run,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “We’ll take a lot of good lessons from today and use them to get better as we come up on the start of the regular season. You have to compliment Indianapolis, they’ve got a number of good players, including three Division I transfers, and they played really well today, especially on the defensive end. They also played harder than we did, and in the end, that’s why they won.”
The Crusaders, who trailed by seven at halftime, came out of the break with the first basket of the second half on a fast-break layup by Brandon Wood (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo [Highland C.C./Southern Illinois], but the Greyhounds would not let Valpo get any closer for quite a while, methodically extending the lead until it reached its peak at 60-44 with 12:45 to play. A triple by Ryan Broekhoff (Frankston, Victoria, Australia/Australian Institute of Sport) halted a 7-0 spurt by Indianapolis, but the Greyhound lead remained in double figures over three minutes later at 69-57.
Valpo reeled off a 13-2 run over a four-minute span at that point, however, cutting the deficit down to one point at 71-70 with 5:21 to play. Michael Rogers (Kingston, Jamaica/Redemption [N.Y.] Christian) scored five of his 16 second-half points during the run, while Cameron Witt (Launceston, Tasmania, Australia/Launceston) added three points of his own. But Indy scored the next four points to push its advantage back up to five, and the Crusaders would only get within one possession one more time in the closing minutes.
The Crusaders got off to a quick start to the game, scoring the first six points of the contest on a pair of layups by Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) and a jumper by Cory Johnson (Duluth, Minn./Duluth East [Iowa State]). But Indianapolis scored the next seven points to kick off a 17-3 run to give itself a 17-9 lead five and a half minutes in.
Valpo scored the next seven points on tip-ins by Rogers and Matt Kenney (Mooresville, Ind./Mooresville) and a 3-pointer by Broekhoff, but Indianapolis responded with seven straight points of its own to again take control. The Greyhound lead reached 12 points with 37 seconds remaining in the opening half, but a 3-pointer by Howard Little (Chicago, Ill./Stoneridge [Calif.] School) and a fast-break dunk by Broekhoff closed the halftime deficit to 42-35.
Rogers led three Crusaders in double figures with 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting, while McPherson added 15 points and Little 13 points. Little and Witt tied for team-high honors with five rebounds each, while Wood handed out a game-high five assists.
“It takes time to blend in nine newcomers on one team, and I think that’s something we’re still working at,” said Drew. “But we just didn’t play as well as we wanted to today. Our offense was not as smooth as we need it to be, and defensively we had a number of breakdowns because of lack of communication.”
All five Indianapolis starters reached double figures on the day, paced by 20 points on 6-of-8 from the floor and 8-of-14 from the charity stripe by Larry Woods, who also pulled down eight rebounds. Sergey Struck also knocked down 6-of-8 from the field en route to 18 points, while also coming up with eight rebounds.
Sunday’s game was Valparaiso’s only exhibition contest of the 2009-2010 season, and the Crusaders will begin regular season play on Friday, Nov. 13 at Ball State at 6 p.m. CST. All the action can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WAKE 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WE-FM 95.9 FM, Michigan City) and online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have a link for live statistics.