Valparaiso held a 67-56 lead with just over six minutes to
play Tuesday evening in Fort Wayne,
Ind., but host IPFW ended the
game on a 19-5 run to defeat the Crusaders by a 75-72 count.
The Crusaders moved their
lead into double figures after their second big run of the second half. The first spurt came early in the second
stanza, as the two teams were trading the lead back and forth after IPFW held a
two-point halftime lead. The Mastodons
got a layup with 14:13 to play to move back ahead 44-43, but Valpo would score
the next ten points to move decisively into the lead.
Cory Johnson (Duluth, Minn./Duluth
East [Iowa State]) started the run with a pair of
free throws and followed on Valpo’s next possession by getting to the line
again and knocking down two more. After
a steal, Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence
North) drew a foul and knocked down two charity stripe attempts of his
On the fast break next time down, McPherson found Michael Rogers (Kingston,
[N.Y.] Christian) for a layup. The
Crusaders came up with another steal on their next defensive possession and
again turned it into points on the offensive end, as Johnson got loose for a
layup inside to close the 10-0 spurt and give Valpo a 53-44 lead with 11:34 to
IPFW fought back to
within three points at 57-54 with 9:07 remaining, but again the Crusaders put
together a run to attempt to take control.
Johnson started this spurt again with another layup, and Brandon Wood (Kokomo,
[Highland C.C./Southern Illinois])
knocked down a 3-pointer on the next Valpo trip.
An IPFW layup briefly
slowed the Crusader momentum, but two possessions later, Wood knocked down a
mid-range jumper to push the lead back to eight. After the Mastodons came down with two
offensive rebounds on their next possession, Matt Kenney (Mooresville,
Ind./Mooresville) made a big
defensive play to come up with a steal and found Wood on the fast break for
another trifecta to give Valpo its biggest advantage at 67-56 with 6:11 to
But it was from that
point on that IPFW closed the game on the decisive 19-5 run. Valpo went just 1-for-6 from the floor over
the last six minutes while also committing six turnovers, including four in the
game’s final 90 seconds. The Mastodons
scored the last ten points to finish things off, including a Deilvez Yearby
layup with 1:07 to play that pulled them within one and a Zach Plackmeier jump
with 26 seconds left that took the lead from the Crusaders for good.
“I was really pleased
with the way we played most of the second half,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “We came out and extended our lead well
behind good efforts from both Brandon and Cory.
You have to credit IPFW’s defense for giving them the chance to come
back in the final minutes. I thought
those final minutes showed some immaturity and inexperience in our young
players. This was the first game that we
have had that’s gone down to the wire, so hopefully it is a good learning exp
for our young guys to handle pressure late.”
The first half was a
disjointed affair, as neither team came out shooting the ball well, with the
first field goal not being hit until over five minutes into the game. Both teams also struggled with early foul
trouble, as 25 fouls and 32 free throws were registered in the opening 20
minutes. IPFW held the lead for the
majority of the first half and went into the locker room with a 32-30 lead
after a second-chance basket by Antwone Snead in the waning seconds of the
Wood led the Crusaders
with 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting, including four triples, while also pulling
down six rebounds. Johnson added 21
points on 7-of-9 shooting and also tallied a team-high eight boards. The Crusaders shot 50% (25-of-50) from the
field for the game, but connected on just 29.4% (5-of-17) from behind the arc
and just 63.0% (17-of-27) from the free throw line.
IPFW (4-6) placed four
players in double figures, paced by 23 points and ten rebounds from
Yearby. Plackmeier totaled 19 points,
while Ben Botts scored 16 and Snead added ten.
Valparaiso (5-7) returns to action following the Christmas
holiday, traveling to Akron
on Sunday in the return game from last year’s BracketBuster victory. Game time is set for 1 p.m., and as always, the
game can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso;
WLPR, 89.1 FM, Merrillville)
and online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also
have a link for live statistics.