A relatively low-scoring tied game at halftime turned into a
shootout in the second half Monday evening at the ARC, with Valparaiso taking
the lead for good with 13 minutes to go en route to an 83-82 victory over UIC
in Horizon League action. The win is the
Crusaders’ seventh in the last nine games.
“It’s tough coming in to a third game in five days, almost
an NBA-like schedule, especially after two emotional, close games that we
played on Thursday against Wright State and Saturday against Detroit,” said
Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “I thought we were lackluster tonight, but we
found a way to win, which is the sign of a good team. Our guys answered every call in the last
The first half saw the Crusaders run out to a 12-4 lead
seven minutes in before UIC responded with a 15-2 run to go up 19-14 with six
minutes to play in the opening stanza.
Valpo, which scored just 20 points in the game’s first 16+ minutes,
closed the half with 11 points in the final 3:20, including seven by Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence
North), to head into the break tied at 31.
The offensive slugfest commenced immediately coming out of
halftime, as UIC hit six of its first nine shots from the field to start the
half while the Crusaders connected on nine of their first ten. A fast-break dunk by Howard Little (Chicago, Ill./Stoneridge [Calif.]
School) gave Valpo a four-point edge at 48-44 with 14:47 remaining, but the
Flames responded with a quick 7-2 spurt, capped by a Robo Kreps 3-pointer, to
take a 51-50 advantage with 13:38 left on the clock.
That would be the Flames’ final lead, however, as Matt Kenney (Mooresville, Ind./Mooresville)
found Little for a layup on Valpo’s next possession to reclaim the lead for
good. Little’s layup started a
nine-point Crusader spurt, as Cory
Johnson (Duluth, Minn./Duluth
East [Iowa State]) got a putback bucket, followed two possessions later by a Ryan Broekhoff (Frankston, Victoria,
Australia/Australian Institute of Sport) triple out of a timeout. On the next offensive trip, Broekhoff skied
over everybody to tip-in a Crusader miss, pushing Valpo’s edge to 59-51 with
10:57 to play.
While the Crusaders would not lose the lead the rest of the
way, UIC refused to go away, as a K.C. Robbins jumper with 5:49 to play brought
the Flames back to within three points.
Spencer Stewart connected on a pair of free throws just over a minute
later to again slash the lead to three points, but Broekhoff responded with his
fourth triple of the night, kicking off six straight points by Valpo that
pushed the lead back up to 75-66 with 3:19 to go.
The Flames scored 11 of the next 15 points, however, as
Stewart hit a pair from the charity stripe with 56 seconds to play to cut the
lead to two points. McPherson calmly
drilled four straight free throws down the stretch to keep pushing the lead
back to two possessions, as UIC never had the ball with a chance to tie the
game in the final minute.
“I thought [McPherson]’s play down the stretch was crucial,”
said Drew. “Not just stepping up and
hitting all four of his free throws in the final minute, but his defense on
Kreps on the next-to-last possession, staying in front of him and forcing him
into a tough shot that he missed.”
Broekhoff and Brandon
Wood (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo [Highland C.C./Southern Illinois]) tied for team-high honors Monday
with 18 points, while the former also pulled down nine rebounds. McPherson added 15 points, five rebounds and five
assists, while Johnson chipped in 11 points before fouling out. Valpo shot at a 55.6% (30-of-54) clip for the
game, including 40% (10-of-25) from behind the arc, but also committed 18
turnovers on the night.
UIC (6-18, 2-12 Horizon) was paced by Jeremy Buttell’s
double-double, as the senior posted game highs of 25 points and 12
rebounds. Kreps scored 17 points to go
along with five rebounds and five assists, while three other Flames posted
double figures in the scoring column.
Valparaiso (13-13, 8-6 Horizon) got to the .500 mark
overall for the first time this season with the victory and also moved into
sole possession of fifth place in the league standings. The Crusaders’ fight for an upper-division
finish continues Thursday night, as a stretch of five games in ten days rolls
on at Cleveland State.
Tipoff is slated for 6 p.m. CST, and as always, all the action can be
heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan
City; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso;
WLPR, 89.1 FM, Lowell) and can be seen on the Horizon League Network.
Valpo’s athletic website, www.valpoathletics.com, will
have links for live audio, video and statistics.