The Valparaiso men’s
basketball team saw its 2009-2010 campaign come to an end Tuesday at the Athletics-Recreation Center,
as the sixth-seeded Crusaders fell to seventh-seeded Detroit, 89-82, in first round action in the
2010 Horizon League Men’s Basketball Championship.
“This was the toughest first-round matchup we could have
gotten,” said Crusader head coach Homer
Drew. “Their combination of size and
speed is very outstanding, and it showed tonight, especially in how Detroit dominated
inside. You have to compliment them,
they did a good job spreading the floor to get the ball inside and then
utilizing their speed in transition to help extend their lead.”
Unlike the first two meetings, which saw Valpo with ten and
19 point leads at halftime, Detroit would not let the Crusaders get out to the
advantage in the first half, as the Titans utilized an early 10-2 spurt to help
push their lead up into double digits just over ten minutes into the game. Detroit’s
biggest lead was capped at 25-13 with 8:18 to go in the opening half before the
Crusaders started slowly pulling the Titans back within reach.
A 3-pointer by Cory
Johnson (Duluth, Minn./Duluth East [Iowa State]) got Valpo
going, as the Crusaders would double up the Titans for the remainder of the
opening 20 minutes. Johnson would add
another triple, while Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence
North) and Brandon Wood (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo
[Highland C.C./Southern Illinois]) each poured in four points during the
stretch as well, as Valpo outscored the Titans 16-8 over the final eight
minutes of the half to trail just 33-29 at the break.
Eight early second-half points by Johnson helped the
Crusaders keep pace with the Titans over the opening stages of the half, and
when Wood connected on a fast-break 3-pointer with 15:02 to go, the game was
tied, the first Valpo share of the lead since scoring the first basket of the
contest. Detroit answered with a bucket by Eli Holman,
however, and while the Crusaders would remain within one possession for the
better part of the next four minutes, they could never regain even a share of
would eventually push its lead up into the two-to-three possession range, where
it sat for most of the remainder of the game.
The Crusaders would not let the Titans pull ahead by more than eight
points, though, and got a big play with 5:15 to go, trailing by seven. Michael
Jamaica/Redemption [N.Y.] Christian) came up with a steal and was intentionally
fouled, sinking both free throws. Given
possession as well, Wood drove and got fouled and hit both of his charity
attempts, cutting the deficit to 68-65 with 5:05 to play.
Detroit would score the next
three points, but Matt Kenney (Mooresville, Ind./Mooresville)
came up with a triple with 3:23 remaining to bring Valpo back to within
71-68. The Titans scored the next nine
points, however, pushing their advantage to 12 points with 1:31 to play. A quick barrage of Crusader shots, capped by
a Tommy Kurth (Osceola, Ind./Penn)
3-pointer, sliced the deficit in half in a 32-second span, but Valpo would come
up empty on its next two possessions and the Titans connected on their free
throws to secure the win.
“I really thought we showed good resilience,” said
Drew. “We came back a number of times,
first from the start of the game and then a couple second-half runs. We made a good run to get it down to a
three-point game with three minutes to go, but again Detroit’s speed in transition hurt us. We couldn’t keep them in front of us and had
to foul and they extended their lead.”
Johnson tied for game-high honors Tuesday with 24 points,
including four 3-pointers, while Wood ended the game with 23 points, 17 of which
came in the final 20 minutes. McPherson
joined the aforementioned duo in double figures with 11 points and also handed
out a game-best five assists. Ryan Broekhoff (Frankston, Victoria,
Australia/Australian Institute of Sport) pulled down a team-high nine rebounds
off the bench, but the Crusaders found themselves outrebounded, 46-31.
Chase Simon led Detroit
(19-13) with 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting, while Holman went for 21 points on
9-of-12 shooting, as well as 15 rebounds.
Xavier Keeling scored 14 points for the Titans, who shot 56.3% from the
floor, while Eulis Stephen chipped in 11 points off the bench.
closes the 2009-2010 season with a 15-17 overall record, a six-game improvement
in the win column over last year’s squad.
The Crusaders also went 10-8 in league play, five games better than last
year, to finish tied for fourth after being picked eighth in the preseason.
Individually, Wood ended the season with 565 points, tied
for ninth-most in a single year in Crusader history, while Johnson scored 499
points, 21st-best in a single season all-time at Valpo. Meanwhile, McPherson, Valpo’s lone senior,
closes his career 21st all-time in Crusader history in scoring
(1,180 points), tied for tenth in assists (316), eighth in 3-pointers made
(158), ninth in 3-point percentage (40.7%), as well as the all-time leader with
129 games played.
“I’m extremely proud
of Brandon [McPherson],” said Drew.
“This was his last game in a Valpo uniform, and there wasn’t a dry eye
in the locker room after the game because of what he has meant to this
team. We are going to miss him after
five years of him working hard and making practice enjoyable every day. I hope our guys had the same feeling he had
after the game, and use that feeling to come back in the offseason to work hard
and get better for next year.”