A 3-point play by junior Matt Kenney (Mooresville, Ind./Mooresville) with 32 seconds to play in overtime was the clinching play for Valparaiso as the Crusaders downed Butler in the Horizon League opener in Indianapolis on Saturday, 77-71. The win was Valpo’s first in Hinkle Fieldhouse since 1988.
“What a great college basketball game,” said Crusader head coach Bryce Drew. “Coach Stevens does a tremendous job with his guys at Butler, and that’s a very quality, although young, team they have. I’m just really proud of our players for fighting to the end. They faced a lot of adversity, a lot of runs where they could have folded, but we regrouped and recovered and kept our composure.”
The play from Kenney was the decisive blow, as six different Crusaders combined for 13 points in the extra session. The game only went to overtime after video review, as Kenney’s 3-pointer from 25 feet out at the regulation buzzer came a couple ticks after the horn went off, sending the game into extra time tied at 64.
Butler opened the extra session on top with a basket by Roosevelt Jones, but a shot from close range from junior Richie Edwards (Lakeland, Fla./Lakeland [Hillsborough C.C.]) fell to tie the game at 66-all. Redshirt junior Erik Buggs (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell) then hit 3-of-4 free throws, sandwiched around a driving layup by redshirt junior Will Bogan (Boise, Idaho/Vallivue [Ole Miss]), which put the Crusaders up 71-69 with 2:17 remaining.
The Bulldogs were called for a travel on their next possession, giving Valpo an opportunity to make it a two-possession game. Edwards obliged, nailing a fadeaway 12-footer from in the lane as the shot clock neared zero to push the lead to 73-69 with 1:27 to go in overtime. Butler kept pushing, getting four opportunities to score on its next trip and finally getting Ronald Nored to the free throw line, where he hit two to cut Valpo’s lead to 73-71 with 1:03 remaining.
Out of a timeout, though, it was Kenney who would come up with the big play. On a possession in which all five Crusaders touched the basketball, the junior found himself cleared out on the left wing one-on-one. Kenney got past his defender and got into the lane, finishing as he was getting fouled from behind and then completing the 3-point play to make it 76-71 Valpo.
“We have a really unselfish team,” said Drew. “They all do a good job of finding each other and getting each other good shots. That play we ran had a number of options, and we were able to get Matt the ball in a position where he could get a good shot.”
Then, sophomore Jay Harris (Aurora, Ill./Oswego East) made his mark on the glass in the waning seconds. The Crusaders forced a pair of Bulldog misses, and it was Harris who prevented Butler from adding to its 22 offensive rebounds, leaping above the front lines to grab two misses in the final 20 seconds.
The Crusaders needed to come back from a late deficit to even force an extra session, as Butler led by seven points (58-51) with 5:41 to play following back-to-back baskets from Khyle Marshall. Valpo remained aggressive offensively, driving and getting inside layups, first from Kenney and then Edwards to quickly cut the deficit to three points.
Valpo made the most of its free throws as well down the stretch, as first Edwards and then Kenney got to the foul line and converted both attempts, both times cutting the Bulldog lead to one point. Following a turnover by Butler, Valpo came down with a chance to take the lead with under 90 seconds remaining and came up big, as Buggs hit Bogan for a 3-pointer from the left corner to put the Crusaders ahead 64-62 and cap a 13-4 run with 1:04 to play.
Nored split one pair of free throws to slice Valpo’s lead to one point, and the Crusaders looked poised to push the lead to three on a deep inbounds pass over the top of the press. But the layup wouldn’t fall, and Nored would eventually be fouled and split another pair with 20 seconds remaining, tying the game at 64-all. A trio of turnovers in the waning seconds gave the ball to Valpo for the last opportunity, inbounding from the sideline 30 feet out with one second remaining, but the aforementioned Kenney 3-pointer came just after the buzzer, sending the game to overtime.
It was a back-and-forth game throughout, as both teams grabbed seven-point leads just in the opening 20 minutes. Butler was ahead 24-17 with 7:23 to go in the first half on a triple by Chase Stigall, but the Crusaders would close the half on a 22-8 run, which included seven points from junior Kevin Van Wijk (Hoofddorp, Netherlands/Katholieke Scholengemeenschap Hoofddorp) and a pair of triples by Bogan, to claim a 39-32 halftime edge.
Valpo went cold out of the locker room to start the second half, though, scoring just three points in the first seven minutes of the half as Butler went ahead 44-42. The Crusaders got baskets from four different players as part of a 9-3 run over the next three minutes to regain the lead at 51-47, but Butler scored the next 11 points to set up the closing sequence of the second 20 minutes.
Five different Crusaders scored in double figures, with Edwards stepping up big off the bench with 18 points to lead the way. Broekhoff and Buggs tallied 13 points apiece, with the former racking up another double-double thanks to 12 rebounds and the latter dishing out a team-best five assists. Bogan added 11 points, while Van Wijk finished the night with 10.
Nored paced Butler (4-4, 0-1) with 17 points to go along with six assists, but Kameron Woods and Jones were the only players who joined him in double figures on the Bulldogs’ side of the ledger, registering 10 points apiece. The Crusaders outshot the Bulldogs, 52.9% to 34.3%, but Butler held a 45-36 advantage on the boards.
Valparaiso (6-2, 1-0) returns to the court on Wednesday for the final game of the three-game road trip, heading to Fort Wayne to take on IPFW. Tipoff is slated for 6 p.m., and all the action can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network and online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have a link for live stats.