Valparaiso opened Saturday night’s game against Southeastern in Orlando, Fla. on a 22-2 run over the opening 10 minutes and cruised from there, eventually closing out the evening with an 89-46 win over the Fire. The game was the first of two in two days for the Crusaders at the Jackson Hewitt UCF Holiday Classic.
Valpo shot extremely well in the winning effort on Saturday, especially over the first 20 minutes. The Crusaders shot 66.7% from the floor and 10-of 13 from 3-point range in the first half, ending the night at 55% (33-of-60) from the field and 62.5% (15-of-24) from the 3-point line. Senior LaVonte Dority (Chicago, Ill./Foreman [USF]) and freshman Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington) both went 4-of-5 from downtown, en route to 18 and 16-point efforts, respectively.
Saturday also marked the debut of Crusader sophomore guard Keith Carter (Maywood, Ill./Proviso East [Saint Louis]), and the transfer did not disappoint. Carter opened his Valpo career with an assist on the game’s first possession, one of his game-high five assists, and also scored eight points on 3-of-5 shooting, including a pair of 3-pointers. He added three rebounds and two steals in 18 minutes of action.
Carter hit Peters for a 3-pointer on the Crusaders’ first possession, part of nine straight points to open the game for Valpo. Freshman Jubril Adekoya (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) and Peters knocked down layups on back-to-back trips, and Dority then stepped into a deep 2-pointer to make it 9-0 Crusaders just 2:43 into the game.
Southeastern’s Timothy Mitchell converted a layup to put the Fire on the board, and then the two sides were stuck at 9-2 for nearly four minutes. Finally, Dority connected on a 3-pointer to push the lead to double figures with 13:10 left in the first half, sparking a quick 13-0 Valpo run. Fifth-year senior Bobby Capobianco (Loveland, Ohio/Loveland [Indiana]) and Dority hit back-to-back triples, fellow fifth-year senior Moussa Gueye (Thies, Senegal/SEED Academy [Alabama/Lake Land (Ill.) College]) made a pair of free throws and Carter converted a circus layup to make it 22-2 Crusaders less than 10 minutes into the game.
The lead would just grow from there, reaching as many as 31 points late in the first half on Peters’ third 3-pointer of the opening 20 minutes. Valpo eventually took a 48-20 lead into the locker room, and pushed the advantage to 40 points with 13:49 to play on a 3-pointer by freshman Lexus Williams (Chicago, Ill./Marist). The lead was as large as 45 points down the stretch before closing at the final margin of 43.
With the large early lead giving the Crusaders a comfortable lead throughout, Valpo was able to spread the minutes up and down the roster. Nobody played more than the 22 minutes from junior Vashil Fernandez (Kingston, Jamaica/Princeton Day [Md.] Academy), who ended the night with seven points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots. Adekoya, who finished with six points in 21 minutes, was the only other Crusader above 20 minutes. All 12 Valpo players saw at least 12 minutes of action, with 11 of those players scoring at least four points.
Southeastern, an NAIA squad which was playing the game as an exhibition, received 15 points and seven rebounds from Mitchell, who was the only Fire player to finish in double figures. The Crusaders limited SEU to just 26.7% shooting from the floor and just a 3-of-15 mark from beyond the 3-point line.
Valparaiso (8-5) concludes the UCF Holiday Classic Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. CT against the host Knights, closing out an in-season home-and-home series. The Crusaders won the first matchup of the year at the ARC in November, 85-70. The game can be seen live on ESPN3.com, with Rich Hollenberg and Mark Wise on the call. As always, it can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network as well. Links for the live video and audio, as well as live stats, are available at ValpoAthletics.com.