The Valparaiso men’s basketball team couldn’t overcome its offensive struggles in the first half Sunday in Orlando, as the Crusaders fell to UCF, 90-62, in their final game as part of the Jackson Hewitt UCF Holiday Classic.
Facing the Knights for the second time this season after defeating them at the ARC earlier this year, 85-70, Valpo would connect on just four first-half field goals, going 4-of-20 from the floor and committing 10 turnovers. Despite the laboring to find the basket, the Crusaders were in the game for a good part of the opening period.
Valpo actually started the game with the lead prior to the opening tip, as an administrative technical foul was issued to UCF for dunking during warmups, with senior LaVonte Dority (Chicago, Ill./Foreman [USF]) converting the ensuing free throws to give the Crusaders a 2-0 lead. Dority would knock down Valpo’s first field goal nearly four minutes into the game, a 3-pointer which made it 8-6 Valpo. While UCF answered with five straight points, junior Vashil Fernandez (Kingston, Jamaica/Princeton Day [Md.] Academy) made a reverse layup off a lob from sophomore Keith Carter (Maywood, Ill./Proviso East [Saint Louis]) to bring the Crusaders back within one at 11-10 with 14:25 left in the first half.
Valpo would score just one point over the next eight minutes, but its defense kept the Knights within striking distance, and a layup from freshman Jubril Adekoya (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) followed by two free throws from senior Jordan Coleman (North Hollywood, Calif./Calabasas [Southwestern Ill. College/Hawai’i]) cut the UCF advantage to 22-15 with 5:47 to play in the period. But the Knights ended the half on a 21-5 spurt, scoring the last five of those points in the final six seconds of the half to take a 43-20 lead into the locker room.
After scoring just 20 points in the opening 20 minutes, the Crusaders scored 11 in the first four minutes out of halftime, including seven from Dority. But UCF also scored 11 within that same stretch to prevent Valpo from cutting into the lead. The Knights pushed their lead out to as many as 32 points in the final 20 minutes before closing the game with the 28-point win.
Dority paced Valpo with 14 points, while Adekoya joined him in double figures with 11 points, the third double-figure performance of his career. Valpo shot 51.6% from the floor in the second half, including eight 3-pointers, but hit at just a 39.2% clip from the field (20-of-51) for the game and was just 9-of-28 (32.1%) from behind the 3-point line. No Crusader had more than five rebounds as UCF out-rebounded Valpo, 34-29 – the Crusaders’ second-worst rebounding margin of the year. Carter dished out a game-high four assists, giving him nine on his debut weekend.
UCF (8-3) placed five players in double figures, led by 22 points on 7-of-8 shooting from Tristan Spurlock. Brandon Goodwin added 12 points and seven rebounds off the bench, as the Knights hit 51.7% (31-of-60) of their field goal attempts for the game and were 11-of-19 (57.9%) from downtown.
Valparaiso (8-6) returns to action after Christmas, traveling to East Tennessee State next Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. CT. As always, the game can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with links for the live audio, as well as live stats, available through ValpoAthletics.com.