The Valparaiso men’s basketball team was unable to overcome a hot start from the floor by Milwaukee Friday evening in the second round of the 2014 Horizon League Championship, as the fourth-seeded Crusaders fell to the fifth-seeded Panthers by a final score of 74-57.
Milwaukee scored 15 points in the first 3:16 Friday night, hitting four of its first five 3-point attempts and also converting an old-fashioned 3-point play. The last of the triples came from Malcolm Moore at the 16:44 mark, giving the Panthers a 15-2 lead on the Crusaders.
Try as they might to cut into the lead, Valpo was unable to slice more than six points off that 13-point deficit in the opening half. Much of that was due to Milwaukee’s offensive rebounding, as the Panthers grabbed 15 offensive rebounds in the opening 20 minutes, converting them into 12 second-chance points. The Crusaders did cut the lead to seven points on a number of occasions late in the first half, the latest coming with 27 seconds to play on an acrobatic 3-point play from Keith Carter (Maywood, Ill./Proviso East [Saint Louis]), but a J.J. Panoske tip-in off a miss fittingly ended the half as Valpo trailed 31-22 at the break.
The Crusaders finally made it a two-possession game for the first time since the early stages on a short jumper by Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington) less than two minutes into the second half, and had the ball back with a chance to slice the deficit even further. But a turnover returned possession to the Panthers, who scored on their next two possessions to push the lead back to 10 points.
Each time Valpo threatened, Milwaukee responded immediately. A 3-point play by Peters with 14:31 to play brought the Crusaders within 37-30, but the Panthers scored five points on their next two possessions. Peters had a 3-pointer on the fast break with 12:21 to go to make it a nine-point game before Milwaukee scored the next six points. Valpo had one last push as the clock ticked under six minutes, getting back-to-back 3-pointers from Lavonte Dority (Chicago, Ill./Foreman [USF]) and Bobby Capobianco (Loveland, Ohio/Loveland [Indiana]) to make it 54-46 , but the Panthers got a 3-point play from Kyle Kelm on the other end and the Crusaders were unable to cut the lead back to single digits from there.
Peters followed up his 29-point effort of the other night with a team-high 18 points Friday, going 7-of-12 from the floor. Dority joined Peters in double figures with 14 points, while Moussa Gueye (Thies, Senegal/SEED Academy [Alabama/Lake Land (Ill.) College]) blocked three shots, matching the Valpo single-season record of 67 rejections.
Jordan Aaron led four Milwaukee (19-13) players in double figures with 20 points, while Matt Tiby added 18 points and seven rebounds. The Panthers shot just 37% for the game to Valpo’s 48.7%, but out-rebounded the Crusaders 41-19, including a 19-0 advantage on the offensive glass.
Valparaiso (18-15) will wait to see if it earns a berth to either the CBI or CIT as those fields are released in the near future. Any postseason tournament information will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.