Valparaiso could not overcome 32.6% shooting on the road at Missouri Sunday evening in Columbia, Mo., as the Tigers downed the Crusaders by a 56-41 final.
Despite hitting just 8-of-21 (38.1%) from the field in the first half, Valpo went into halftime down just one point, as its defense held Mizzou to 25% (6-of-24) shooting in the opening 20 minutes. But after the break, the Tigers hit better than 50% of their shots, while the Crusaders were just 7-of-25 (28%) in the second period.
It was a slow start to the game for the Crusaders, who hit just one shot in the first six-plus minutes, but Missouri only scored seven points in that same stretch to keep Valpo within striking distance. A triple from Darien Walker (Chicago, Ill./Simeon [John A. Logan/Arizona Western]) and a driving basket from David Skara (Zadar, Croatia/Ekonomska Skola Zadar) tied the game, a refrain repeated a number of times in the first half.
Twice more, the Tigers pulled ahead by five points in the first half, but both times the Crusaders rallied. An inside basket by Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) finally gave Valpo its first lead at 19-18 with 3:30 to play in the first half. The Tigers scored six of the next eight points to pull back ahead, but a pair of free throws from E. Victor Nickerson (Atlanta, Ga./Norcross [Charlotte]) brought the Crusaders within 24-23 at the half. It looked momentarily like Valpo would actually lead at intermission, but Tevonn Walker’s coast-to-coast drive with 3.6 seconds to play resulted in a layup just after the clock hit triple zero.
Valpo stuck with Missouri early in the second half, as Keith Carter (Maywood, Ill./Proviso East [Saint Louis]) hit Vashil Fernandez (Kingston, Jamaica/Princeton Day [Md.] Academy) on the fast break for a two-handed slam which gave the Crusaders a lead with 18:50 to play. A pair of free throws from Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington) two minutes later tied the game at 27-27, but that would be Valpo’s last share of the lead.
Missouri went on a 10-0 run over the next five minutes to go ahead by double figures. The closest the Crusaders were able to get the rest of the way was 41-34 with 8:30 to play after five consecutive points from Nickerson. The Tigers responded with back-to-back baskets with the shot clock winding down against Valpo’s zone on their next two trips to secure control for good.
Nickerson paced the Crusaders on Sunday with 12 points in 17 minutes off the bench, hitting four of his five field goal attempts in his second game in a Valpo uniform. No other Crusader scored more than seven points, as Peters scored seven in 27 foul-plagued minutes. Jubril Adekoya (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) led the Crusaders on the glass with a game-high eight rebounds.
Missouri (1-1) was led by 16 points from Wes Clark, who also grabbed six rebounds. Johnathan Williams III added ten points as well.
Valparaiso (1-1) returns home Wednesday evening to host IU South Bend for a 7:05 p.m. tipoff. The game can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network and seen live on the Horizon League Network/ESPN3.com. Links for the live audio and video, as well as live stats, will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.