Valparaiso posted its largest margin of victory over a Division I opponent since 2002 on Saturday night as the Crusaders continued play at the Challenge in Music City in Nashville, Tenn. with a 93-58 victory over Murray State.
Valpo entered the halftime break with a 43-37 advantage before dominating on both ends in the second half, out-scoring the Racers over the final 20 minutes 50-21 to earn the 35-point win. The 35-point margin of victory was the Crusaders’ largest against a Division I team since Homer Drew’s first stint as head coach – a 100-63 win over Chicago State on Feb. 7, 2002.
Leading the way for the Crusaders were their two leading scorers on the year, and sophomore Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington) was at the forefront of the charge. Peters needed just 23 minutes of playing time to pour in a game-high 26 points, going 9-of-14 from the field, including a season-high five 3-pointers on just eight attempts. Peters, who also led all players with eight rebounds, played just eight minutes in the second half and scored 11 points in helping the Crusaders put away the Racers.
Junior Darien Walker (Chicago, Ill./Simeon [John A. Logan/Arizona Western]) enjoyed his second consecutive strong game in Municipal Auditorium. Walker, who tallied 19 points on Friday against Drake, went 7-of-10 from the field and canned four 3-pointers for 18 points.
It was a 180 in terms of style of play for the Crusaders on Saturday night, going from a methodical half-court game the day before against Drake to a more up-tempo, fast-paced contest against the Racers. The two squads went toe-to-toe in the first half, combining to shoot 13-of-20 from 3-point range. Valpo led for the first 15 minutes, but couldn’t pull away, and Murray State used a 10-2 spurt to claim a 30-28 lead with 5:04 to play in the first half – the first time the Crusaders had trailed in four games.
Valpo responded with an emphatic statement, however, scoring on each of its next four possessions. Peters nailed a 3-pointer, followed by a triple from Walker on the break after a steal by Keith Carter (Maywood, Ill./Proviso East [Saint Louis]). After a defensive stop, Walker connected on a deep jumper to force a Murray State timeout at 36-30. After the Racers split a pair of free throws, junior E. Victor Nickerson (Atlanta, Ga./Norcross [Charlotte]) drove for a layup to give the Crusaders a seven-point lead. Murray State closed to within 39-37, but Peters scored the final four points of the half inside the final minute to make it 43-37 Valpo at the break.
The second half would be all Crusaders, however, as Valpo shot 70.8% (17-of-24) over the final 20 minutes while holding Murray State to 25.9% (7-of-27) shooting in the second period. It took just 41 seconds for the Crusaders to extend their lead into double figures, as Walker started the half with a triple, and then Carter converted on the fast break off a steal and feed from Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) to quickly make it 48-37 Valpo. Murray State’s Jeffrey Moss got a second-chance 3-pointer on the Racers’ next trip, but that was countered immediately by a Peters triple.
Moss’s 3-pointer would be the Racers’ only points in the opening 4:30 of the second half, as Valpo continued to extend its lead thanks to fast-break layups off steals by Darien Walker and Peters and never looked back. The Crusaders pushed the lead to 20 points for the first time on a basket in the paint from freshman David Skara (Zadar, Croatia/Ekonomska Skola Zadar) with 10:48 to play, part of a 12-0 Valpo run. The lead reached 30 points inside the final two minutes as senior David Chadwick (Charlotte, N.C./Hargrave Military Academy [Rice]) converted a 3-point play, and hit its zenith on a 3-pointer by Chadwick – Valpo’s 11th triple of the night – with 33 seconds to play.
The Crusaders ended the night shooting 59.6% (31-of-52) from the field and hitting 11-of-20 (55%) from behind the 3-point line. Skara joined Peters and Darien Walker in double figures, scoring ten points in 18 minutes of play. Sophomore Jubril Adekoya (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) pulled down seven rebounds to go with Peters’ eight boards as Valpo out-rebounded the Racers, 35-26. Carter handed out three assists and tallied a game-high four steals, while Tevonn Walker posted eight points, five rebounds and three steals as well.
Murray State (2-4) was led by 13 points from Moss, while Cameron Payne – the OVC Preseason Player of the Year – notched just 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting. The Racers shot 6-of-8 from 3-point range in the first half, but just 2-of-12 from deep in the second half.
Valparaiso (6-1) starts out a season 6-1 for the first time under head coach Bryce Drew and just the second time in the last 15 seasons. The Crusaders look for the Challenge in Music City title on Sunday afternoon, taking on Portland – which also owns victories over both Murray State and Drake - at 1 p.m. All the action can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with links for live audio and live stats available at ValpoAthletics.com.