The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team played rude hosts to Northern Kentucky Thursday night in the Norse’s first-ever visit to the ARC, running out to an 18-point halftime lead and cruising to a 64-52 victory.
The Crusaders were led Thursday evening by the play of senior guard Keith Carter (Maywood, Ill./Proviso East). For the third time this season, Carter dropped 16 points, doing so Thursday on 6-of-10 shooting from the field. Carter also matched his career best with four 3-pointers, going 4-of-6 from downtown.
Three Crusaders in all finished in double figures, as a pair of players off the bench joined Carter. Junior Shane Hammink (Millingen aan de Rijn, Netherlands/Oakley College [LSU]) needed just six shot attempts to score 12 points, going 5-of-6 from the floor and hitting a pair of 3-pointers. Hammink also registered a new career high with five assists as well. Meanwhile, senior Darien Walker (Chicago, Ill./Simeon [John A. Logan/Arizona Western]) scored in double figures for the sixth time in league play, matching Hammink with 12 points and pulling down five rebounds.
Northern Kentucky led for much of the first five minutes Thursday, but the Crusaders’ defense would lock down as Valpo took the lead for good. The Norse were held scoreless for a stretch of six minutes after tying the game 8-8 at the 15:05 mark, allowing Valpo to piece together a 10-0 run to pull ahead by double figures. Five different Crusaders scored baskets during the spurt, including a highlight-reel drive and slam by Hammink.
NKU would stick close over the next few minutes thanks to the deep ball, as the Norse hit three 3-pointers over a four-plus minute stretch, the last of which cut Valpo’s lead to 25-19 with 4:57 to play in the half. But sophomore Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) answered immediately with a triple of his own – one which would jump-start a 13-1 Crusader run to end the half.
Junior Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington) knocked down a 3-pointer on Valpo’s next possession, and a runner from Hammink made it eight straight Valpo points in just 1:32, extending the lead to 33-19. A driving layup from Hammink extended the lead to 15 points inside of a minute to play in the period, and holding the ball for the final shot, the junior hit Darien Walker for a 3-pointer of his own to cap the run and give Valpo its largest advantage – 38-20 at the half.
The lead would never be seriously threatened in the second half, as despite hitting just 34.5% from the field in the final 20 minutes, the Crusaders connected on five 3-pointers to hold off any big NKU run. Valpo led by as many as 22 points in the second half, while not allowing the Norse to get any closer than the final margin.
Junior Jubril Adekoya (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) contributed a strong all-around effort, as despite scoring just four points, the junior matched a season high with eight rebounds, set a new season best with five assists and tied his career high with four steals. Senior Vashil Fernandez (Kingston, Jamaica/Princeton Day [Md.] Academy) grabbed six rebounds and blocked six shots, while Peters finished with nine points and nine rebounds – leading the effort on the glass as Valpo out-rebounded NKU 37-28.
Northern Kentucky (9-15, 5-8 Horizon) was led by nine points off the bench from Todd Johnson, as no Norse player scored in double digits. NKU ended up shooting better than 40% from the field and 8-of-19 from 3-point range, but the Crusaders forced 15 turnovers.
Valparaiso (21-4, 11-1 Horizon) returns to action at the ARC Saturday evening as the Crusaders host Wright State on Hall of Fame Night. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m., and as always, the game can be seen live on ESPN3 and heard live on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso). Links for the live audio, video and stats will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.