In a game which seemingly had more twists and turns than a five-act Broadway play, it was the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team which made the biggest play of the game, as senior Keith Carter (Maywood, Ill./Proviso East [Saint Louis]) stepped into a cold-blooded 3-pointer with 37 seconds to play in overtime, giving the Crusaders the lead for good in an eventual 80-76 victory over Milwaukee Friday evening in front of a national television audience.
Milwaukee took the lead with 48 seconds to play in overtime on an inside basket by Matt Tiby, a bucket which capped a quick 5-0 spurt and gave the Panthers a 74-73 lead. The Crusaders would take a timeout seven seconds later in the frontcourt, inbounding the ball from the sideline.
After looking to get the ball in to Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington), Shane Hammink (Millingen aan de Rijn, Netherlands/Oakley College [LSU]) inbounded to Carter at the top of the key. The senior took one dribble, sizing up his defender, and given space, stepped into the 3-pointer, which splashed down with 37 seconds remaining to put the Crusaders ahead 76-74.
Following a Milwaukee timeout, Valpo stood strong defensively, forcing an off-balance 3-point attempt from Tiby with 16 seconds to play as he tried to draw a foul. Carter grabbed the board and, following a foul, calmly hit both free throws to make it a four-point game. Tiby got a putback basket for the Panthers with just over three seconds remaining to cut the lead to 78-76, but Hammink would knock down both of his free throw attempts on the ensuing foul to ice the game.
The end sequence to overtime capped an extra period which featured plenty of scoring on both sides. Valpo would score on eight of its nine possessions in the extra session, while Milwaukee scored points on six of its first nine possessions. The Panthers scored just 13 seconds into overtime, but a quick triple from Carter and an inside basket from Peters made it 66-63 Valpo at the 3:52 mark before Tiby canned a 3-pointer of his own to tie the game yet again.
With the shot clock winding down on the ensuing Crusader possession, Peters made the nice inside dish to Vashil Fernandez (Kingston, Jamaica/Princeton Day [Md.] Academy) for a two-handed slam. Then, following a foul during a scramble after a miss, the Crusaders reset the offense and got Peters a look from downtown – a look he nailed for three points, pushing the Crusader lead to 71-66 with 2:04 to go. But Milwaukee’s J.J. Panoske answered with a 3-pointer of his own, and following two free throws from Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College), the Panthers scored the next five points to set up the closing sequence.
The Crusaders claimed the lead for the first time in the second half with 13:20 remaining on a layup by Jubril Adekoya (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew), and later on in the half, a long scoring drought both ways was snapped by a pair of free throws from Adekoya with 4:59 to play, pushing Valpo’s lead to 54-48. Milwaukee made a pair of free throws on each of its next two trips to cut the lead to two points, but a triple from Walker with 3:04 remaining made it a 57-52 Crusader advantage.
But Milwaukee rallied with five points on its next two possessions, as the Panthers pulled into a tie with the Crusaders at 57-57 with 2:06 to play. First Hammink and then Peters drove inside for layups on the next two trips to give Valpo two-point leads, but each time the Panthers answered on their end with two points of their own. With a four-second differential between the shot and game clock, and the clock winding down, Peters had the ball knocked away, but Akeem Springs’ runner at the buzzer was off the mark to send the game to overtime.
Valpo was down by five at the intermission, 38-33, following a first half in which it was called for a season-high 15 fouls. The Crusaders had two players with three fouls at the break, while four others had two fouls apiece, as Milwaukee went 14-of-20 from the free throw line in the opening 20 minutes. Thanks in large part to the play off the bench of Darien Walker (Chicago, Ill./Simeon [John A. Logan/Arizona Western]), who scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds in the first half, it was just a five-point game at the break.
Peters played a season-high 41 minutes and led the Crusaders on offense with 23 points, including five 3-pointers, while also grabbing six rebounds. His 23 points pushed his career total to 1,521 points, as the junior moved up into eighth place in Crusader history in scoring on Friday – passing Harry Bell (1,508) and Dick Jones (1,520) on the chart in the victory.
Peters was one of four Crusaders in double figures, as Darien Walker closed with 15 points and seven rebounds. Carter hit four 3-pointers in a 14-point effort and also paced Valpo with five assists and three steals, while Hammink posted 12 points on Friday. Fernandez tied for team-high honors with seven rebounds and also blocked three shots. Valpo connected on 13-of-28 from behind the 3-point line – its second-most 3-point makes of the season – and out-rebounded the Panthers, 43-33.
Milwaukee (18-12, 9-8 Horizon) was led by the effort of Tiby, who finished with 21 points. Panoske (15 points), Springs (14 points) and Jordan Johnson (11 points, six rebounds, seven assists) all finished in double figures as well for the Panthers.
Valparaiso (25-5, 15-2 Horizon) looks to close out the regular season on a high note Sunday afternoon at Green Bay. Tip is set for 2 p.m., and as always, all the action can be seen live on ESPN3 and heard live on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso). Links for the live video, audio and stats will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.