A 3-point play by senior Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington) with 56 seconds to play capped a 24-point night and proved to be the effective dagger Monday night as the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team took down SEC foe Alabama, 68-60, in the semifinals of the Men Who Speak Up Main Event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. With the win, the Crusaders advance to the championship game of the Heavyweight division, where they will face BYU live on ESPN2 Wednesday night at 11 p.m. CT.
How It Happened
- Valpo got off to a hot start offensively on Monday, hitting six of its first seven shots from the field to jump out to a 17-10 lead just over seven minutes in. The lead might have been more if not for seven early turnovers in the same stretch.
- The Crimson Tide responded with the next 10 points and led by as many as four at 22-18 with 7:54 to play in the first half before the Crusaders went on a 10-2 spurt – started by a 3-pointer from senior Jubril Adekoya (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) and capped by four straight points from Peters.
- Valpo would eventually take a 34-31 lead into halftime as Alabama’s Corban Collins nailed a buzzer-beating runner in the lane.
- The Crimson Tide tied the game up on a pair of occasions early in the second half, with the Crusaders regaining the edge each time, before Alabama finally claimed its first lead of the second half on a Braxton Key 3-pointer with 11:50 to play, making it 45-44.
- Valpo regained the lead on the next offensive possession with a mid-range jumper from freshman Jaume Sorolla (Tortosa, Spain/Sunrise Christian [Kan.] Academy) and would never trail again. Two minutes later, Valpo sandwiched a drive and score from senior Shane Hammink (Millingen aan de Rijn, Netherlands/Oakley College [LSU]) and a 3-pointer by Peters around an Alabama basket to claim a 51-47 lead with 8:44 to play.
- Neither team would score for over three minutes, before a key sequence pushed the Crusaders’ lead to eight points. With 5:29 remaining, the Crimson Tide were whistled for a foul, followed by a technical foul on their head coach. Peters and junior Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) both hit a pair of freebies to go up by eight, and Adekoya and Peters would later hit 3-pointers in a three-possession span to make it 61-51 Valpo with 2:51 to play.
- Alabama would not go silently into the night, hitting two free throws on each of its next three trips while keeping the Crusaders off the board on consecutive possessions to close to within 61-57 with 1:18 to play. But on Valpo’s next trip, Peters drove and finished in the lane while being fouled to push the lead back to seven points with 56 seconds left.
- Alabama’s Riley Norris hit a 3-pointer with 43 seconds to go to cut the lead back down to four points at 64-60, but after Hammink split a pair of free throws, the Crimson Tide turned the ball over to effectively close out the game.
Inside the Game
- Peters finished with his second double-double of the season, leading all players with 24 points and pacing Valpo with 10 rebounds. The senior did it in his typical efficient fashion, going 7-of-12 from the floor and 3-of-6 from 3-point range.
- Peters also was a perfect 7-for-7 from the foul line and is now 36-for-38 at the charity stripe through five games.
- Adekoya matched the best scoring output of his career against a Division I opponent, finishing with 16 points – including a 3-for-4 mark from 3-point range.
- Hammink finished in double figures as well, scoring 10 points while also pulling down six rebounds.
- Sorolla played solid minutes off the bench for the Crusaders, finishing with four points, three rebounds and a blocked shot in 13 minutes of action while also anchoring Valpo’s zone defense.
- Valpo enjoyed its best shooting night of the season from the 3-point line, going 7-of-18 (38.9%) as a team. The Crusaders connected at a 46.9% clip overall from the floor while limiting Alabama to 41.1% shooting from the field and 28.6% shooting from 3-point range.
- The win over the Crimson Tide was Valpo’s third over a power conference opponent since the start of last season, joining victories last year at Oregon State and at home in the NIT over Florida State. This comes after having not defeated a team from a power conference since 2008.
The Crusaders (4-1) will face a familiar foe in the battle for the championship in the Heavyweight division, as BYU awaits Valpo on Wednesday evening. Valpo took down the Cougars in the semifinals of last year’s NIT at Madison Square Garden. The game will be televised on ESPN2 at 11 p.m. CT on Wednesday, and as always, can be heard on the Valpo Sports Network (WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso; WVLP, 103.1 FM, Valparaiso). Links for the live video, audio and stats will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.