Valparaiso, Ind. - Raitis Grafs scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half to lead Valpo (5-4) to a 65-51 victory over Central Michigan (6-2). Grafs, who made eight of 16 shots, also grabbed six rebounds, blocked three shots and snagged two steals. The Crusaders, who have won three straight games, extended their homecourt win streak to 16.
Valpo's defensive pressure was constant throughout the entire game as the Chippewas were limited to 25 percent shooting (14 of 56). Central Michigan made seven of 29 shots in the first half (24 percent) and seven of 27 in the final 20 minutes (26 percent). After shooting 37 percent in the first half, the Crusaders responded by making 50 percent (12 for 24) from the floor in the second half.
The contest pitted the 6'11" Grafs against CMU's 7'0" Chris Kaman, who finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. Kaman, who scored 13 points in the second half, was the lone Chippewa to score in double figures.
Ali Berdiel complemented Grafs with 12 points and four assists, and four other Crusaders added six-or-more points. Greg Tonagel had six of Valpo's 17 assists and Antti Nikkila tied Grafs with three blocked shots.
Valpo, which led 27-24 at halftime, began the second half by outscoring CMU 13-4. Two dunks by Grafs highlighted the run as Valpo led 40-28 with 14:17 remaining. A thunderous dunk by Stalin Ortiz gave Valpo its second 12-point lead of the game. The Chippewas slowly closed their deficit behind eight points by Kaman and trailed 49-42 at the 9-minute mark.
Grafs ignited the Crusaders again with a conventional three-point play and Kikas Gomes' free throw expanded Valpo's lead to 13 (55-42) with 7:16 left. Mike Manciel kept CMU close with four free throws to key a 9-2 run and cut Valpo' s advantage to 57-51. Grafs, a senior, once again led the Crusaders' charge with four points as Valpo finished the game outscoring CMU 8-0.
Valpo (21 of 32) and Central Michigan (21 of 29) nearly matched each other at the free throw line. Roberto Nieves, who added eight points and seven rebounds, joined Grafs and Dan Oppland by snaring two of the team's 10 steals. Valpo's bench outscored CMU's reserves 15-4. Three-point shooting was a non-factor as CMU finished two for 16 and Valpo was 0 for 6. Turnovers were almost even as CMU committed 18 to the Crusaders' 17.
Following a break to celebrate Christmas, Valpo begins a two-game road trip by facing Purdue on Saturday at 1 p.m. EST (noon CST).