Valparaiso, Ind. – Raitis Grafs scored 23 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead Valpo to a 78-67 victory over the Northern Illinois Huskies. Ali Berdiel dished out a career-high eight assists and made four steals, while Stalin Ortiz had five steals to help out the Crusaders' cause.
The Crusaders (2-1) started the game off quickly, scoring the first seven points before NIU (2-3) added a bucket of its own.
After Valpo gained an 18-7 advantage, NIU closed the gap to six points (18-12) with 10:47 left in the first half.
It was then the Crusaders took over, outscoring the Huskies 24-12 the remainder of the half to lead 42-28 at halftime. Valpo shot 60 percent from the field (55 percent on 6 of 11 shooting from 3-point land) in the first half as Gomes scored 10, Ortiz added seven and Grafs had five points.
In the second half, Valpo’s hot shooting continued, as the Crusaders ended the game shooting 56 percent from the field.
NIU guard Anthony Maestranzi, who was shut out in the first half, scored a team-high 18 points on six of six shooting from behind the arc.
Grafs answered Maestranzi by scoring 18 points of his own in the second half en route to a Valpo victory. Overall, the 6'11" Grafs made nine of 11 shots, including two of three from 3-point range. Gomes finished the game with 16 points, Ortiz had 12 and Antti Nikkila scored six and grabbed six rebounds.
Valpo finished the game shooting 44 percent from 3-point range. The Crusaders outrebounded the Huskies 34-27, assisted on 20 of 27 made field goals, and came up with 11 steals.
The Crusaders begin a three-game road trip starting Monday at national powerhouse Cincinnati. Valpo then faces Loyola-Chicago on Saturday and Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Dec. 11 before returning home Dec. 14 to play Samford.