The Longwood Lancers ambushed the Valparaiso University men's basketball team early in the second half, but the Crusaders clawed back and held on late for an 82-79 win Tuesday night at Willett Hall in Farmville, Va.
The Crusaders were up 76-74 when Mohamed Kone
(Lyon, France/Jean Paul Saltre) pulled down a big defensive rebound and fed the ball ahead nicely for a 2-on-1 break, finished by Ron Howard
(Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) to extend the lead to four. After Longwood cut the lead back to one, Shawn Huff
(Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) made his first basket of the game, an eight-footer from the baseline, to make it 80-77. Following a pair of Clayton Morgan free throws, Huff went to the line and calmly drained both shots with 11 seconds left to provide the final margin.
After a hot-shooting first half, the Crusaders could not make a shot early in the second and Longwood took full advantage, turning a nine-point Valpo lead into a 46-45 Lancer edge by holding the Brown and Gold scoreless for the first 3:44 of the half. The hosts extended the lead to 59-52 with 11:20 to go on the strength of a 9-0 run. The Lancers scored 25 of the first 32 points of the half by holding Valpo to 3-of-11 shooting and forcing seven Crusader turnovers.
With the Lancers up 66-57 midway through the second half, a Dan Oppland
(Saint Louis, Mo./Whitfield) bucket and a switch to zone defense ignited an 11-0 Valpo run to put the Crusaders in front by a point with under seven minutes to go.
Early in the first half, Valpo's 2-1-2 full-court press bothered the hosts, as the Crusaders forced four quick turnovers and jumped out to a 14-7 lead. Longwood closed within three on two separate occasions, but when Seth Colclasure
(Decatur, Ind./Bellmont) connected on back-to-back threes, the Valpo lead was up to 35-22. The Crusader lead remained in double-figures for much of the half, but at the break it was down to nine at 45-36.
The Crusaders played exquisite offensive basketball in the first half, shooting 56.3% from the field, making 6-of-11 three-pointers, and dishing out 12 assists on 18 baskets. But the half was not without its blemishes, as the Crusaders made just 3-of-9 free throws and committed 10 turnovers. Howard and Oppland led the charge with 12 points each, and Colclasure added eight.
Longwood (2-9) stayed in the game early thanks largely to their fine work on the glass, controlling a 23-18 rebound advantage in the first half, including 12 on the offensive end. Morgan was the biggest factor inside for the Lancers, finishing with 25 points and 13 rebounds. Maurice Sumter also had 25 for Longwood, who got 11 second-half points from Dana Smith.
Howard led the Crusaders offensively with 20 points, his second straight game with 20, and Oppland added 19 points and seven rebounds. The senior surpassed 600 career rebounds early in the game, and is only the seventh player in Valpo history with 1,300 career points and 600 boards. Colclasure had 14 points on 3-of-6 three-point shooting and Kone was a factor inside with 12 rebounds and four blocks.
The Brown and Gold shot 50% for the game and made 9-of-21 from beyond the arc. The Crusaders made 12-of-13 free throws in the second half, and finished 15-of-22 from the line for the game. Longwood shot 42.9% from the floor but made only 2-of-14 three-pointers. The two teams finished even on the boards with 37 apiece, and turnovers plagued both teams, with Valpo turning it over 21 times and Longwood making 17 miscues.
Tonight's game was the final one on Valpo's six-game road swing, with the Brown and Gold (5-3) returning home to the Athletics-Recreation Center for the first time in nearly a month to take on UMKC December 27 at 7:05 p.m. That game can be seen live on WYIN 56, Channel 56 in Merrillville, and WHME, Channel 46 in South Bend. The action will also be carried live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics, with pregame coverage beginning at 6:50 p.m.