Calvin Wooten's 40-point night helped erase seven and a half years of history and led the Oakland Golden Grizzlies to a 95-89 win over the Crusaders Thursday night at the Athletics Center O'Rena in Rochester, Mich.
The win was Oakland's first in 17 all-time games with Valpo, and avenged a 95-64 Crusader win January 2 at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Wooten's 40 points were the most scored by any Crusader opponent this season, and a season-high for the junior transfer.
Valpo would twice cut the lead to three in the last five minutes, but each time see the Grizzlies answer back on the other end. Vova Severovas hit his biggest shot of the night with 3:30 left, banking in a four-footer to put Oakland on top 80-73.
The score was 81-75 with under two minutes to go when Wooten hit his fourth three-pointer of the night with the shot clock winding down, applying the dagger to the Crusaders and ending the win streak.
The early stages of the game featured little defense, with the Grizzlies jumping ahead 9-0 before four Valpo triples brought the Crusaders within 16-14 within five minutes of the opening tip. Through 8:17 of the half, the teams had combined for 55 points, 11 three-pointers and made 19-of-24 shots.
The Crusaders briefly tied the game, equaling the Grizzlies at 33 on an Ali Berdiel
(Ponce, Puerto Rico/Andrean) triple, his third of the game, with 8:10 left. Berdiel struck again at the 2:09 mark, knocking down 1-of-2 free throws to give Valpo their first and only lead at 45-44. With the score tied at 48 late in the half, Brandon Cassise sent the teams into the locker room in appropriate fashion, draining a leaning 26-foot three-pointer at the buzzer to put Oakland on top 51-48 at the break.
Berdiel led the Brown and Gold with 14 points, three more than his season-high coming in, on 5-of-7 shooting. Jarryd Loyd
(Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) was also in double-figures with 10 points, adding a game-high five assists. Wooten led all scorers with 17, and the Grizzlies got 11 more from Vova Severovas. The Crusaders shot 65.4% from the floor in the first half, including 9-of-11 three-pointers, while Oakland hit on 63.3% of their shots and made 7-of-13 threes. Valpo committed 12 first half turnovers, but did dominate up front, out-rebounding the hosts 14-6.
The Grizzlies maintained their lead through the first 12 minutes of the second half, extending the margin to 70-64 on a pair of Severovas free throws with 9:08 left. After another Berdiel three-pointer cut the deficit back to three, the Crusaders went cold and watched Oakland build the lead back to six with 6:10 left.
Berdiel led the Crusaders, losers of three-straight, with 25 points. Valpo placed five others in double-figures, including 12 points and six rebounds for Mohamed Kone
(Lyon, France/Jean Paul Sartre). Ron Howard
(Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) had 12 points, while Loyd and Seth Colclasure
(Decatur, Ind./Bellmont) each had 10. Dan Oppland
(Saint Louis, Mo./Whitfield) finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, his third double-double of the season.
Valpo shot 50.8% from the floor, but just 40.5% in the second half, including only 4-of-15 second-half three-pointers. The Crusaders out-rebounded the Grizzlies 36-24, including a 15-6 lead on the offensive glass, but turned the ball over 19 times. Oakland shot 58.0% for the night and hit 10-of-19 three-pointers.
Oakland (8-13, 3-6 Mid-Con), whose fans stormed the court following the win, did manage to put three players besides Wooten in double-figures, producing their second-highest scoring output of the season. Severovas finished with 15 points and Rick Billings had 12. Cassise had 10 points on a trio of three-pointers.
The Crusaders (11-7, 4-4 Mid-Con) return to the Athletics-Recreation Center Saturday for ?Be Bold, Wear Gold" night against IUPUI at 7:05. The first 700 fans will receive a free gold Valpo t-shirt, and all mezzanine tickets are available at a special discounted price of $5. The game is the first of three-straight at the ARC for the Brown and Gold and will be carried live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics beginning at 6:50 p.m.