Strong Defense, Rebounding Key Win Over Liberty In Fiesta Bowl Classic Consolation Game
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
Tucson, Ariz. - Four Crusaders tallied double figures as Valpo (3-6) defeated Liberty 72-54 to capture the Fiesta Bowl Classic Consolation Championship.

Dan Oppland, who scored 11 points in the second half, finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Ali Berdiel led the Crusaders with 17 points and four assists. Ron Howard netted 14 points and Oumar Sylla added 10, making all five of his field goal attempts.

A strong defensive effort keyed the victory for Valpo as Liberty was limited to just 17 points in the second half following a 37-37 halftime tie. The Flames (3-9) shot 22 percent (8-37) in the final 20 minutes.

Valpo used a 10-0 run early in the second half to take command. Oppland scored nine points as the Crusaders led 52-41 with 12:37 remaining.

Freshmen Moussa Mbaye, Jimmie Miles and Sylla had two points each during a 6-0 run to extend the lead to 58-43 with 9:04 left. Liberty pulled within nine points (61-52) until the Crusaders responded with a 7-0 run to take a 68-52 advantage with just over a minute remaining.

Larry Blair was the lone Liberty player in double figures with 20 points.

Valpo outrebounded the Flames 44-43 as Kikas Gomes grabbed a game-high 12 boards. The Crusaders shot 40 percent (24-60) overall, while Liberty finished at 31 percent (20-65). The Flames made just 6-of-25 3-point attempts (24 percent).

The Crusaders held a significant advantage at the free throw line, converting 21 of 29 (72 percent) to Liberty's 8-of-16.

Following New Year's Day, Valpo opens the Mid-Continent Conference season on Saturday at Oakland beginning at 5 p.m. CST.