Valparaiso, Ind. - Dan Oppland's 27 points and career-high 16 rebounds led Valpo to an 82-76 victory over Southern Utah.
Oppland, who scored 18 of his 27 in the second half, paced three Crusaders (14-12, 10-4) in double digits as Seth Colclasure scored 16 and Jimmie Miles added 14. The Thunderbirds (12-13, 5-9) were led by Rand Janes, who finished with 24 points.
After Jeff Martini hit one free throw to tie the game at 53 with 8:33 to play for Southern Utah, Oppland and Janes proceeded to take over the game for their respective teams. Over the next 4:25, Oppland scored 10 points on a conventional three-point play, a three-pointer, and two layups, while Janes drained three, 3-pointers and a layup over the same stretch to give the Thunderbirds a 64-63 lead with 4:40 to play.
Out of a Crusader timeout, Miles hit a 3-pointer, followed by a Colclasure triple to give Valpo a 69-64 lead. Southern Utah's Jason Baker answered with a three with 3:05 to play to cut the lead to two, but the Thunderbirds could get no closer as Valpo made its last five field goals and five-of-seven free throws down the stretch to clinch the victory.
Valpo raced out of the gate quickly, keyed by a 15-0 run midway through the first half that culminated in a Colclasure jumper with 8:06 to play. Miles scored seven points during the run, which gave the Crusaders their largest lead, 19 points, at 30-11.
After the two teams traded buckets, the Thunderbirds answered with a run of their own, outscoring the Crusaders 23-8 over the final 6:45 of the half. Janes scored nine points during the run, while Steve Barnes added eight. Southern Utah hit all seven of its first-half threes during the run, which cut the Valpo lead to four at 40-36 entering halftime.
The Crusaders used a 40-20 advantage in the paint to negate the Thunderbirds' hot hand from beyond the arc. Southern Utah hit 13-of-24 threes, while Valpo, which entered the game fourth in the nation in 3-point percentage, hit 8-of-21. Southern Utah entered the contest ranked fifth nationally in 3-point percentage.
Valparaiso shot 53% (31 for 59) from the field, while Southern Utah shot 46% (27 for 59). The Crusaders held a 39-24 rebounding advantage, paced by Oppland's 16 and Kenny Harris' seven, and also received a game-high six assists from both Miles and Jarryd Loyd.
The Crusaders travel to Butler University to take on the Bulldogs on Saturday at 2 p.m. EST (1 p.m. CT).