Tulsa, Okla. - A 30-8 run over the first 12 minutes of the second half helped Chicago State overcome a nine-point halftime deficit and the Cougars held on to defeat Valpo 72-67 in the quarterfinals of the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament at the John Q. Hammons Arena. Dan Oppland led the Crusaders (15-16) with 20 points.
Kenny Harris added 11 points and 13 rebounds for 3rd seed Valpo. Royce Parran, who scored 20 points in the second half, led Chicago State (9-18) with 23 points. Deji Akindele tallied 19 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots, while Craig Franklin scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half for CSU.
CSU set a Mid-Con Tournament record with 53 free throw attempts, sinking 29 (55 percent). Valpo made 25 of 32 free throws (78 percent).
Valpo, winners of eight Mid-Con Tournament titles in the previous 10 years, was eliminated in the first round for the first time since the 1989-90 season. The Crusaders had appeared in 10 straight Mid-Con Tournament Championship games (1995-2004).
After trailing 32-23 at halftime, Chicago State rallied out of the locker room, outscoring the Crusaders 24-4 in the first 9 minutes to take a 45-36 lead. Oppland's short jumper halted the Cougars' scoring explosion. However, CSU went on an 8-2 run to take a 53-40 lead.
The Crusaders made a furious 14-4 run to cut the deficit to 57-54 with 4:25 left. However, Parran drained a 3-pointer to expand the CSU lead to 60-54 with 4:04 remaining. Oppland's two free throws pulled Valpo within 60-58 at the 3:10 mark.
Free throw shooting was a struggle for CSU, which made 12 of 20 in the final 2:42. Despite the missed free throws, the Cougars led by seven (70-63) with 23 seconds left. Valpo pulled within four on a Jimmie Miles free throw with four seconds left, but could get no closer.
Valpo, which led the entire first half, held a 10-9 advantage before embarking on 9-0 run to take a 19-9 lead with 9:03 remaining. Oppland scored six points during the stretch, including a 3-pointer and a conventional three-point play. Moussa Mbaye added the other three points.
Chicago State cut the lead to 19-12 before Jarryd Loyd's 3-pointer and Mbaye's two free throws extended the lead to 24-12 at the 5:26 mark. Valpo led by as many as 13 on three separate occasions during the next four minutes. Ron Howard scored four points during the sequence and Oppland's two free throws gave the Crusaders their last 13-point cushion (32-19) with 1:40 remaining.
Oppland led Valpo with eight first-half points, while Seth Colclasure added six on two 3-pointers. Akindele had 11 points for the Cougars before halftime. Defenses prevailed in the first half as Valpo shot 31 percent (9-29) and CSU made 30 percent (7-23) from the floor. Valpo made 10-of-13 free throws and CSU was 8-for-15 prior to intermission.
Valpo struggled shooting, making 33 percent overall (18-54), while CSU finished at 48 percent). The Crusaders committed 15 turnovers to CSU's nine. Valpo outrebounded the Cougars 41-33.
Chicago State, the 6th seed, will play Oakland, the 7th seed, in Monday's second semifinal at 8:30 p.m. Top seed Oral Roberts opposes 4th seed IUPUI Monday at 6 p.m. in the first semifinal.
The championship is Tuesday at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.