Macomb, Ill. - Hot-shooting was the theme for both teams, but Western Illinois used 26 made free throws to defeat Valpo 83-79. Dan Oppland scored a season-high 29 points to lead the Crusaders (7-11, 3-3 Mid-Con).
Shawn Huff added a career-high 14 points, which included four, 3-point baskets. Kenny Harris tallied 12 points and five rebounds, and Seth Colclasure scored 10 points. Ron Howard dished out a career-high 11 assists. Eulis Baez topped the Leathernecks with 26 points and seven rebounds. David Jackson added 16 points, including 5-of-6 free throws in the final 34 seconds.
Valpo, which shot 58 percent overall (28-48), nearly overcame an 11-point second-half deficit with a final minute flurry. Huff's 3-pointer with 37 seconds left pulled Valpo within 77-76. After Jackson made one of two free throws with 34 seconds left to give WIU a 78-76 lead, Valpo had two possessions to tie or take the lead. However, the possessions ended with a missed shot and a turnover.
The nation's leader in 3-point shooting percentage (43.4), Valpo made its comeback with its shooting prowess from beyond the arc. Colclasure made a trey to cut a six-point deficit in half with 1:34 remaining. After WIU's Baez and Valpo's Howard exchanged a two-point sequence, Will Lewis split a pair of free throws with 46 seconds left to extend the Leathernecks' lead to 77-73. Huff's 3-pointer following a nice fake pulled Valpo within one (77-76) - the closest the Crusaders had been to WIU since the 3:35 mark in the first half.
The free throw line proved to be the difference for WIU as it converted 26-of-37 charity tosses (70 percent) to Valpo's 14-of-17 (82 percent). The Leathernecks also outrebounded Valpo 28-23.
Valpo hosts Oakland on Monday beginning at 7:30 p.m. CT.