Valparaiso was within seven of Creighton at halftime of the Crusaders' opener at the 43rd Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic in Honolulu, Hawai'i, but the Bluejays pulled away in the second half for a 68-43 victory.
Valpo turned the ball four times during a 13-2 Creighton run to start the second stanza, pushing the Crusaders' deficit to 40-22 with 15:42 to play. The Crusaders cut the lead to 13 on two different occasions, but could get no closer, and Creighton ended the game on a 10-3 run for the final margin.
Valparaiso scored five quick points early in the game, including a Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) 3-pointer, to take the lead at 5-4 four minutes in. The Bluejays answered with an 8-0 spurt to regain the lead at 12-5, a lead Valpo would never regain. The Crusaders pulled back within three multiple times throughout the first half, the latest coming at 20-17 before Creighton hit six free throws to pull away and extend the lead to 27-20 at the half.
Huff paced the Crusaders in scoring, but could only net eight points on the game, including two triples. Calum MacLeod (Wellington, New Zealand/Hutt Valley [Northeastern J.C.]) added seven points on 3-of-4 shooting, while Moussa Mbaye (Dakar, Senegal/Life Center [N.J.] Academy chipped in six of his own.
Nate Funk led all players with 22 points, hitting 8 out of 11 shot attempts, including 4-of-5 from behind the arc. 20 of Funk's 22 points came in the second half. Anthony Tolliver was the only other player to reach double figures, netting 11 points while also grabbing a game-best six rebounds.
19 Crusader turnovers turned into 23 points for Creighton (5-3), while the Bluejays committed just nine turnovers of their own. Creighton also hit 50% (25-of-50) of its shots from the field versus a 37.8% (17-of-45) clip for Valpo, and the two teams grabbed 26 rebounds apiece.
Valparaiso (3-7) returns to action tomorrow, December 22, as the Crusaders take on Charlotte in the consolation bracket. Opening tip is set for 5:30 p.m. Central time, and as always, all the action can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.