Valparaiso was tied with Horizon League rival #16/17 Butler Saturday afternoon in Indianapolis, Ind. at 31 at halftime and trailed by just one point with 11:36 to play, but the Bulldogs put together a critical 18-6 run to gain a decisive edge and go on to win by a 73-65 count.
The Crusaders jumped out on top quickly, scoring 10 of the game’s first 14 points and earning a 15-6 edge 7:21 into the ballgame. Butler scored seven consecutive points to cut the lead down to two points, but Valpo responded to push the lead back up to nine at 24-15 with 7:40 to play in the half.
Butler’s Willie Veasley put the Bulldogs on his back, scoring eight points over the next 6:10 to spark a 16-5 run, capped by a Mike Green 3-pointer, that give them their first lead of the game at 31-29. Jarryd Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) hit a driving layup on Valpo’s next possession to tie the game at 31, where it would remain heading into the break.
The first eight minutes of the second half were closely contested as well, as Valpo gained an early three-point edge before Butler came back to take a four-point lead. Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) scored Valpo’s next three points to cut the Bulldog advantage to 40-39 with 11:36 remaining in the game before Butler went on its big run, buoyed by nine points from Green, to gain a 13-point lead with 5:30 left.
The Crusaders were not finished, however, as Loyd hit layups on each of Valpo’s next three possessions to bring the game back to within 58-51. Butler pushed the lead back up to 12 points with 2:29 to play, but the Crusaders scored on each of their next four possessions to slice the margin to five points. But the Bulldogs would not let Valpo get any closer, hitting 7-of-8 free throws in the game’s final minute to secure the victory.
“I was very happy with our play defensively today, holding Butler to just 19 field goals,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “Every game in the Horizon League is a hard-fought one, especially on the road, and to win these games, we need to work on cutting down our turnovers and improving our free throw shooting (58.8%; 10-of-17).”
Loyd led the Crusaders in scoring off the bench for the third straight game, hitting 7-of-12 shots from the field for 15 points. McPherson, Jake Diebler (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) and Samuel Haanpää (Kerava, Finland/Cornerstone [Texas] Christian) each added 10 points. Haanpää added a team-best eight rebounds, while Loyd dished out five assists.
Green led all players with 24 points, knocking down 11 of his 14 attempts from the charity stripe. Green’s success at the free throw line mirrored the Bulldogs as a team, who knocked down 28-of-33 (84.8%) foul shots. Matt Howard chipped in 12 points for Butler (13-1, 2-1 Horizon), while Pete Campbell ended the game with 10 off the bench.
Valparaiso (11-4, 2-1 Horizon) continues league play at the ARC next Thursday as the Crusaders host Milwaukee. Tipoff is set for 7:05 p.m., and 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; WWLO, 89.1 FM, Lowell) or online at www.valpo.edu/athletics. The game can also be seen online through the Horizon League Network.