Leading by just four points at halftime, Valparaiso scored the first 13 points coming out of the break and never looked back, downing Indiana Wesleyan Wednesday night at the ARC, 93-46. The Crusaders extended their home winning streak to 13 games with the victory.
The Wildcats, an NAIA Division II squad guided by former Crusader player and coach Greg Tonagel, hung with Valpo through the first half. The Crusaders jumped out to an early 11-4 lead, but IWU scored 10 of the next 14 points to cut the deficit to one point just over six minutes into the contest. Valpo would not lead by more than six points the rest of the half, and the Wildcats tied the score on four occasions in the opening 20 minutes. A layup by Zach Coverstone with less than 30 seconds left in the half cut Valpo’s advantage to 35-31 at the break.
But Valparaiso stepped up the intensity in the second half on both ends of the court. The Crusaders kept up their torrid shooting from the field, nailing 19-of-31 (61.3%) of their field goal attempts and 8-of-12 (66.7%) of their 3-point attempts to finish the game at 60.4% and 60.0%, respectively. They also stepped up at the charity stripe, knocking down 12-of-14 (85.7%) free throws over the final 20 minutes. Defensively, Valpo held Indiana Wesleyan to just seven second-half field goals, as the Wildcats went 0-of-16 from behind the arc in the second stanza.
“I was really proud of the way the team stepped up in the second half,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “The players really took it upon themselves to increase their level of play on both ends of the floor, and I thought we especially did a very good job on the defensive end, holding [Indiana Wesleyan] to just 15 points in the second half.”
Freshman Bryan Bouchie (Washington, Ind./Washington) keyed the Crusaders’ early spurt in the second half, scoring eight of their points in the opening 13-0 run. Bouchie closed the game with 12 points and matched a career-best with nine rebounds. Senior guard Jarryd Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) finished the game with a team-high 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting and tied his career-high with nine assists, six of which came in the second half, against just one turnover.
Three other Crusaders also reached double figures in the scoring column. Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) posted 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting and added seven rebounds, while Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) hit five of his six shots on his way to 13 points in just 18 minutes. Freshman Howard Little (Chicago, Ill./Stoneridge [Calif.] School) set a new career high with 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting and also pulled down five boards.
“At the start of the second half, we were looking for guys who were playing at the energy level we were looking for,” said Drew. “So we made the decision to start Bryan, Jarryd and Howard in the second half, and all three of them, along with Shawn and Sam, did a fantastic job getting us out to a great start.”
Indiana Wesleyan was led by 15 points and seven rebounds from Coverstone. Antonio Murrell also finished in double figures for the Wildcats, posting each of his 15 points in the opening half.
Valparaiso (11-3) resumes Horizon League action on Saturday afternoon as the Crusaders travel to Indianapolis to take on #16/17 Butler. Valpo will be looking for its third straight road win at the start of the league slate. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. CST, 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.