After having a 13-point halftime lead cut to as few as four points, Valparaiso erupted with four 3-pointers in a five-possession span in the second half to put the game away, eventually defeating Ball State Saturday night at the Athletics-Recreation Center, 71-58. The victory was the tenth straight win by the Crusaders at the ARC.
“I thought we really did a good job tonight getting ourselves open shots,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “In crucial stretches of the game in both the first and second half, we took the time to make the extra pass and find the open man, and it paid off for us.”
The Crusaders led the entire game, up five points just over six minutes into the game before going on their first big run. Shawn Huff (Helsinki, Finland/Makelanrinne) knocked down 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions, getting two assists from Jake Diebler (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) and one from Jarryd Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West), extending the lead to 12 points.
After a Ball State basket, it was freshman Michael Rogers’ (Kingston, Jamaica/Redemption [N.Y.] Christian) turn to knock down a trifecta, his first career basket from beyond the arc. Two possessions later, Huff received a perfectly-timed alley-oop from Howard Little (Chicago, Ill./Stoneridge [Calif.] School) to cap a 14-4 Valpo run and put the Crusaders up 25-10 halfway through the opening period. The lead would stay at double digits throughout the remainder of the first half, and Valpo went into the locker room ahead by a 34-21 count.
The Cardinals came out on fire at the beginning of the second half, knocking down five of their first seven shots during a 12-3 spurt that cut the Crusader advantage to 37-33 with 15:23 to play. A quick 8-0 run, including 3-pointers from Huff and Samuel Haanpää (Kerava, Finland/Cornerstone [Texas] Christian), pushed Valpo’s lead back to 45-33, but Ball State scored the next six points to make it a 45-39 game with 11:04 to play.
But then the Crusader barrage from behind the arc ensued. Haanpää hit a triple, and two possessions later, following a Cardinal bucket, it was Huff’s turn to knock down his fifth 3-pointer of the game. Next time down the court, Huff passed off to Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) for the trifecta, and Diebler capped off the 12-2 run with a 3-pointer of his own to extend the lead to 57-41 with 8:18 left to play, putting the game out of reach.
“Our shooters really did a good job of utilizing their open looks tonight,” said Drew. “Shawn really shot the ball well, as he has the past few games, and Sam recovered nicely from a slow start, getting himself back in rhythm.”
For the second straight game, Huff led the Crusaders in scoring, putting up 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 5-of-7 from behind the arc. Haanpää added 15 points, hitting five of his 11 attempts from downtown, while Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) rounded out the Crusaders in double figures with 13 points. Igbavboa also paced all players with nine rebounds, while Diebler dished out a game-high five assists.
Melvin Goins, Rashaun McLemore and Malik Perry all scored 12 points for Ball State (0-6). Perry also grabbed nine rebounds, while Peyton Stovall scored eight points and pulled down seven boards.
Valparaiso (6-1) commences its first season of Horizon League play on Thursday when the Crusaders travel to 2007 league champion Wright State to take on the Raiders. Tipoff is set for 6 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 on the Horizon League Network at www.horizonleaguenetwork.tv.