Valparaiso led for a good portion of the first half Sunday afternoon at #10/15 Purdue and trailed by just two at halftime, but the Boilermakers connected on four of their first five 3-point attempts in the second stanza and the Crusaders got no closer than six the rest of the way, dropping a 59-45 decision.
“I was really proud of our effort and defensive intensity today,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “It’s a great accomplishment to hold Purdue to just 59 points [its lowest scoring output of the season]. You have to get credit to Purdue and their defense, though. They not only make it tough to get good shots, but also make it tough to even just pass the ball and get into an offense.”
An early three-point play by Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) propelled the Crusaders to the lead for better than seven minutes, as both teams struggled from the field in the early stages of the first half. Twice midway through the stanza, Purdue gained the lead, first at 7-6 and then again at 12-10, but both times Jake Diebler (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) drilled 3-pointers to swing the score back in Valpo’s favor.
The Boilermakers would regain the advantage on back-to-back threes by Keaton Grant and E’Twaun Moore and pulled ahead by three at 21-18 with 4:54 to play in the half on a Robbie Hummel basket. Out of a timeout following Hummel’s bucket, sophomore Howard Little (Chicago, Ill./Stoneridge [Calif.] School) responded, hitting a basket, grabbing a defensive rebound, and then converting an old-fashioned 3-point play to put Valpo up 23-21.
Purdue utilized the trifecta to take the lead back, getting two in a row by Bobby Riddell to push the advantage to 27-23. But Valpo held the Boilermakers scoreless over the final 2:15 of the half, and an Erik Buggs (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell) floater made it a 27-25 game at the break in favor of Purdue.
The Boilermakers heated up from behind the arc at the start of the second half, as Moore’s fourth triple of the game pushed their advantage to 41-31. Valpo’s defense locked Purdue down for the next three minutes, however, as the Boilermakers missed six straight shots and the Crusaders clawed back to within six points on baskets by Diebler and Michael Rogers (Kingston, Jamaica/Redemption [N.Y.] Christian), the latter making it a 41-35 game at the under-12 media timeout.
Purdue put the game away out of the media break, though, getting a triple by Hummel right out of the timeout to push the lead back up to nine points. Hummel’s 3-pointer sparked a 12-3 Boilermaker spurt spanning seven minutes, and when Moore knocked down a pair of free throws with 4:37 remaining, the Purdue lead was up to 53-38.
Diebler and Igbavboa tied for team-high scoring honors on the game with 13 points apiece. Diebler connected on three of Valpo’s four triples for the contest, while Igbavboa paced the Crusaders with three assists as well. Little pitched in eight points and also pulled down a team-high ten rebounds, his second double-figure rebounding output of the season.
Moore led all players with 14 points, while JaJuan Johnson added ten points for Purdue (11-2). Hummel, the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year, was held to just nine points on 4-of-14 shooting by the Crusader defense, but grabbed a game-best 11 caroms.
Valparaiso (3-9) returns to the ARC on Tuesday, Dec. 30 as the Crusaders host Division III opponent North Park. Tipoff is slated for 7:05 p.m., and as always, all the action can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WWLO, 89.1 FM, Lowell) and online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have links for live stats and video.