Valparaiso held Detroit scoreless for a near-ten minute stretch in the first half and allowed the Titans to hit just 14 field goals for the game en route to an easy 64-41 victory in Horizon League play on Thursday. Senior forward Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan) scored his 1,000th career point with 13:32 to play, making him the 28th player in Crusader basketball history to reach the milestone.
Senior guard Jake Diebler (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) got the Crusader offense going in the first half while the defense was shutting Detroit down, scoring all of his game-high 15 points in the opening stanza. Igbavboa, who was held scoreless in the first half, picked up the slack in the second period, going for 14 points over the final 20 minutes.
Diebler was doing it all in the early going, hitting a 3-pointer and a layup on back-to-back trips offensively while picking up a pair of steals on the defensive end in a quick 5-0 spurt. Detroit would score the next four points to go ahead 9-6 with 14:40 remaining in the period, but the drought started there for the Titans.
While the Crusader defense was busy holding Detroit to 0-for-9 shooting and four turnovers over the next ten minutes, the offense was going through Benjamin Fumey (Bremen, Germany/Freie Hansestadt), who picked up six straight points for Valpo to put the Crusaders ahead 12-9. Diebler connected on a pair of technical free throws and followed with a triple on the ensuing possession, and when Howard Little (Chicago, Ill./Stoneridge [Calif.] School) hit a free throw of his own, Valpo found itself up 18-9.
Nemanja Jokic finally made a layup to break Detroit’s drought, and the Titans got a 3-pointer from Ryan Janer two possessions later to cut the Crusader edge to 18-14. But Valpo fired off a 13-2 run over the final 3:30 of the half, keyed by five points from Diebler and three apiece by De’Andre Haskins (Long Beach, Calif./La Lumiere [Ind.] School) and Erik Buggs (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell) to take a 31-16 lead into the break.
“Jake hitting his 3-pointers really helped get us out to a good start tonight,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “Then on defense, we really did a good job maintaining intensity and switching defenses to keep Detroit off-balance. The players really deserve a lot of credit for the way we ended the half, they did a good job staying focused to close out the half.”
The Crusaders would not let up coming out of the break, going on a 9-2 spurt in the opening three minutes of the second half to push the lead above 20 points for good. Igbavboa got it started with a fast break dunk off a feed from Logan Jones (Madison, Ind./Madison). The senior also connected on all four of his free throws during the run. Jones closed out the spurt with a 3-pointer with 17:10 to play, making it 40-18 Valpo.
With the outcome in store, the only question was when Igbavboa would reach the 1,000 point milestone for his career, and the senior got it done with a shot from in close with 13:32 to play. With his 14 points on the night, Igbavboa now has 1,006 career points, just 80 points outside of Valpo’s all-time top-20 in the category.
“It’s an honor for Urule to join the 1,000 point club here at Valpo,” said Drew. “It’s really a testament to the amount of hard work he has put into his game.”
Fumey added ten points off the bench to join Diebler and Igbavboa as Crusaders scoring in double figures. The sophomore also ripped down a game-best seven rebounds, matching his career high in the category. As a team, Valpo held a 34-29 rebounding advantage and pulled down 16 of its caroms on the offensive end.
Jokic and Thomas Kennedy led Detroit (4-10, 0-5 Horizon) with nine points apiece. Michael Harrington came off the bench to grab a team-best six rebounds. The Titans shot just 36.8% for the game, including just 18.2% from behind the arc, and were forced into 19 turnovers, which the Crusaders converted into 23 points.
Valparaiso (5-11, 2-3 Horizon) returns to the ARC on Saturday to host Wright State at 7:05 p.m. 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. Live video and statistics will also be available through the official Crusader website. The game will also be broadcast on Lakeshore Public Television and will be available on ESPN Full Court.