Newcomers Cory Johnson (Duluth, Minn./Duluth East
[Iowa State]) and Brandon Wood (Kokomo,
Ind./Kokomo [Highland C.C./Southern Illinois]) each surpassed 20 points Friday
evening in Valparaiso’s season opener, but it was not enough, as Ball State led
start-to-finish in an 88-78 victory over the Crusaders in Muncie, Ind.
Wood knocked down nine
shots from the field, including three triples, and was a perfect 4-for-4 from
the foul line en route to his game-high 25 points. Johnson was very efficient with his field
goal attempts, connecting on 9-for-14 from the floor for 21 points of his own.
“I thought you definitely
saw our youth at times tonight,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “I was really
pleased with our offense and thought Cory did a really good job battling
inside. The turning point, though, was
allowing Ball State to shoot 57%. Our defense has to get better, especially on
Ball State jumped out to a very quick start, going ahead
14-3 just 4:46 into the contest and getting eight early points from Brawley
Chisholm. The Cardinals extended their
lead to as many as 14 points at 21-7 8:05 into the game, at which point all
seven of Valpo’s points were courtesy of Johnson.
Ryan Broekhoff (Frankston, Victoria, Australia/Australian Institute of Sport) then
connected on a 3-pointer, however, to start the Crusaders’ crawl back into the
game. Valpo would out-score Ball State
in the final 11:55 of the first half by a 31-21 margin, thanks in large part to
17 points from Wood, who went 6-for-8 from the field during that stretch. The Crusaders closed the half with a big 7-2
spurt on a triple by Wood and two layups by Michael Rogers (Kingston, Jamaica/Redemption [N.Y.] Christian) to
cut the deficit to 42-38 at the break.
Ball State scored the
first four points of the second half, but Valpo immediately responded with a
pair of layups from Johnson which sandwiched a 3-pointer by Howard Little (Chicago, Ill./Stoneridge
[Calif.] School) to cut the lead down to 46-45 with 16:39 to play. The deficit remained at two possessions or
less for the better part of the next eight minutes, but Valpo could never forge
a tie or gain the lead.
Still trailing just 62-57
with under nine minutes to play, the Crusaders gave up a 11-2 run over the next
four minutes to Ball State, as the Cardinals
pulled out to a 14-point advantage.
Valpo scored the next five points to stop the BSU run and get the
deficit back to single digits, but the Crusaders would get no closer than eight
points the remainder of the game.
Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis,
Ind./Lawrence North) and Little
joined Wood and Johnson in double figures in the scoring column, registering 11
and ten points, respectively. McPherson
also handed out a game-high six assists, while freshman Tommy Kurth (Osceola,
Ind./Penn) dished out five
helpers as Valpo owned 18 assists and just nine turnovers on the evening. Johnson tied for game-high honors with nine
Ball State (1-0) placed six players in double figures in
scoring and shot at a 57.8% clip from the field on the evening. Jarrod Jones led the Cardinals with 19
points, while Malik Perry added 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Ball
State also held a 39-29 advantage
in the rebounding column over the Crusaders.
Valparaiso (0-1) returns to action Sunday when the
Crusaders travel to take on defending national champion #6/4 North Carolina. The game can be seen live at 3 p.m. CST on
Fox Sports South (DirecTV channel 646) and will be carried live on the Valpo
Sports Radio Network (WEFM [95.9 FM, Michigan City]
and WAKE [1500 AM, Valparaiso]). Live audio can also be found online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also
have a link for live stats.