Valparaiso trailed the entire game as the Crusaders fell to Troy Saturday afternoon in Statesboro, Ga. in Legends Classic action, 80-64.
“Troy starts five seniors, four from last year’s team and a 6’9” transfer from Alabama,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “They have been picked by a number of publications to represent their league in the NCAA Tournament, and they really played with experience today against our nine freshmen and sophomores.”
Troy scored the first nine points of the game in a span of 2:19 and extended its advantage to 23-8 just eight minutes into the contest. The lead remained double figures for most of the remainder of the first half before the Crusaders put together a quick 6-0 spurt on a Brandon Wood (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo [Highland C.C./Southern Illinois]) layup, a 3-pointer by Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) and a free throw from Cory Johnson (Duluth, Minn./Duluth East [Iowa State]) to close to within 33-25 with 2:58 remaining in the opening stanza.
The Trojans extended their lead back out to 11 points before Wood knocked down a triple on a feed from McPherson with eight seconds to play in the half. But Troy’s Richard Delk answered with a 3-pointer of his own with two seconds remaining in the opening period to put the Crusaders down 39-28 at the break.
“We played a number of people a lot of minutes today after we got behind early,” said Drew. “Tommy Kurth (Osceola, Ind./Penn) came in and really was the glue that held us together when we made the run to get us down to an eight-point deficit. Then he caught an elbow late in the first half and got hurt, which really changed the complexion of the game for us. With Tommy down to go along with Mike and Howard playing limited minutes as they recover from injuries, it just left us shorthanded.”
Troy pushed the lead up to 17 points early in the second half, but a mini-run by the Crusaders that included a 3-pointer from Matt Kenney (Mooresville, Ind./Mooresville) and a jumper in the lane by Cameron Witt (Launceston, Tasmania, Australia/Launceston) cut the lead back down to 12 points with 15:33 to play. Troy answered immediately with nine straight points, and Valpo was unable to get any closer than the final margin the rest of the way.
Wood led the way for Valpo with 19 points, while Kenney scored a career-high 11 points and Johnson added 11 points as well. Johnson also tied for game-high honors with eight rebounds, while Erik Buggs (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell) dished out four assists off the bench.
“Tommy gave us a great spurt in the first half, and then I was really pleased with Erik in the second half, giving us good energy and good defensive effort,” said Drew. “He really helped us try to fight back in that second half, as well as Matt, who also played well today.”
Troy (4-2) placed four starters in double figures in the scoring column, as Antywan Jones and Delk led the way with 14 points apiece. Michael Vogler handed out eight assists to lead all players, as the Trojans connected at a 50.9% (28-of-55) clip from the floor and 81.0% (17-of-21) from the foul line.
Valparaiso (2-4) concludes play at the Legends Classic subregional in Statesboro on Sunday afternoon, facing Arkansas-Fort Smith at noon CST. As always, all the action can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WEFM [95.9 FM, Michigan City], WAKE [1500 AM, Valparaiso], WLPR [89.1 FM, Lowell]), with links for live audio and live statistics available at www.valpoathletics.com.