Valparaiso was unable to capture a victory in its final non-league game of the regular season, falling to Bowling Green State University 87-70 Saturday afternoon in Bowling Green, Ohio. Fifth-year senior Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) matched the Crusader career record for games played with his 127th career game, tying Raitis Grafs.
“You have to compliment Bowling Green, they came out ready to play and jumped on us from the beginning,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “They were the more aggressive team. Their size ended up a major difference in the game as well, with them scoring 52 points in the paint.”
Bowling Green scored the first nine points of the game to put the Crusaders in a quick 9-0 hole just 3:01 into the ballgame. A pair of Milos Milosevic (Bar, Montenegro/Oakmont [Calif.] H.S. [Yuba College]) free throws put Valpo on the board, and short-range baskets by Howard Little (Chicago, Ill./Stoneridge [Calif.] School) and Ryan Broekhoff (Frankston, Victoria, Australia/Australian Institute of Sport) kept the Crusaders within five points at 11-6 with 13:51 to go in the opening half.
But the Falcons rolled off a 14-2 run over the next 4:25 to push their lead up to 17 points at 25-8 midway through the opening stanza. A 7-2 spurt later in the half by the Crusaders got them to within 37-22 with just over three minutes to play in the half, but Bowling Green went on a 12-2 run heading into halftime with a 49-24 edge.
A 9-2 spurt out of the locker room brought Valpo to within 18 points with 17:49 to play, but BGSU quickly pushed its lead back up into the 20s, where it remained for the better part of the next nine minutes. Trailing by 21 with 8:08 to play, the Crusaders put together a 14-4 run over the next 3:30, capped by back-to-back 3-pointers from Broekhoff and Little, to close to 72-61 with 4:38 to go, but the Falcons scored the next six points to hold off the Valpo comeback.
Five Crusaders finished the game in double figures, paced by 16 points from McPherson, who also dished out a game-high seven assists. Little scored 11 points to go along with a team-best six rebounds and four assists, while Matt Kenney (Mooresville, Ind./Mooresville) added 11 points as well, his third straight game in double figures. Cory Johnson (Duluth, Minn./Duluth East [Iowa State]) and Brandon Wood (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo [Highland C.C./Southern Illinois]) chipped in ten points each.
Valpo shot at a 46.4% (26-of-56) clip from the field for the game, but was just 6-of-20 (30%) from behind the arc. The Crusaders also coughed up the ball 18 times, 13 of which came in the first half and led to 21 points off turnovers in the opening 20 minutes by the Falcons.
“We just turned the ball over way too many times, especially in the first half,” said Drew. “13 turnovers in a half for us led to 21 points for Bowling Green, and that is just unacceptable. A lot of them were just uncharacteristic, careless turnovers too; fumbling the ball away or just making bad decisions with the basketball.”
Bowling Green (14-12) had all five starters score at least 11 points, led by 20 points by Dee Brown. Joe Jakubowski added 19 points as well, as the Falcons shot 54.5% (30-of-55) from the floor and 24-of-28 (85.7%) from the free throw line.
Valparaiso (15-15) closes out regular season play at the Athletics-Recreation Center on Friday evening live in front of a nationwide audience on ESPNU as the Crusaders host #18/13 Butler in the Horizon League finale for both teams. Tip time is set for 8 p.m., and if you can’t make it to the game or catch it on TV, as always, it will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WLPR, 89.1 FM, Lowell). Valpo’s athletic website, www.valpoathletics.com, will have links for live audio and statistics as well.