In front of a record-tying crowd at the Athletics-Recreation Center, Valparaiso held the lead for a near four-minute stretch late in the first half and again gained the outright edge with 18:37 to play, but #19/18 Purdue eventually pulled away for a 76-58 victory over the Crusaders Tuesday evening.
The crowd of 5,432 fans matched the largest crowd in Crusader basketball history at the ARC, tying the standard set on Feb. 5, 2008 against Butler.
“The fans were very vibrant and energetic tonight, and it really helped motive us as a team to play in front of a crowd like this,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “It was truly a great atmosphere for a college basketball game.”
The Boilermakers drew first blood on Tuesday evening, jumping out to a quick 8-2 lead less than three minutes into the ballgame, but Valpo withstood the pressure and began making in-roads against the Purdue defense. A 3-pointer by Brandon Wood (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo [Highland C.C./Southern Illinois]) was followed by a steal from Matt Kenney (Mooresville, Ind./Mooresville), who converted the coast-to-coast layup to pull the Crusaders right back within one.
A layup by Kevin Van Wijk (Hoofddorp, Netherlands/Katholieke Scholengemeenschap Hoofddorp) tied the ballgame at nine apiece, but Purdue pulled back out to a 17-11 edge with 12:06 to go in the first half. Valpo again answered immediately on a mid-range jumper and then a fast-break 3-pointer, both by Wood off feeds from Howard Little (Chicago, Ill./Stoneridge [Calif.] School), to close back within one point.
The counter-punching continued, as Purdue was able to boost its lead back up to five points on a D.J. Byrd layup with 8:02 to play in the first half, making it 23-18 Boilermakers. But Valpo’s defense locked down, giving up just one point over the next 5+ minutes to give itself an opportunity to earn the lead.
Little started the run with a baseline jumper on a fast-break opportunity spearheaded by a defensive rebound and push by Erik Buggs (Memphis, Tenn,/Mitchell) to bring Valpo back within three. Two possessions later, Little picked off a JaJuan Johnson pass and finished with a fast-break flush that got the fans rocking, and two possessions later Kenney found Wood open for a 3-pointer that gave the Crusaders their first advantage of the game at 25-23
Johnson split a pair of free throws to stem the tide for the time being, cutting Valpo’s edge to 25-24 at the 4:29 mark. Neither team could score for the next 100 seconds, with Wood again canning a triple, this time off a feed from Jay Harris (Aurora, Ill./Oswego East), to cap an 18-point first half for the junior. The 3-pointer also closed off the 10-1 Valpo run over a span of 5:21. But Purdue scored the final six points of the half, including a 3-pointer by Ryne Smith and a Johnson layup, to take a 30-28 lead into the half.
“I thought Brandon really kept us in the game in the first half,” said Drew. “His teammates did a great job of finding him in good positions to shoot. But I thought Purdue’s 6-0 run right before the half was big to give them the lead back before halftime.”
On the first defensive trip of the final 20 minutes, Ryan Broekhoff (Frankston, Victoria, Australia/Australian Institute of Sport) came up with a steal and converted the fast-break layin to tie the game at 30-all. The two teams traded baskets on their next trips before E’Twaun Moore split a pair of free throws for the Boilermakers. But Valpo responded immediately, as Buggs found Little in the paint for a layup to give the Crusaders the 34-33 lead with 18:37 to play.
But that was the last time Valpo would lead, as Moore knocked down a trifecta of his own on Purdue’s next trip. The Boilermakers scored the next eight points in all to go ahead 41-34 with 16:38 remaining. The Crusaders cut the deficit down to 42-38 at the 14:30 mark on four straight points by Van Wijk, but Moore hit another 3-pointer to give the Boilermakers some breathing room. Moore’s triple sparked another 7-0 Purdue spurt which pushed the lead to 11 points, and Valpo could get no closer than nine the rest of the way.
“We played well at the start of the second half, but Purdue’s defense just kept creating runs for them,” said Drew. “You have to really compliment Purdue, because they do a great job just smothering you on the defensive end. I thought we also missed too many free throws, gave away too many chances for points at the line.”
Wood paced the Crusaders with 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 4-of-5 from behind the arc, but was held to just two second-half points. He was the only Valpo player to finish in double figures, as Broekhoff, Van Wijk and Cory Johnson (Duluth, Minn./Duluth East [Iowa State]) each contributed eight points. Wood also led the Crusaders with five rebounds, while four different Valpo players handed out three assists each. Broekhoff tallied a career-high four blocked shots.
Moore led Purdue (8-1) with 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting, as four Boilermakers ended the night in double figures. JaJuan Johnson posted 13 points and a game-high eight boards, while Kelsey Barlow added 13 points and Lewis Jackson 11. The Boilermakers shot 51.9% from the field and 50% from behind the arc versus 38.5% and 31.6% clips, respectively, from the Crusaders.
Valparaiso (6-3) returns to the court on Saturday, traveling to take on Toledo at 6 p.m. CST. All the action can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City) and online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have a link for live stats.