Valparaiso fought all the way back from a 17-point halftime deficit to tie Friday’s game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind. with 12 minutes to play, but IUPUI went on a 17-4 run shortly thereafter and took advantage of 41 free throw makes as the Crusaders fell by a final score of 97-88.
The Crusaders went into the locker room trailing at halftime by a 43-26 score thanks in large part to an IUPUI squad which seemingly couldn’t miss in the first half. The Jaguars shot 15-of-24 in the first half, including three 3-pointers and 10 more baskets from outside the paint, while Valpo struggled from the field in the opening 20 minutes, hitting no 3-pointers in a 9-of-28 half from the floor. IUPUI pushed its lead into double digits less than five minutes into the game and the Crusaders would get no closer than seven points the rest of the opening period.
But Valpo came out in the second half with a renewed energy, quickly chopping down the Jaguars’ entire lead. Junior Kevin Van Wijk (Hoofddorp, Netherlands/Katholieke Scholengemeenschap Hoofddorp) had three inside baskets in the first 90 seconds of the period to get the run started, and a 3-pointer by redshirt junior Will Bogan (Boise, Idaho/Vallivue [Ole Miss]) cut IUPUI’s lead to just 44-36 with 17:45 to play.
After the teams traded a pair of scoring possessions apiece, junior Richie Edwards (Lakeland, Fla./Lakeland [Hillsborough C.C.]) nailed a 3-pointer with 15:07 to go to cut the lead to six points. IUPUI would knock down a pair of free throws on its next two trips, but redshirt junior Erik Buggs (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell) drove for a layup and Bogan hit another triple to respond and move to within five points.
Two trips later, following another Jaguar free throw, Bogan hit another triple to make it a one-possession game for the first time since the score was 4-2. An IUPUI miss from behind the arc was then rebounded by junior Matt Kenney (Mooresville, Ind./Mooresville), who ran the ball up and found Bogan for yet another 3-pointer to tie the game at 54-54 with 12:03 to go and cap a 28-11 stretch over the first eight minutes of the second half.
But despite tying the score and knotting it again briefly at 56 apiece, Valpo was unable to gain the lead outright at any point. The Crusaders were still within three points (63-60) with 9:46 to play on an inside basket by Van Wijk, but IUPUI went on a 17-4 run over the next five minutes, including 12 points from the free throw line, to extend the lead back out to 16 points. Valpo kept fighting until the end, getting the deficit back down to single digits on an Edwards putback with 1:07 left and getting within seven on a layup by sophomore Jay Harris (Aurora, Ill./Oswego East) with 30 seconds to play, but it would get no closer.
“We exerted so much energy over those first few minutes of the second half,” said Crusader head coach Bryce Drew. “We played near-perfect basketball to get back into the game, and unfortunately we just didn’t have enough to get over that second hill and take the lead.”
Van Wijk led the Crusaders on Friday with 19 points in just 21 minutes of play, hitting 7-of-11 from the floor. Bogan added 15 points, including his four makes from beyond the arc. Edwards and Harris each contributed 14 points off the bench as well, the former also leading the Crusaders with seven rebounds. Kenney tallied game-high totals of six assists and four steals. Valpo rebounded to shoot 53.8% from the floor, including 72.7% from behind the arc, and hit 12 free throws in the final 20 minutes for a 62-point second half.
“Will did a great job getting hot and getting himself into good shooting position to take advantage and hit those three 3’s in a row to tie the game,” said Drew. “Richie came in off the bench and gave us some good minutes, hitting shots we needed him to hit and really rebounding well.”
Alex Young led IUPUI (6-8) with 27 points, including 9-of-11 from the free throw line, and six assists in the winning effort. Stephen Thomas scored 20 points, including a perfect 14-of-14 from the charity stripe, and Ian Chiles chipped in 18 points, including 8-of-10 from the line. IUPUI ended the night 41-of-48 (85.4%) from the foul line.
Valparaiso (8-5) returns home after Christmas to open the bulk of the Horizon League schedule with a pair of home games at the ARC. First up is Milwaukee on Thursday, Dec. 29 at 7:05 p.m., and as always, all of the action can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network and seen online on the Horizon League Network. Links to both the audio and video webcasts, as well as live stats and the Valpo Gameday page, will be available at www.valpoathletics.com.