Valparaiso erased a 16-point second-half deficit to take the lead for the first time with 2:49 to play, but could not come out with the victory, as Ohio earned the 76-72 win Sunday afternoon in Athens, Ohio.
Trailing by 12 at the half, the Crusaders went on an 8-0 run over the opening three-plus minutes of the second period, as LaVonte Dority (Chicago, Ill./Foreman [USF]) converted a pair of drives while being fouled, scoring five points, and Moussa Gueye (Thies, Senegal/SEED Academy [Alabama/Lake Land (Ill.) College]) added an and-one on a two-handed slam as Valpo closed to within 40-36. But an 8-0 spurt a couple minutes later would push the Bobcats’ lead back into double figures.
The lead hovered around the 10-point mark for the next few minutes until a push from Ohio, capped by a fast-break layup from Stevie Taylor, gave it a 62-46 advantage with 9:49 to play. But Valpo started a run on the backs of a pair of freshmen to get back into the game.
Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington) started things off with a triple to immediately answer Taylor’s basket, and following an Ohio miss, Clay Yeo (Bourbon, Ind./Triton) went all the way to the rack for a layup. The Crusaders forced another miss, and Peters hit the glass on the offensive end, rebounding a Valpo miss and putting it back up and in to cap a quick seven-point spurt which made it 62-53 with 8:31 to go.
Ohio would score on each of its next three possessions, but Yeo knocked down a 3-pointer and then took a long outlet pass from Bobby Capobianco (Loveland, Ohio/Loveland [Indiana]) and finished on the break as the Crusaders remained within 10. The score remained stuck on 68-58 for over two minutes before Jordan Coleman (North Hollywood, Calif./Calabasas [Southwestern Ill. College/Hawai'i]) connected on a pair of free throws with 4:55 to go.
Coleman’s makes from the foul line started a stretch of seven straight possessions on which the Crusaders scored, encompassing a 14-2 run. A second chance on their next trip would lead to a Dority triple, and Peters would score three points over Valpo’s next two chances to bring it within 69-66 with 3:33 remaining. The defense forced a miss and Dority got fouled on the other end, knocking down both free throws to make it a one-point game.
Peters then came up with his second tip and steal in a three-possession span, again starting a fast break and finishing at the rim, this one giving Valpo its first lead of the game at 70-69 with 2:49 to go. Ohio split a pair of free throws on its next trip before Coleman knocked down two more from the foul line, pushing the lead to 72-70 with 2:18 to play.
But those would be the last points Valpo would put up, as the Crusaders went 0-for-5 from the field down the stretch, many of them clean, open looks. Ricardo Johnson gave the Bobcats the lead at 73-72 with 1:31 to go from the foul line, and Nick Kellogg hit two more to make it a three-point game with 24 seconds to play. The Crusaders couldn’t convert on a drive to the basket on the ensuing possession, and after the rebound went out of bounds to Valpo, a 3-point look from the corner was off the mark as well.
Ohio broke the game open early, going on a 20-8 run over the opening five minutes as the Bobcats were 8-of-9 from the field in the early going. The Crusaders got to within five points at 28-23 with 4:56 to go in the half, but Ohio scored 12 of the next 15 points and eventually went into halftime with a 40-28 advantage.
Dority led Valpo with 20 points on Sunday, while Peters scored 16 and Coleman 11. Peters also pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds for his first career double-double, and Coleman added seven rebounds as well as Valpo out-rebounded Ohio 43-33. The Crusaders scored 18 second-chance points off 16 offensive rebounds, but committed 19 turnovers which the Bobcats turned into 25 points. Valpo also was solid from the foul line, hitting 26-of-32 (81.3%).
Maurice Ndour paced Ohio (2-1) with a game-high 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting. Kellogg backed him up with 16 points as four Bobcats in all ended up in double figures.
Valparaiso (2-2) returns to action Wednesday evening at 8 p.m. at Evansville. The game can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with links for live stats and audio available at ValpoAthletics.com.