The Valparaiso men’s basketball team sliced a 23-point deficit early in the second half down to seven points on two occasions, but could get no closer as East Tennessee State earned a 73-62 victory over the Crusaders Sunday evening in Johnson City, Tenn.
Coming out of the locker room trailing 42-21, the Crusaders started the second half with a lineup of LaVonte Dority (Chicago, Ill./Foreman [USF]), Lexus Williams (Chicago, Ill./Marist), Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington), David Chadwick (Charlotte, N.C./Hargrave Military Academy [Rice]) and Vashil Fernandez (Kingston, Jamaica/Princeton Day [Md.] Academy). The quintet would surrender the first two points of the half on a pair of free throws just over a minute in before putting together a run.
The spurt started with a dunk by Fernandez off a feed from Williams. Two possessions later, the freshman point guard nailed a 3-pointer and followed the next possession with a driving layup to cut the deficit to 44-28, forcing an ETSU timeout.
The stoppage scarcely slowed down the Valpo run, as out of the timeout, Chadwick came up with a steal and Dority finished the ensuing possession with a basket at the rim, followed by a Chadwick turnaround jumper to make it 44-32. Two possessions later, Peters tallied a steal and hit Dority on the break, who completed an old-fashioned 3-point play to cut the margin to single digits at 44-35 with 13:19 to play, closing out a 14-0 run.
The Buccaneers scored on each of their next three possessions to push the lead back to 13 points, but Peters drained a triple to keep Valpo in the game and Williams found Fernandez for another inside basket. Following an ETSU 3-pointer, the Crusaders drew fouls on each of their next two trips, with Dority and Peters both converting their pairs of free throws to bring the Crusaders within 54-47 with 8:48 to go.
The lead would hover between nine and 11 points for the next few minutes before a layup by Jubril Adekoya (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) made it 60-53 with 5:17 to play. ETSU scored the next seven points over a span of 3:30 to stretch the lead back out to 14 points, however, and the Crusaders were unable to move any closer than the final margin in the endgame.
Valpo scored on each of its first two offensive trips on Sunday on layups from Dority and Adekoya, but would then go without a field goal for more than seven minutes. ETSU would lead by double figures at the first time at the 10:00 mark, going ahead 18-8. The Bucs’ Jalen Riley scored eight straight points over a span of just 1:14 to give ETSU a 29-12 lead, and after Dority drained a 3-pointer to make it 29-18 with 4:15 to go in the half, ETSU closed the first half on a 13-3 run.
Dority led the Crusaders with 14 points, but was just 1-of-6 from deep as Valpo shot just 4-of-19 (21.1%) as a team from downtown. Peters scored 13 points and came up one board shy of a double-double with nine rebounds.
Meanwhile, Fernandez posted his second career double-double, finishing with 10 points, a career-high 14 rebounds and three blocked shots. The junior played the entire second half and posted 10 points and nine rebounds in the second half alone. The efforts of Fernandez and Peters led Valpo to a 45-28 edge on the glass over the Bucs. Williams tied for game-high honors with five assists.
Riley led East Tennessee State (7-6) with 19 points off the bench, while Rashawn Rembert added 16 points. ETSU shot 47.6% (10-of-21) from beyond the 3-point line and scored 27 points off 24 Crusader turnovers, tallying 14 steals, led by five from A.J. Merriweather.
Valparaiso (8-7) opens Horizon League play after the calendar turns to 2014, hosting UIC at the ARC at 7:05 p.m. Thursday evening, January 2. The game can be seen live exclusively on ESPN3.com, and as always, can be heard on the Valpo Sports Radio Network. Links for the live video and audio, as well as live stats, will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.