Valparaiso led Oakland Saturday evening in Rochester, Mich. 61-50 as the clock ticked under 10 minutes to play, but the Golden Grizzlies used five 3-pointers over the last six minutes to out-score the Crusaders 25-9 the rest of the way as Valpo suffered its first Horizon League loss of the year, 75-70.
Entering the second half with an 11-point lead at the break, the Crusaders saw that lead sliced to 46-42 with 15:52 to play as Oakland started the second half on a 9-2 run. But Valpo responded immediately, as sophomore Keith Carter (Maywood, Ill./Proviso East [Saint Louis]) drained a 3-pointer and freshman Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington) followed with a driving basket to push the lead back to nine points.
Two trips later, the Crusaders had a trio of inbounds play thanks to three Oakland fouls and capitalized on their third opportunity, as senior Lavonte Dority (Chicago, Ill./Foreman [USF]) knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner. After an Oakland miss, Carter came down and connected on his second triple of the half, giving the Crusaders their largest lead at 57-42 with 12:44 to go.
The Grizzlies snapped Valpo’s 11-0 run on their next possession courtesy of a 3-pointer from Mitch Baezinger, but despite Oakland getting its deficit back to single digits, Dority pushed the edge back to 61-50 with another triple at the 10:08 mark.
Valpo scored just one field goal over the next eight minutes, however, as the Grizzlies went on their big run to claim the lead. Dority hit a pair of free throws with 7:15 to play over four straight Oakland points, and Peters finished an off-balance drive with 6:28 to go to make it 65-57 Crusaders.
But Duke Mondy and Travis Bader hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions for the Grizzlies to make it a one-possession game, and Bader would give Oakland its first lead since early in the first half with a 3-pointer at the 3:32 mark. Two trips later, Mondy made another triple with 2:25 to play to put the Crusaders behind 70-66.
Valpo would not fold, as Carter drove inside for a layup with two minutes to go, and after a pair of misses at the foul line by Oakland, Peters hit a long jumper to tie things up at 70-all. Bader made his biggest shot of the night on the next trip, however, hitting a 27-footer with a hand in his face to give Oakland the lead for good. The Grizzlies added a pair of free throws for the final margin, as the Crusaders were unable to connect on a pair of 3-point attempts in the final 40 seconds.
The game was tight and high-scoring in the early going, as Oakland led 14-12 just six minutes in. The Crusaders held Oakland to just 19 points the remainder of the half while scoring 32 themselves to take a 44-33 lead into the locker room at the break. Freshman Lexus Williams (Chicago, Ill./Marist) hit three first-half 3-pointers, including two during a key run late in the half which pushed a three-point lead to 13 points, while Dority and senior Jordan Coleman (North Hollywood, Calif./Calabasas [Southwestern Ill. College/Hawai'i]) also scored in double figures in the first half as well.
Dority paced Valpo on Saturday, finishing with 20 points, including four 3-pointers, while also handing out five assists and committing just one turnover. The senior led five players in double figures, as Coleman and Peters ended the night with 12 points each, Williams scored 11 points and Carter chipped in 10 points. Fifth-year senior Moussa Gueye (Thies, Senegal/SEED Academy [Alabama/Lake Land (Ill.) College]) paced the Valpo effort on the glass with 11 rebounds and also blocked two shots, while junior Vashil Fernandez (Kingston, Jamaica/Princeton Day [Md.] Academy) tallied three blocks and freshman Jubril Adekoya (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) came up with four steals.
Oakland (6-11, 1-1 Horizon) won its first league home game behind a season-high 24 points from Mondy, who connected on all four of his 3-point attempts after entering the game just 8-of-29 from deep on the season. Bader finished with 20 points, including five 3-pointers, while Corey Petros contributed nine points and eight rebounds.
Valparaiso (9-8, 1-1 Horizon) returns to the ARC next Friday for a nationally-televised rematch of the 2013 Horizon League Championship against Wright State. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. on ESPNU, and as always, the game can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network. Links for the live audio and live stats will be available through ValpoAthletics.com.