The Valparaiso men’s basketball team came out on fire from the floor Wednesday evening at the ARC, hitting over 70% of its shots from the floor in the first half and controlling the game the rest of the way in handing Green Bay its first league loss, 75-60.
The Crusaders took advantage of Alec Brown being out injured for the Phoenix, driving inside time after time in the first half and scoring 24 points in the paint in the opening 20 minutes in jumping out to a 42-29 halftime lead. Valpo took the lead for good very early on, thanks to a 3-pointer by senior Lavonte Dority (Chicago, Ill./Foreman [USF]) less than two minutes into the game giving the Crusaders a 5-4 edge.
Dority would go on to score 14 points in the opening seven-plus minutes to propel Valpo to a significant lead. Back-to-back baskets by the senior made it 11-4 Crusaders less than four minutes in, and a 3-pointer at the 14:35 mark gave Valpo its first double-digit lead at 16-6. Two possessions later, Dority again made it back-to-back possessions with finishes at the rim for the Crusaders, the second giving the squad a 20-9 lead just 7:16 into the ballgame.
While Dority wouldn’t score again in the first half, the rest of the team picked up the slack, as the Crusaders shot 17-of-24 from the field in the opening 20 minutes. The lead dropped into single digits just once the remainder of the half, and reached as much as 17 points on a layup by freshman Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington) with 4:32 to go in the half. The advantage would end up at 13 points at the break.
Green Bay scored the first point of the second half on a free throw, but the Crusaders responded with a 14-0 run over a five-minute stretch to push their lead to its apex. Dority had six points during the run, while freshman Jubril Adekoya (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) scored a pair of baskets, Peters converted a tip-in and junior Vashil Fernandez (Kingston, Jamaica/Princeton Day [Md.] Academy) threw down a dunk as Valpo led 56-30 with 14:05 to play. The lead would not fall under the final margin the rest of the way.
Dority finished the night with 26 points, his fourth 20+ point effort in Valpo’s last five outings. The senior finished 9-of-12 from the field and was a perfect 6-of-6 from the foul line. Adekoya hit all five of his shots inside the arc and finished with 12 points as the only other Crusader in double figures. Peters added eight points and a team-high seven rebounds, while freshman Lexus Williams (Chicago, Ill./Marist) handed out a career-best eight assists. Valpo closed the game 27-of-46 (58.7%) from the floor, held a 38-28 advantage on the glass and blocked seven shots, including four from Fernandez.
Green Bay (17-4, 7-1 Horizon) received a team-best 19 points from Keifer Sykes, who also dished out six assists. Sykes was the only Phoenix player to finish in double figures, however. The Crusaders limited Green Bay to just 38.3% shooting (23-of-60) from the field, including just three 3-pointers.
Valparaiso (13-10, 5-3 Horizon) opens the second half of Horizon League play Saturday afternoon at UIC at 3 p.m. As always, the game can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network and seen live on the Horizon League Network. Links for the live audio and video, as well as live stats, will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.