The Valparaiso men’s basketball team erased a double-figure first-half deficit Thursday night in Green Bay, Wis., but were unable to rally from a similar deficit early in the second half, as Green Bay downed the Crusaders by a 67-53 final. The Crusaders surpassed the program single-season blocked shots record early in the second half.
The Crusaders started out ice-cold offensively on Thursday, hitting just one of their first 11 field goal attempts while also committing seven turnovers during that stretch. The opening drought allowed Green Bay to jump out to a 10-point lead just 6:37 into the game, and a pair of free throws from Jubril Adekoya (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) still only cut the Phoenix lead to 13-4.
But once the first half passed the halfway mark, the switch flipped for the Valpo offense, as the Crusaders scored on five straight trips to rally and take the lead. The run started on a mid-range jumper by freshman Lexus Williams (Chicago, Ill./Marist), followed by a steal and fast-break layup from Adekoya which forced a Green Bay timeout with its lead cut to 13-8.
Out of the stoppage, the Crusaders got another defensive stop, and on the offensive end, fifth-year senior Bobby Capobianco (Loveland, Ohio/Loveland [Indiana]) was there for a putback off a blocked shot to slice the lead to three points. Alec Brown would temporarily make it a five-point game again with a basket for Green Bay, but senior Lavonte Dority (Chicago, Ill./Marist [USF]) connected on a 3-pointer off an inbounds play and Williams stepped into a triple of his own on Valpo’s next trip, capping a 14-2 run which put the Crusaders ahead 16-15 with 7:55 left in the half.
Green Bay would hold the lead for much of the rest of the first half, but the Crusaders never let the Phoenix push it past a one-possession game. A 3-pointer by Dority with 48 seconds to play in the period tied things up at 27 apiece, but Green Bay’s Alfonzo McKinnie connected on his own 3-pointer on the Phoenix’s final possession to put the Crusaders behind 30-27 at halftime.
Adekoya drilled a 3-pointer to come out of the halftime break for Valpo, quickly tying the game at 30-30, but the Phoenix scored on each of its first five possessions of the second half. Combined, it was a 12-0 Green Bay run which gave it a 42-30 lead just 3:27 into the second half.
As they did in the first half, the Crusaders rallied however. Out of a timeout, senior Jordan Coleman (N. Hollywood, Calif./Calabasas [Southwestern Ill. College/Hawai’i]) drove inside for a layup and then tipped in a Valpo miss on the next offensive trip. After a Phoenix turnover, freshman Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington) nailed a 3-pointer to cap the quick 7-0 spurt by the Crusaders.
Green Bay got a second-chance basket from McKinnie on its next possession to briefly make it a seven-point game again, but Valpo answered by getting the ball inside, where fifth-year senior Moussa Gueye (Thies, Senegal/SEEDS Academy [Alabama/Lake Land [Ill.] College]) converted an old-fashioned 3-point play to bring the Crusaders within 44-40 with 13:25 to go. A few minutes later, Peters finished a layup on the fast break to again cut the deficit to four points, this time making it 46-42 with 10:44 to play.
But Valpo would score just two baskets over the next seven-plus minutes, as Green Bay went on a 12-4 run, started by a 3-pointer from Brown, to make it a 58-46 game with 3:40 remaining. Dority would knock down a triple to end the run and bring the Crusaders back within nine points, but that was as close as they would get the rest of the way.
A pair of freshmen shared team-high scoring honors for the Crusaders, as Adekoya and Peters both ended the night with 11 points, combining to go 9-of-13 from the floor. Peters also matched Capobianco and Gueye with five rebounds apiece. Gueye tallied five of Valpo’s seven blocked shots on Thursday, including a rejection early in the second half which broke the team record for blocked shots in a single season, as the Crusaders now have 151 blocks on the year. Gueye also became just the second player in Valpo history to block at least 60 shots in a single season as well.
Green Bay (22-5, 12-2 Horizon), which clinched the league regular-season title with Thursday’s win, was led by Keifer Sykes, who scored 19 points despite going just 4-of-13 from the field as he was sent to the foul line 12 times, making 11. In all, the Phoenix was awarded 25 free throw attempts, making 22, while Valpo was just 5-of-7 from the charity stripe, its fewest free throw attempts in a game since Nov. 25, 2011. Brown scored 14 points and blocked eight shots as Green Bay tallied 12 total rejections, while Jordan Fouse posted a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Valparaiso (16-12, 8-5 Horizon) has a quick turnaround, returning home to the ARC to host Youngstown State on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. The game will be an HLN regional television broadcast, available locally on Comcast SportsNet Chicago with Jim Barbar and Dave Kaplan on the call. As always, it can also be seen live on the Horizon League Network and heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with links for live video and audio, as well as live stats, available at ValpoAthletics.com.