The Valparaiso men’s basketball team saw its season come to an abrupt end in the first round of the 2014 CollegeInsider.com Tournament on Tuesday at the ARC, as Columbia’s Maodo Lo hit a buzzer-beating jumper from the top of the key to give the Lions a 58-56 victory. Valpo fifth-year senior Moussa Gueye (Thies, Senegal/SEED Academy [Alabama/Lake Land (Ill.) College]) broke the program’s single-season blocked shots record in his final game as a Crusader.
Trailing by five points with 6:24 to play, senior Lavonte Dority (Chicago, Ill./Foreman [USF]) nailed a big 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 50-48. Columbia’s Cory Osetkowski hit a pair of free throws to make it a four-point game, but two possessions later, sophomore Keith Carter (Maywood, Ill./Proviso East [Saint Louis]) sparked a quick 7-0 spurt with a lob to junior Vashil Fernandez (Kingston, Jamaica/Princeton Day [Md.] Academy), who threw down a powerful two-handed jam.
After forcing a miss on the defensive end, the Crusaders ran down the shot clock before Dority hit Carter out on the left wing for a deep triple, giving Valpo a 53-52 lead with 3:25 to go – its first lead since the opening stages of the second half. Then, freshman Clay Yeo (Bourbon, Ind./Triton) played the passing lane perfectly on defense, jumping in for a steal and going in for a two-hand slam on the break to make it 55-52 Crusaders with 3:01 on the clock.
The teams traded misses before Osetkowski knocked down a short jumper in the paint as the clock ticked under two minutes. The Crusaders missed on their next trip, and Osetkowski stepped out to hit a mid-range jumper with 1:04 to play to put Columbia on top, 56-55. Following a timeout, a driving miss from Dority was rebounded by Fernandez, who was fouled on his putback attempt with 27.8 seconds to play. The junior made the first before missing the second, with the Lions corralling the rebound. Lo took the ball himself for the entire final possession with Carter covering him, eventually knocking down a covered-up 18-footer from the top of the lane to beat the buzzer.
Columbia jumped out on top of the Crusaders early, hitting three early 3-pointers in a span of 96 seconds to claim an early 9-2 edge. Valpo responded with 11 straight points over the next four minutes to go up 13-9, as freshman Jubril Adekoya (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) started the run with a mid-range jumper. Fellow rookie Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington) scored five points during the run, while Carter added four points as well to help the Crusaders go on top.
Valpo held the lead for much of the remainder of the first half before a scoring drought of nearly five minutes allowed Columbia to go ahead, 29-25. But Peters nailed a triple with a minute to play in the period, and Gueye got a second-chance basket just before the halftime horn to put Valpo on top, 30-29, at the break. Columbia would claim the lead on a basket by Osetkowski just 28 seconds into the second half and would hold it nearly the rest of the way, but the Crusaders never let the Lions pull ahead by more than five points.
Peters led Valpo on Tuesday with 14 points, hitting a trio of 3-pointers, and also pulled down five rebounds as well. Fernandez and Yeo both added nine points off the bench, while Dority scored eight and Carter and Gueye chipped in seven apiece. Fernandez paced the Crusaders on the boards with seven rebounds, six of which came on the offensive end, and Carter handed out five assists without committing a turnover.
Osetkowski paced Columbia (20-12) with 21 points, going 8-of-11 from the floor and 3-of-3 from behind the 3-point line. Lo finished the night with 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Gueye, who entered the game already tied with Raitis Grafs for the program’s single-season blocked shots record, picked up the record-breaking rejection with an emphatic block just 2:23 into the game. The senior ended the night with four blocks, his seventh game of the year with at least four blocks, to close his lone season as a Crusader with 71 rejections. In fact, Gueye ended up just two blocks shy of the Crusaders’ career top-10 as well.
Tuesday also marked the final career game for Dority as well, who paced Valparaiso (18-16) with 535 points (15.7 ppg) on the year. Dority closed his two-year Crusader career with an even 750 points and finished fourth on Valpo’s all-time free-throw percentage chart, hitting at an 83.8% clip from the stripe for his career. He also connected on 145 free throws this season alone, third-most in a single year in Crusader history and the most by any Valpo player in 44 seasons.