The Valparaiso men’s basketball team closed the non-league portion of its 2014-15 schedule with a sterling effort at James Madison, limiting the Dukes to their worst shooting performance in program history in a 79-52 win in Harrisonburg, Va. on Monday evening. The win lifts the Crusaders’ road/neutral record to 8-1 on the season and sends Valpo into the Horizon League slate at 13-2.
The defensive tone was set from the very first possession, as junior Darien Walker (Chicago, Ill./Simeon [John A. Logan/Arizona Western]) and senior Vashil Fernandez (Kingston, Jamaica/Princeton Day [Md.] Academy) each blocked JMU shots before junior Keith Carter (Maywood, Ill./Proviso East [Saint Louis]) took a charge. The Crusaders allowed just two field goals over the first 11 minutes of the game to James Madison, limited the Dukes to just 17.9% shooting (5-of-28) in the first half and held JMU under 30% in the second half as well. For the game, James Madison shot just 23.6% (13-of-55) and made just four baskets in the paint.
Valpo took the lead and never relinquished it on a driving layup from freshman Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) on its second possession, followed one trip later by an emphatic slam dunk from Fernandez. Walker would can a 3-pointer on the fast break to push the lead to 7-2 before the first media timeout. Following the media stoppage, sophomore Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington) scored on each of the next two trips before a runner in the lane from junior E. Victor Nickerson (Atlanta, Ga./Norcross [Charlotte]) made it 13-2 Crusaders seven minutes into the game.
James Madison scored the next five points to close to within 13-7 with 11 minutes to play in the half, but that was as close as the Dukes would get, as the Crusaders went on a 24-6 run over the next ten minutes of action. Carter scored seven of Valpo’s first nine points of the spurt in a four-possession span and added another fast-break basket later in the spurt, while Peters scored five points during the run as well. Fifth-year senior David Chadwick (Charlotte, N.C./Hargrave Military Academy [Rice]) capped the run with a 3-pointer with 1:35 to go in the half off a feed from Darien Walker, and following a JMU 3-pointer, Chadwick canned another triple off a Walker pass to give Valpo a 40-16 lead at the half.
The first 15 seconds of the second half was like a microcosm of the Crusaders’ season to date, as Fernandez blocked a shot, Peters grabbed the rebound and then drained a 3-pointer off a pass from Carter to push the lead to 27 points. The lead reached 30 points for the first time with 12:34 to play on a putback from Chadwick. Later in the half, after JMU had cut the advantage to 62-36 with less than ten minutes remaining, Fernandez converted a tip dunk, followed one trip later by another Peters triple to again extend the lead above 30 points. Sophomore Nick Davidson (Munster, Ind./Andrean) added eight late points as well for a new career high.
Peters posted his second double-double of the season and third of his career, matching his season average with 19 points while also grabbing a game-high ten rebounds. Carter went 5-of-7 from the floor for 13 points and also tallied five rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals without committing a turnover. Tevonn Walker added 12 points in the winning effort.
Peters’ ten boards led the way on the glass as the Crusaders out-paced JMU on the boards, 48-38 – the eighth time this year Valpo has owned a double-digit rebounding edge. Fernandez added seven rebounds to go with six points and four blocked shots, while Darien Walker grabbed five rebounds as well. Darien Walker also recorded a new career best, dishing out seven assists as the Crusaders tallied assists on 16 of 29 baskets while committing just six turnovers.
James Madison (7-6) was paced by 14 points, including three 3-pointers, off the bench from Winston Grays, but he was the only Duke to reach double figures. Jackson Kent added eight points and five rebounds in the losing effort.
Valparaiso (13-2) opens up Horizon League play Friday night at Oakland with a 6 p.m. CT tip. As always, all the action can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Network and seen live on the Horizon League Network via ESPN3.com. Links for the live audio and video, as well as live stats, will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.