The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team bounced back from a loss last time out with a dominating performance on the defensive end, limiting Northern Kentucky to just 46 points in a 71-46 victory Sunday afternoon in Highland Heights, Ky.
The Crusaders held the Norse to just 30% shooting from the field, including just a 4-for-15 mark from 3-point range. It was Northern Kentucky’s worst offensive efficiency of the year, as Valpo has now held 10 opponents to one of their two worst offensive efficiencies of the season. Meanwhile, Sunday’s effort was the fifth time this season the Crusaders have surrendered 47 or fewer points, a performance unmatched by any Valpo team since the 1946-47 season.
A slow start looked to threaten Valpo’s streak of not losing consecutive games since March of 2014, as much like Friday – when the Crusaders needed nearly six minutes to score – the offense took time to get into rhythm. Valpo’s first field goal Sunday didn’t come until nearly four and a half minutes into the game, and in fact the Crusaders would connect on just two shots from the field in the first 10 minutes.
But unlike Friday, Valpo was able to get to the foul line throughout the early shooting woes and converted from the stripe, hitting 7-of-8 from the line over the opening 10:11 to stay within striking distance. A pair of free throws from senior Vashil Fernandez (Kingston, Jamaica/Princeton Day [Md.] Academy) gave Valpo the lead for good at 16-15 with 8:07 to play in the opening half.
Then the Crusaders’ starting backcourt took over. Sophomore Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) stole a pass and drove the length of the court for a layup, and after NKU answered with a basket, senior Keith Carter (Maywood, Ill./Proviso East [Saint Louis]) – who suffered a foot injury Friday night which caused him to miss the last 11 minutes of the ballgame – stepped up and hit a 3-pointer to push the lead to four points.
The next time down the court, Walker drove the lane himself and easily finished inside, and Carter would add a deep jumper and another 3-pointer in the next couple minutes to cap a 17-4 Crusader run. Junior Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington) connected on a triple with 2:20 to play in the half to push the lead to double figures for the first time, and the Crusaders eventually went into halftime leading 34-22.
NKU scored the first basket of the second half, but that was as close as the Norse would get, as Peters scored five points on Valpo’s first two offensive possessions of the half. Carter hit another triple with 16:04 to play to push the advantage to 44-26, and then connected on his fourth 3-pointer just over two minutes later as the lead reached 20 points for the first time. NKU would get no closer than 18 points the rest of the way.
Carter rebounded from his injury Friday to lead the Crusaders with 16 points, including a 4-of-5 effort from downtown, and added six rebounds as well. Junior Shane Hammink (Millingen aan de Rijn, Netherlands/Oakley College [LSU]) scored 14 points off the bench, while Peters finished with 12 points and Walker 10. Fernandez pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds, including six on the offensive end, as Valpo enjoyed a 42-28 advantage on the glass – its sixth double-figure edge on the boards in the last eight games.
Northern Kentucky (7-12, 3-5 Horizon) was led by Jalen Billups, who scored a game-high 17 points, but the Crusaders limited the 66% field goal shooter to just 7-of-15 from the floor. Lavone Holland II was the only other Norse player in double figures, finishing with 10 points.
Valparaiso (17-4, 7-1 Horizon) returns home for four of its next five games, starting this coming Thursday as the Crusaders host Cleveland State at 7 p.m. The action can be seen live on ESPN3, Watch ESPN and the ESPN app, and heard live as always on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso). Links for the live video, audio and statistics will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.