In a city known for hosting top-of-the-line title fights, the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team and BYU teamed up to deliver a 12-round thriller of their own Wednesday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, and in the end, it was the Crusaders who landed the final blow to win the Heavyweight Division of the Men Who Speak Up Main Event in front of a national television audience by a final of 92-89.
All five Valpo starters finished the night in double figures, led by the effort of senior Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington), who was named Tournament MVP. Despite being under the weather all day, Peters came out and delivered his third double-double effort of the year, finishing with 26 points – including a key drive and score in the final minute – and 12 rebounds.
How It Happened
- BYU couldn’t miss in the early going, as the Cougars hit their first four 3-point attempts in the first 3:16 of the game. Their fifth 3-pointer of the game extended their lead to 21-9 with 11:52 remaining in the first half.
- Valpo made a number of runs at BYU throughout the first half, but each time, the Cougars extended their lead back out to eight or more points. Finally, trailing 38-30 inside of the final four minutes, the Crusaders put together a 14-6 run to tie up the game – capped by a 3-pointer from junior Lexus Williams (Chicago, Ill./Marist). A foul inside of the final second gave BYU a 46-44 lead at the break.
- The Crusaders took their first lead of the game early in the second half when Peters was fouled on a 3-point attempt and hit all three free throws, putting Valpo ahead 49-48 with 17:24 to play.
- Valpo looked to push its lead out beyond the breaking point in the second half, but BYU would not let the Crusaders pull away. Valpo’s best attempt at putting the game away came courtesy of a quick 10-2 spurt after the Cougars tied the game up with 7:26 to go.
- Four straight possessions saw junior Max Joseph (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) hit a 3-pointer, Peters connect on two free throws, Adekoya knock down a triple and senior Shane Hammink (Millingen aan de Rijn, Netherlands/Oakley College [LSU]) hit two free throws to make it 82-74 Crusaders with 5:29 remaining.
- BYU came right back with eight points of its own, however, and took the lead on a triple with 3:01 to play. But Valpo responded with a driving finish by Hammink and a 3-pointer from junior Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) to go ahead 88-85 at the 2:02 mark. Over the next minute, the two squads traded a pair of free throws, and a finish inside by BYU’s Eric Mika cut Valpo’s edge to 90-89 with 41 seconds left.
- The Crusaders chose to run down the shot clock on their next possession, and eventually got the ball in Peters’ hands at the top of the key. The senior drove down the right side of the lane and finished at the basket over a pair of BYU defenders to make it 92-89 Valpo inside the final 15 seconds.
- The Cougars missed a quick 3-point attempt on their end, and Joseph grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 2.9 seconds to play. BYU would have one final chance to tie, as Joseph missed both free throws, but inbounding in the frontcourt with 1.9 seconds remaining, the Cougars were seemingly flummoxed by Valpo throwing a zone defense at them and could only get a heave from Mika – who had not attempted a 3-pointer in his career – that was well off at the buzzer as the Crusaders claimed the belt.
Inside the Game
- All five Valpo starters scored in double figures for the first time since the Crusaders’ home win over Oakland last season.
- Peters led the way with 26 points and has now scored in double figures in each of the season’s first six games. Included for the senior was an 11-for-12 effort at the foul line.
- Peters claimed Tournament MVP honors as he finished the two games in Las Vegas with 50 points and 22 rebounds.
- Hammink matched his career high set three games ago versus Coppin State, finishing with 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field and 7-of-9 from the foul line.
- Walker scored 13 points in 21 foul-plagued minutes, while Williams finished with 12 points and three assists. For Williams, it was his highest scoring output since scoring 22 at Detroit on Jan. 15, 2014.
- Senior Jubril Adekoya (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) rounded out the quintet of Valpo players in double figures with 12 points and also pulled down eight rebounds.
- Joseph contributed a solid line off the bench as well, setting a new career high with eight rebounds – including five offensive – and matching his career best with five assists while also scoring six points.
- The Crusaders’ 3-point shooting continued to normalize, as Valpo hit 9-of-23 (39.1%) from beyond the arc. Valpo also continued its strong early-season effort at the foul line, hitting at a 79.4% clip (27-of-34) from the charity stripe.
- Valpo enjoyed a nine-rebound edge over BYU (42-33) and finished with 22 points off 13 Cougar turnovers, while BYU scored just 11 points off of Valpo’s 15 turnovers.
- BYU (4-1) was paced by 18 points from Nick Emery to lead four players in double figures. The Crusaders earned the win despite the Cougars going 10-of-22 from 3-point range.
- With the win, Valpo earned its first in-season tournament title since it brought home the championship trophy from the 2014 Challenge in Music City.
- Wednesday night was the second time Valpo had met BYU in its last eight games, as the two squads faced off in the semifinals of last season’s NIT. Both games ended in the Crusaders’ favor by a combined five points.
The Crusaders (5-1) continue a stretch of challenging contests with a pair of home games early next week, starting with a Sunday afternoon matinee against Ball State. Tipoff on the tail end of the holiday weekend is set for 1:30 p.m. All the action can be seen live on ESPN3, WatchESPN and the ESPN app, and heard live on the Valpo Sports Network (WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso; WVLP, 103.1 FM, Valparaiso). Links for the live video, audio and stats will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.