The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team locked down defensively on either side of halftime at Cleveland State Saturday afternoon as it overcame a double-figure deficit, and the Crusaders held off the Vikings down the stretch to earn a 78-67 victory for their third consecutive win. Senior Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington) led the way with 30 points – his ninth career effort of at least 30 points.
How It Happened
- The Crusaders went just 1-of-11 from the floor to open the game and turned the ball over four times in the opening eight minutes as they trailed CSU 16-4 at the second media timeout.
- A 3-pointer from Peters keyed a 9-1 stretch to cut into the Viking lead.
- Still trailing by five points (27-22) with 5:07 to play in the first half, Valpo reeled off a 12-1 run to take a 34-28 lead into halftime. Freshman Jaume Sorolla (Tortosa, Spain/Sunrise Christian [Kan.] Academy) started the run with a nice move in the paint, while Peters scored eight straight points during the spurt.
- Meanwhile, the Valpo defense held CSU to just one point in the final five minutes of the half, as the Vikings missed all five of their field goal attempts and turned the ball over once.
- Little changed out of intermission, as the Crusaders started the second half on a 13-2 run over the first 5:42 of the period to close out a 25-3 run over a stretch of 10:49 on either side of halftime. Freshman Derrik Smits (Zionsville, Ind./Zionsville) had six big points during the run, while Peters closed it out with an old-fashioned 3-point play – knocking down a jumper while getting hit in the head to go ahead 47-30 with 14:18 to play.
- Eight straight points from CSU cut the Valpo advantage to 53-44 with 10:42 to play. Peters answered with four points in two possessions and junior Max Joseph (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) then finished at the rim on the fast break to push the lead back to 15 points.
- Cleveland State had another push remaining, as the Vikings went on a 12-3 run over a span of four minutes to cut the Crusader advantage to five points with 4:39 to play. CSU twice cut the lead to five, but first junior Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) and then Peters hit a pair of free throws to answer.
- Bobby Word knocked down a 3-pointer for CSU to make it a 68-64 game with 3:24 remaining, but senior Shane Hammink (Millingen aan de Rijn, Netherlands/Vanier College) drove inside and finished to keep the Vikings at bay.
- CSU would not score again until there were 31 seconds to play, and the Crusaders salted the game away when Peters drew a flagrant foul on a fast break with 1:56 to go. Peters connected on both free throws, and Smits knocked down a baseline jumper on the ensuing possession to push a seven-point lead back up to 11.
Inside the Game
- Peters reached the 30-point mark for the third time this season and ninth time in his career, as he shot 9-of-17 from the field (2-for-4 from 3-point range) and 10-of-13 from the foul line. 19 of his 30 points came after halftime.
- Peters surpassed the 2,100-point mark for his career during the win, and in the process moved into the top five in Horizon League history in scoring. Now with 2,116 career points, Peters surpassed former Horizon League greats Keifer Sykes (Green Bay) and Cedrick Banks (UIC) to leap into the top-five scorers in league history.
- For the first time since Dec. 7, Peters came up just shy of a double-double, as he grabbed a team-high nine rebounds.
- Peters will enter Monday’s showdown with Green Bay just 26 points, 15 rebounds and 20 free throws shy of Valpo’s career records in the respective categories.
- Valpo’s top three scorers all finished in double figures Saturday, as Peters was joined by Walker and Hammink. Walker knocked down a perfect 10-for-10 from the line and finished with 14 points and nine rebounds. The junior is now 33-for-35 from the charity stripe through five Horizon League games.
- Despite dealing with foul trouble, Hammink played 25 minutes and went 4-for-5 from the field and 3-for-4 from the foul line for 11 points.
- Valpo’s freshman duo in the middle both enjoyed strong halves of play on Saturday. Sorolla scored four points and grabbed eight rebounds in the first half. Then, after being limited to just one rebound in the first half, Smits tallied nine points and four rebounds in the second half.
- Joseph delivered a strong effort off the bench in the win, finishing with eight points, four assists and three steals without committing a turnover.
- Valpo won despite going just 2-for-11 from 3-point range for the game. The Crusaders continued their season-long dominance at the foul line, hitting 32-of-37 (86.5%) as they made seven more free throws than the Vikings attempted.
- With a big size advantage, the Crusaders dominated CSU as expected inside. Valpo out-rebounded the Vikings, 43-25, and grabbed 14 offensive rebounds which led to 19 second-chance points.
- Valpo limited Cleveland State (5-13, 1-5 Horizon) to just 38.9% shooting for the game – the worst shooting percentage by a Crusader opponent in Horizon League play to date. Rob Edwards led CSU with 22 points, while Bobby Word hit four 3-pointers en route to 14 points.
The Crusaders (14-4, 4-1 Horizon) face a quick turnaround at the ARC Monday night, taking the court for the third time in five days for a 7 p.m. tip against Green Bay, which comes to Valpo atop the Horizon League standings. As always, the game can be seen live on ESPN3, WatchESPN and the ESPN app, as well as heard live on the Valpo Sports Network (WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso; WVLP, 103.1 FM, Valparaiso). Links for the live coverage will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.