The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team found itself in its toughest battle in the last three weeks on Sunday afternoon at the ARC against Northern Kentucky, but came up big when it counted, surrendering just three points to the Norse over the final four and a half minutes in a 65-58 victory. With the win, the Crusaders hit the halfway mark of Horizon League play at 8-1 in league action and with a two-game lead in the league standings.
How It Happened
- Valpo found itself playing from behind almost immediately on Sunday afternoon, as NKU’s Lavone Holland II connected on a pair of 3-pointers within the first 40 seconds.
- That would be the Norse’s largest lead of the game, however, and the Crusaders rallied to earn their first advantage on a 3-pointer from senior Shane Hammink (Millingen aan de Rijn, Netherlands/Oakley College [LSU]) just over five minutes into the game.
- With the score tied at 15-all 9:30 into the game, the Crusaders reeled off a 16-2 run over the next six-plus minutes to run out to a 31-17 advantage. Valpo limited NKU to 1-of-10 shooting from the field and forced four turnovers during the run. Five different Crusaders scored during the spurt, which was capped by back-to-back baskets from freshman Jaume Sorolla (Tortosa, Spain/Sunrise Christian [Kan.] Academy.
- But just when it looked like Valpo would take a double-digit lead into halftime, the Norse came roaring back, as NKU hit 6-of-7 attempts from 3-point range in the final four minutes of the first half to cut Valpo’s lead to just 38-37 at intermission.
- Valpo made sure out of halftime that NKU would not take the lead, scoring the first eight points of the second half on 3-pointers from Hammink and senior Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington), followed by a monster drive and one-handed hammer by Hammink.
- The lead would remain at five points or above for most of the remainder of the second half, as both squads struggled on the offensive end. NKU had one final push, however, scoring six points in just over a minute to close to within 57-55 with 4:37 to play.
- Out of a timeout, the Crusaders missed a 3-pointer, but junior Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) grabbed the offensive rebound and Hammink eventually finished at the basket to make it a four-point game.
- That proved to be Valpo’s last field goal, but the Crusaders secured the win on the offensive end with a 6-for-7 effort at the foul line over the final two-plus minutes.
- Meanwhile, on the defensive side, NKU was just 1-of-6 from the floor and committed two turnovers following its basket with 4:37 to play. Sorolla had a key block at the rim during that stretch, while Peters claimed a loose ball after NKU’s Mason Faulkner lost control down five inside of the final 20 seconds.
Inside the Game
- The win moves Valpo’s record to 18-4 through 22 games for the third consecutive year. Prior to the 2014-15 season, the Crusaders had not won at least 18 of their first 22 games since the 1944-45 campaign.
- Valpo improved to 8-1 in Horizon League play with the win, moving two games up in the loss column on Green Bay, which fell at Detroit Mercy on Sunday. The Crusaders are also three games up in the loss column on a tie for third place.
- The win was the Crusaders’ first by single digits since their 81-74 triumph over Detroit Mercy on Jan. 8, snapping a streak of five consecutive double-figure wins.
- Hammink paced Valpo with 21 points on Sunday, his seventh effort of at least 20 points of the year and second in the last three games. The senior went 7-of-13 from the floor and matched his career high for the second straight game by knocking down three 3-pointers.
- Peters struggled through a rough shooting day, but did go 6-of-7 from the foul line in finishing with 16 points and 12 rebounds for his 15th double-double of the year. Peters also dished out three assists and set a new season best with three steals.
- With his fifth free throw make of the game, which came with 15 seconds to play, Peters took down a 60-year-old record, surpassing Ed Eckart (1953-57) for career free throws made. Peters now has 453 career makes from the charity stripe, 147 of which have come this year – already third-most in a single season in program history.
- Freshman Micah Bradford (Bradley, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) set a new season best by knocking down three 3-pointers in a nine-point effort.
- Sorolla was a perfect 4-for-4 off the bench, all in the first half, to finish with eight points.
- Walker also struggled from the field, but hit the boards hard, setting a season high with 11 rebounds – six of which came on the offensive glass. Led by Peters and Walker, the Crusaders out-rebounded one of the nation’s top rebounding teams in NKU by 15 (44-29).
- Valpo earned the win Sunday despite shooting just 40% overall (22-of-55) from the floor and 33.3% (9-of-27) from 3-point range. The Crusaders did continue their strong effort at the foul line, hitting 80% (12-of-15).
- After NKU (14-9, 5-5 Horizon) made 9-of-19 shots from 3-point range in the first half, the Norse were just 1-of-12 from distance in the second half. For the game, the Crusaders limited NKU to 39.7% shooting from the field.
- Holland II paced the Norse with 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
The Crusaders (18-4, 8-1 Horizon) hit the road for the first time in three weeks this weekend, as they make their annual swing through Wisconsin. The road trip starts on Thursday evening with a 7 p.m. tip at Milwaukee. The game can be seen live on ESPN3, WatchESPN and the ESPN app, and as always, 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 via ValpoAthletics.com.