Official Athletic Site of the Valparaiso University Crusaders
Valpo Earns Big Road Win With Comeback at YSU
Matt Kenney went for 18 points, eight rebounds, five assists and five steals Saturday. (Ray Acevedo)
Matt Kenney went for 18 points, eight rebounds, five assists and five steals Saturday. (Ray Acevedo)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valparaiso overcame a five-point deficit in the final two minutes to earn a hard-fought 77-75 victory in a back-and-forth game with Youngstown State in Youngstown, Ohio Saturday evening.

“Our guys just had the hearts of winners tonight,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew.  “We found ourselves down five late, playing our fifth game in ten days, and we’re tired and exhausted, but we stepped up with lots of heart and confidence and found ways to make plays and get the victory in the end.”

The Crusaders found themselves down 72-67 with 2:07 to go after a pair of free throws by Vytas Sulskis, but Brandon Wood (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo [Highland C.C./Southern Illinois]) got the rally started just nine seconds later with a runner in the lane.  On the next defensive trip, Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) came up with a steal and found Wood ahead of the pack for a fast-break layup to cut the deficit to one with 1:30 to play.

After another Penguin turnover, freshman Matt Kenney (Mooresville, Ind./Mooresville) had a shot blocked on the offensive end, but didn’t give up on the play, knocking the ball loose from YSU’s DeAndre Mays from the back side.  Wood corralled the loose ball just over halfcourt and fed Kenney up ahead for the dunk to put the Crusaders ahead 73-72 with 49 seconds remaining.

Cory Johnson (Duluth, Minn./Duluth East [Iowa State]) made the play of the game on the defensive side of the ball, stepping in and taking a charge on Mays with 35 seconds to play to get the ball back to Valpo.  Kenney then stepped up at the free throw line, hitting both ends of a one-and-one at the stripe in the final 30 seconds to secure the game for the Crusaders.

“Cory’s play was crucial for us,” said Drew.  “He stepped up and took that charge, preventing Youngstown from scoring and getting the ball back for us.”

The game got off to a rough start for the Crusaders, who found themselves down 17-6 ten minutes into the contest.  Valpo outscored the Penguins 24-11 over the half’s final ten minutes, however, to take a two-point lead into halftime, thanks in large part to 11 straight Crusader points from Wood in one stretch.

Coming out of the break, it was Johnson who was getting it done on the offensive end, as he poured in 12 points in the first seven minutes of the second half.  Youngstown State hung with the Crusaders basket for basket though, even after a stretch midway through the half where McPherson, Wood, and Kenney each connected on 3-pointers in a four-possession span.

Kenney came up with a big play on both ends shortly thereafter, blocking Mays’ attempt at a jumper, corralling the rebound, and taking it all the way to the rack for a layup that put Valpo ahead 56-53 with 8:30 to play.  90 seconds later, Kenney and Wood connected on back-to-back triples that pushed the lead to 62-57 with 6:57 remaining.  But Youngstown State would go on a 15-5 spurt over the next five minutes to take the lead and set up the closing sequence.

Kenney had the best overall game of his rookie season, going for career highs of 15 points, eight rebounds and five steals while also handing out five assists.  Wood paced four Crusaders in double figures with 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including 4-of-5 from downtown, while Johnson posted 19 points.  Howard Little (Chicago, Ill./Stoneridge [Calif.] School) went a sterling 6-of-7 from the floor, including two 3-pointers.  McPherson only scored seven points, the first time in 11 games he hasn’t been in double figures, but more than contributed with a season-best eight assists while not committing a turnover.

“Matt played the best game of his career tonight,” said Drew.  “During our stretch of seven wins in nine games, we had different guys step up other than our top three scorers, and that’s what we got tonight from Matt.  He stepped up tonight, especially in the last few minutes guarding Mays superbly on the defensive end.  His effort on both ends of the court really gave us a lift.”

The Crusaders shot just 49.1% for the game, but increased their shooting percentage to 58.6% in the second half, as they played the final 20 minutes without committing a turnover.  Valpo also regained its touch from behind the 3-point line, hitting on 10-of-18 (55.6%) from downtown for the game.

“It was a big key not turning the ball over in the second half,” said Drew.  “Obviously it was a superb job by our entire team on the offensive end maintaining control of the ball after nine first-half turnovers, and it allowed us to move and share the ball and make big plays offensively.”

Youngstown State (8-17, 2-13 Horizon) got 24 points and 11 rebounds on 8-of-13 shooting from Vytas Sulskis to lead its effort.  Kelvin Bright added 18 points of 6-of-9 shooting, while Mays also posted a double-double with 16 points and ten assists.

Valparaiso (14-14, 9-7 Horizon) has already matched its highest total of Horizon League wins, tying the nine wins it had in 2007-08 in its inaugural season in the league.  The Crusaders have two league contests remaining as they continue to jockey for positioning in the final standings, both of which will be played at the ARC.  The first of those games comes this Wednesday, as Valpo hosts Loyola at 7:05 p.m.  The game will be available live throughout Chicagoland on Lakeshore Public Television, and as always, all the action can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WLPR, 89.1 FM, Lowell) and can be seen on the Horizon League Network.  Valpo’s athletic website, www.valpoathletics.com, will have links for live audio, video and statistics.

M Track Chicagoland Championships Romeoville, Ill.
Apr 11 5th/17 (20)
W Track Chicagoland Championships Romeoville, Ill.
Apr 11 9th/18 (12)
M Tennis Valpo 5 Detroit, Mich.
Apr 11 Detroit 2
Baseball Youngstown State 7 Emory G. Bauer Field
Apr 11 Valpo 10
M Track Chicagoland Championships Romeoville, Ill.
Apr 12 6th/20 (48)
W Track Chicagoland Championships Romeoville, Ill.
Apr 12 6th/20 (60.50)
W Golf Crusader/Jaguar Challenge Valparaiso, Ind. (The Course at Aberdeen)
Apr 12 3rd/6 (335); 4th/6 (350)
M Golf Bluegrass Invitational Lexington, Ky. (University Club Big Blue Course)
Apr 12 t-7th/13 (588)
M Soccer St. Joseph's College Eastgate Field
Apr 12, 10:00 a.m. Valpo
Baseball Youngstown State 1 Emory G. Bauer Field
Apr 12, 10:00 a.m. Valpo 13
Softball Cleveland State 3 VU Softball Field
Apr 12, 10:00 a.m. Valpo 2
Volleyball Western Michigan/Butler/Eastern Michigan ARC
Apr 12, 1:45 p.m. Valpo
Softball Cleveland State 4 VU Softball Field
Apr 12, 1:45 p.m. Valpo 6
Baseball Youngstown State 12 Emory G. Bauer Field
Apr 12, 1:45 p.m. Valpo 4
W Tennis Valpo 1 Detroit, Mich.
Apr 12, 1:45 p.m. Detroit 6
M Soccer Benedictine Brown Field
Apr 12, 4:00 p.m. Valpo
W Soccer Haitian National Team Brown Field
Apr 12, 7:00 p.m. Valpo
M Golf Bluegrass Invitational Lexington, Ky. (University Club Big Blue Course)
Apr 13 t-6th/13 (895)
W Golf Crusader/Jaguar Challenge Valparaiso, Ind. (The Course at Aberdeen)
Apr 13 2nd/6 (657); 5th/6 (692)
Softball Cleveland State 6 8 inn.
Apr 13 Valpo 7
W Tennis Valpo 1 Rochester, Mich.
Apr 13 Oakland 6
M Tennis Valpo 1 Notre Dame, Ind.
Apr 13 #12 Notre Dame 6
W Tennis Valpo 0 Chicago, Ill.
Apr 14 Chicago State 7
M Tennis Valpo 7 Homewood, Ill.
Apr 15 Chicago State 0
Baseball Valpo CCD
Apr 15 Toledo
M Track Cougar Invitational River Forest, Ill.
Apr 17 No Team Score
W Track Cougar Invitational River Forest, Ill.
Apr 17 No Team Score
Baseball Valpo 4 Milwaukee, Wis.
Apr 17 Milwaukee 0
M Tennis Youngstown State 1 Valpo Tennis Complex
Apr 18 Valpo 6
Baseball Valpo 0 Milwaukee, Wis.
Apr 18 Milwaukee 3
Softball Oakland 3 VU Softball Field
Apr 18 Valpo 11
W Tennis Youngstown State 7 Valpo Tennis Complex
Apr 18 Valpo 0
W Track DePaul Invitational Chicago, Ill.
Apr 19
M Golf Wolfpack Spring Open Raleigh, N.C. (Lonnie Poole Golf Course)
Apr 19 CCD
M Track DePaul Invitational Chicago, Ill.
Apr 19
W Tennis Cleveland State 7 Valpo Tennis Complex
Apr 19 Valpo 0
Softball Oakland 1 VU Softball Field
Apr 19 Valpo 2
Baseball Valpo 0 Milwaukee, Wis.
Apr 19 Milwaukee 5
Softball Oakland 4 8 inn.
Apr 19 Valpo 2
M Tennis Cleveland State 5 Valpo Tennis Complex
Apr 19 Valpo 2
M Golf Wolfpack Spring Open Raleigh, N.C. (Lonnie Poole Golf Course)
Apr 20
Baseball Kalamazoo Emory G. Bauer Field
Apr 21, 3:00 p.m. Valpo
Baseball Ohio Northern Emory G. Bauer Field
Apr 22, 3:00 p.m. Valpo
Softball Valpo Macomb, Ill.
Apr 22, 3:00 p.m. Western Illinois
Softball Valpo Macomb, Ill.
Apr 22, 5:00 p.m. Western Illinois
Softball Valpo Notre Dame, Ind.
Apr 24, 5:00 p.m. Notre Dame
M Track Miami (Ohio) Invitational Oxford, Ohio
Apr 25
M Tennis Valpo Ann Arbor, Mich.
Apr 25 UIC
M Golf Horizon League Championship Howey in the Hills, Fla. (Mission Inn Resort & Club)
Apr 25
W Golf Horizon League Championship Howey in the Hills, Fla. (Mission Inn Resort & Club)
Apr 25
W Track Miami (Ohio) Invitational Oxford, Ohio
Apr 25
Baseball UIC Emory G. Bauer Field
Apr 25, 3:00 p.m. Valpo
M Tennis Valpo Ann Arbor, Mich.
Apr 26, 3:00 p.m. Horizon League Tournament
M Track Miami (Ohio) Invitational Oxford, Ohio
Apr 26
W Track Miami (Ohio) Invitational Oxford, Ohio
Apr 26
W Golf Horizon League Championship Howey in the Hills, Fla. (Mission Inn Resort & Club)
Apr 26
M Golf Horizon League Championship Howey in the Hills, Fla. (Mission Inn Resort & Club)
Apr 26
Baseball UIC Emory G. Bauer Field
Apr 26, 12:00 p.m. Valpo
Softball Valpo Dayton, Ohio
Apr 26, 12:00 p.m. Wright State
Softball Valpo Dayton, Ohio
Apr 26, 2:00 p.m. Wright State
M Tennis Valpo Ann Arbor, Mich.
Apr 27, 2:00 p.m. Horizon League Tournament
M Golf Horizon League Championship Howey in the Hills, Fla. (Mission Inn Resort & Club)
Apr 27
W Golf Horizon League Championship Howey in the Hills, Fla. (Mission Inn Resort & Club)
Apr 27
Softball Valpo Dayton, Ohio
Apr 27, 12:00 p.m. Wright State
Baseball UIC Emory G. Bauer Field
Apr 27, 12:00 p.m. Valpo
Baseball Western Michigan Emory G. Bauer Field
Apr 29, 3:00 p.m. Valpo
Softball IUPUI VU Softball Field
Apr 29, 3:00 p.m. Valpo
Softball IUPUI VU Softball Field
Apr 29, 5:00 p.m. Valpo
Baseball Chicago State Emory G. Bauer Field
Apr 30, 3:00 p.m. Valpo
Softball Valpo Bloomington, Ind.
Apr 30, 3:00 p.m. Indiana (resumption of suspended game)
Softball Valpo Bloomington, Ind.
Apr 30, 4:00 p.m. Indiana