VALPARAISO, Ind. — Valparaiso battled in-state rival Ball State to the bitter end and came out on top, 65-62.
Sophomore forward Alec Peters had a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Peters went 7-for-13 from the field and hit three triples.
“We learned from last Saturday that we need to battle through adversity if we want to win big games,” Peters said. “We learned today that we can respond as a team. ”
Freshman guard Tevonn Walker was in foul trouble early and the Crusaders missed his slashing ability as the Cardinals jumped out to a 9-0 lead to start the game.
“We defiantly needed Tevonn,” coach Bryce Drew said. “His foul trouble threw off our rotation a little. Others had to play longer minutes and we missed his ability to get to the lane.”
The Crusaders fell victim to the three-point shot as Ball State ranks amongst the best 3-point shooting teams in the MAC. The Crusaders also were settling with jumpers early.
The Valpo offense got going with junior E. Victor Nickerson as he scored the first basket for the Crusaders off a runner from the right block. Valpo responded to the spark off the bench and brought the deficit to six points thanks to Peters and junior guard Darien Walker, who hit his first four threes in the first half.
The key in this game was the youth and inexperience of Ball State. The Cardinals had problems responding to the runs of Valpo and made too many mentally errors.
Nickerson stole the ball at the half court and the Cardinals committed a clear path foul, which gave the Crusaders two shots and the ball in a four-point game with three minutes to go.
Valpo found themselves in a closing situation, and all the Crusaders had to do was be efficient from the line in order to win. Valpo finished with a 62 percent free throw shooting percentage, and a reason behind the poor performance was four missed free throws from Jabril Adekoye with nine seconds to go.
It was a three-point game at that point, and sophomore guard Zavier Turner had a chance to tie the game after the last Adekoye miss. Turner clanked it off the front iron from 35 feet out and the Crusaders moved to 10-2 on the season.
The Crusader coaching staff made key adjustments throughout the game, especially on Turner.
“We just wanted to apply as much defensive pressure as possible,” junior guard Keith Carter said. “I felt like we did a good job of that.”
The Crusaders did not take advantage of the size advantage as both teams finished with 24 points in the paint, but the Crusaders were in control of the turnover battle as they only committed five to Ball State’s 11.
All in all, the Crusaders are excited about a win going into finals.
“A win helps big time, because now I can focus on getting good grades,” said Peters.