VALPARAISO, Ind. — Valparaiso edged out a 78-70 victory Wednesday against Detroit in a game that was rough on the eyes with the two teams combining for 37 turnovers.
The Crusaders uncharacteristically turned the ball over 20 times, gave up 10 3-pointers, and allowed Juwan Howard Jr. to score 19 points, yet still won by seven.
“We turned the ball over too much, because Detroit was very aggressive defensively,” said Valpo coach Bryce Drew, whose team is 21-4 and is tied for the Horizon League lead at 8-2. “They took away a lot of things and made it difficult.”
Valpo wing E. Victor Nickerson did not score in the first half, but exploded in the final five minutes. The junior finished with 7 points and pulled the Crusaders to victory.
“My offense wasn’t coming, but I always bounce back defense,” Nickerson said. “Offense comes and goes, but you can always count on your defense. Eventually, I was able to hit some shots. You have to give credit to my teammates, especially for the screens. I was just able to hit the shot.”
Darien Walker and Tevonn Walker, who share a last name but are not related, combined for 40 points Wednesday. Darien had a game-high 21 points while Tevonn had 19.
Darien scorched the Titans for 11 points in two-and-a-half-minute stretch early in the second half.
“Repetition in practice is key,” he said. “Our coaches put us in game like situations during practice and it has become a routine for us.”
Whatever Drew and his coaching staff does in practice sure worked for them Wednesday as the Crusaders finished with a stunning 56 percent from the field. They connected on six 3-pointers and scored 36 points in the paint.
The saving grace for the Titans was their 3-point shooting throughout the game. They hit 10 triples on the night and had four huge ones from Howard. He drained a shot from the “Homer Drew Court” logo well beyond the 3-point line to end the first half, and then made two in a row to start the second.
“You can’t relax when you play him,” Darien Walker said. “You never know when or where he is going to pull up from.”
Tevonn Walker added: “It was a difficult assignment. He is extremely strong and active on defense.”
The Crusaders continue their three-game home stretch Saturday as they take on Oakland Golden Grizzlies, who sit a half-game behind Valpo at 7-2 in the Horizon League.