Game No. 21
Valparaiso 74, Youngstown State 71
Lavonte Dority got the Crusaders started and then Keith Carter finished the job as Valparaiso won at the Beeghly Center for the first time in three years. Dority score 20-plus points for the fourth time in five games with a game-high 27 points. Carter, sidelined all week by a groin injury, scored all eight of his points in the second half as the sophomore combined effective defense with timely offense to push the Crusaders to 4-2 in the Horizon League.
Game Ball: Dority, Carter and Jubril Adekoya are all deserving of high praise for their performances on Thursday night, but it was the play of Moussa Gueye that really tipped the scales for the Crusaders. Gueye grabbed a key rebound after Kendrick Perry missed a 3-pointer with 28 seconds remaining and then calmly swished both free throws to give Valparaiso a 70-67 lead. Gueye finished with a career-high 11 points and was 5-for-5 from the free throw line. On a night when Vashil Fernandez (and most of the team for that matter) was saddled with foul trouble, Gueye played smart (just two fouls) and effective. The Crusaders won the battle in the paint 36-20.
Air Ball: Alec Peters continued to struggle from the 3-point line on Thursday night. The freshman was 1-of-7 from the perimeter while hitting all three of his 2-point field goals. The recurring theme for Peters has been near-misses and that trend continued against the Penguins. He finished with nine points and seven rebounds and was one of the few players to have a positive +/- number, but Drew had the freshman off the floor during the final five minutes of the game. Peters remarked earlier this month that he plans to keep shooting his way out of the slump. I wouldn't be surprised if he comes out and hits his first five shots against Cleveland State.
Quotable: "Our guys really came together and you could see it in the timeouts. That's what I'm most proud of from the game. The guys were all on the same page and that was the loudest I've heard them all year." -- Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew
Inside the numbers: Drew played 21 different lineup combinations on Thursday night, a number that was likely higher than normal due to foul trouble. Lavonte Dority, Vashil Fernandez and Lexus Williams all missed time because of fouls. Valparaiso's best lineup combination (Coleman, Dority, Yeo, Adekoya, Gueye) finished the night +7 while there were two different lineups that finished -5. As we've come to expect, Jubril Adekoya had the best +/- performance at +9.
Up Next: The Crusaders round out their longest road trip of the year on Saturday with a trip to Cleveland State. The Vikings have suffered several injuries this season and it's unclear as to who will be available. Anton Grady returned to the lineup during a 74-64 win at UIC on Wednesday night. Another road win would be huge for the Crusaders considering that they'd hold at least a game lead over the rest of the conference for third place and would still be within two games of first-place Green Bay before Wednesday's home game against the Phoenix. The top three teams in the conference receive a bye in the Horizon League tournament.