GREEN BAY, Wis. | Milwaukee punched Valparaiso in the mouth to start Friday night’s Horizon League tournament game and then continued with a flurry of body blows before the Crusaders ultimately toppled to the ground.
The No. 5 Panthers scored the first nine points and never looked back, bouncing No. 4 Valparaiso from the conference tournament for the second time in four years with a 74-57 victory at the Resch Center.
“This feeling is something, for the next three years that I’m here, that I never want to experience again,” Valparaiso freshman Alec Peters said. “This isn’t what we wanted.”
Peters led the Crusaders with 18 points and five rebounds, while Lavonte Dority added 14 points in what could be his final collegiate game.
The Crusaders will need an invitation from either the CBI or CIT to extend their postseason streak to four years.
“We’ll meet with the players tomorrow and see where they’re at,” Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew said. “If the opportunity presents itself, as a coach, I’d love to play some more games this season.”
Milwaukee came out on fire, scoring 15 of the first 17 points, including four 3-pointers from four players. Jordan Aaron, suspended from last month’s game against Valparaiso, led the Panthers (19-13) with 20 points, while Matt Tiby added 18 points and seven rebounds.
After dominating Milwaukee on the glass in two regular-season meetings, the Crusaders were outrebounded 41-19 and failed to grab an offensive rebound. The Panthers had 19 offensive rebounds and 14 second-chance points.
“It’s the old thing where it’s hard to beat a team three times in one year,” Drew said. “They started strong, and we never really recovered. I haven’t stared at a stat sheet like this all season.”
The Crusaders made multiple attempts to get back in the game during the second half, but Milwaukee had an answer for every run. Peters knocked down a 3-pointer with 12:21 remaining to cut the deficit to 42-33, but Keith Carter was ejected following the basket for a flagrant hit to the head of Matt Tiby.
The Panthers scored the next six points to open up the lead to 15 points, and the Crusaders could never mount a serious comeback.