VALPARAISO | Turnovers have been a problem for Valparaiso all season. For the most part the Crusaders have weathered that storm, but not Saturday night against Detroit in the biggest game of the year.
Valpo committed 18 turnovers, including five during Detroit's game-turning 19-0 run, and it resulted in the Titans walking out of a sold-out Athletics-Recreation Center with an 84-74 Horizon League victory.
The Crusaders (20-7, 10-3) could have clinched a tie for the conference title, but instead must win all three remaining Horizon games to secure the outright No. 1 seed for the league tournament. Detroit (18-9, 10-4) is still in contention.
"Our guys worked extremely hard to be in this position," Detroit coach Ray McCallum said. "We showed tremendous heart and tremendous determination."
The Titans avenged a 89-88 loss to the Crusaders on Jan. 17 in Detroit, when Valpo rallied from a 22-point deficit. This time, Detroit trailed 63-48 with 9:27 remaining after Matt Kenney swished a 15-foot jumper from the right side.
By that time, Valpo point guard Erik Buggs was in foul trouble. Buggs was a catalyst at both ends of the floor, drawing the bulk of the defensive assignment on Ray McCallum Jr. while driving the lane for several acrobatic layups.
Buggs picked up his fourth foul with 8:58 remaining and headed to the bench. Detroit's Nick Minnerath, who equaled teammate Jason Calliste with a game-high 21 points, scored five quickly on a 3-pointer and a short jumper to start the game-clinching rally.
Valpo coach Bryce Drew had to bring Buggs back as the lead continued to evaporate, but Buggs was whistled for his fifth with 5:02 remaining, fouling Detroit's Jason Calliste as he made a 3-pointer. Calliste hit the ensuing free throw to tie it at 63-63, and Evan Bruinsma followed with a pair of putbacks to give Detroit a 67-63 lead.
Valpo's Ryan Broekhoff finally broke the dry spell with a pair of free throws with 3:20 remaining, a span of 6:07 without a point. But the Titans were able to finish it off, hitting 8 of 8 from the line in the final minute to secure the big road win.
"I guess that's what it feels like we did to them at their place and they did at our place," Drew said. "The big key was in the second half we couldn't get stops on defense."
The Crusaders hit 7 of 16 3-pointers before the break, and Kevin Van Wijk got free inside for several easy layups.
Kenney scored 18 off the bench to lead Valpo, which included a 4-for-6 performance from 3-point range. Will Bogan hit 5-of-8 3-pointers to finish with 15, while Buggs scored 12. McCallum finished with 15 points for the Titans, while Bruinsma came off the bench for a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds.