VALPARAISO | For all the talent the Valparaiso men’s basketball team has this season, there is also a great amount of inexperience on the roster.
Both showed through Saturday afternoon as the Crusaders overcame arguably their worst half of the season with a strong second half to pull out an 80-73 win over Loyola Marymount at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
Alec Peters equaled his career-high with 30 points and added eight rebounds, while Jordan Coleman scored 12 points in his return to the starting lineup.
“We played Loyola Marymount two years ago and not one of our guys that we have now played in that game and it was only two years ago,” Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew said. “We are a very inexperienced team. I think you learn a lot about each other when you go through these things. It’s a new team and we’re all trying to get into a rhythm.”
Drew switched the starting lineup for the third time this season, bringing Coleman and Clay Yeo to the floor at the beginning of the game as opposed to Lexus Williams and Jubril Adekoya. The decision backfired as the Crusaders (7-5) fell behind by 11 points just five minutes into the game.
“We had quite an interesting week as only eight guys were able to practice; we weren’t sure Lexus would be able to play,” Drew said. “We had some different lineups on the floor, some lineups that I don’t know if we’ll use some of them for the rest of this year.”
With the offense struggling, Peters took over the game. The freshman scored from all over the floor and his two early 3-pointers in the second half helped erase a 10-point halftime deficit.
“Whoever was practicing had to step up, just like in games,” Peters said. “We practiced hard and it carried over into the second half.”
Drew moved back to his normal starting lineup to begin the second half and played with a short bench as the Crusaders chipped away at the deficit. LaVonte Dority scored all 10 of his points in the second half after missing his first seven shots.
“LaVonte’s done a great job in the off-season,” Drew said. “Last year we needed him to come in and score points. This year we need more leadership and for him to let the offense work. He made a couple of nice plays.”
Anthony Ireland led the Lions (6-4) with 18 points and eight assists while Evan Payne added 12 points and four rebounds.
Saturday’s win marked the final non-conference home game of 2013 and the end of the first semester. Beginning with next weekend’s holiday tournament in Orlando, sophomore guard Keith Carter will be eligible after transferring from St. Louis at semester last season.
“We’re excited to have our whole team together,” Drew said. “There are multiple seasons within the year. You have the non-conference, the conference and then hopefully the postseason. This will change how we play some and hopefully it’s for the better. Our team will be excited because we know this is our group for the rest of the season.”