Valparaiso nearly did the unthinkable Sunday afternoon.
The Crusaders rallied from 16 points down to take a late lead over Ohio, but they were unable to close out the Bobcats in the final minutes and fell 76-72 in Athens.
Valparaiso trailed 62-46 with 9:49 remaining before embarking on a 24-7 run to take a one-point lead with just under three minutes left. The Bobcats responded by hitting seven free throws down the stretch, and the Crusaders failed to hit another field goal after Alec Peters' go-ahead basket with 2:49 remaining.
"I thought we closed the game a lot better than we did (against Illinois)," Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew said. "We're still in the process of learning how to win a basketball game."
Valparaiso's touted freshmen Alec Peters and Clay Yeo showed both their inexperience and potential during the course of the game. The pair suffered through a turnover-plagued first half only to switch gears and shine during the second half. Both freshmen knocked down big 3-pointers during Valparaiso's late-game scoring run and the two combined to score 10 straight points.
"Our experience really showed in the first half," Drew said. "Clay really settled in during the second half, and he started to make plays."
Peters notched his first collegiate double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds, while Yeo finished with seven points. LaVonte Dority led the Crusaders (2-2) with 20 points.
The game was a near replica of the last time Valparaiso traveled to the Convocation Center. The Crusaders trailed by 15 points against Ohio on Nov. 23, 2010, only to rally and take a late one-point lead before falling 78-75.
"We never want to lose," Drew said. "I'm proud of the guys from battling back from down 16, but we're still upset that we were down 16. This is something you'd much rather learn in non-conference. Three of our four games have been close and we're learning how to close out these games."
Maurice Ndour led the Bobcats (1-1) with 23 points while Nick Kellogg, son of CBS Sports Analyst Clark Kellogg, added 16 points and three assists.