VALPARAISO | Just when it appeared Saturday night would be filled with celebration for Valparaiso men’s basketball, the night ended in frustration.
The Crusaders let a chance to clinch the Horizon League championship slip through their fingers with a second-half collapse against Detroit and now have a slim margin of error over the last three conference games of the regular season.
Instead of heading to postgame parties, some Crusaders retreated to their homes and their minds as they tried to make sense of what occurred during Detroit’s 19-0 second-half run.
“I sat up all night, sitting in a dark room, just replaying the game in my mind,” junior guard Lavonte Dority said. “I was upset, just thinking about ways to get better, getting back in the gym, watching more film.”
Dority missed his first seven shots against the Titans and struggled to replace Erik Buggs on defense after the senior point guard fouled out on Jason Calliste’s game-tying 4-point play with five minutes remaining.
As much as Dority has been getting the bulk of criticism for the Valparaiso fan base, Buggs doesn’t want to hear any of it.
“We’re a team,” Buggs said. “Everybody on the team holds each other accountable. We win as a team, we lose as a team and we get better as a team.”
Buggs had one of his strongest performances during his five-year career on Saturday night before fouling out. The senior limited Ray McCallum to two first-half points and took advantage of a sagging Detroit defense by driving to the basket repeatedly.
Fouls kept Buggs from staying in the game for the final five minutes and made his Saturday night unbearable.
“I’m big on wins and losses and that loss really got to me because we had that game,” Buggs said. “That one stung after the game, but at midnight we had to let it go. It’s a new day and you can’t keep thinking about a loss because you’ll end up letting that game beat you twice. It’s time to move on.”
The Crusaders (20-7, 10-3) still control their own destiny and that begins with a road contest on Loyola on Tuesday night. Valparaiso lost 63-54 to the Ramblers (14-12, 4-9) in the Horizon League opener this season, but that was nearly six weeks ago.
Loyola will be without injured point guard Cully Payne (13 points, seven assists in first meeting) and may be without Ben Averkamp (16 points, four blocks). Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew is 6-0 following Horizon League losses and the Crusaders haven’t lost back-to-back conference games in almost two years.
“We have to refocus and make sure we go in there and play our game,” Buggs said. “There is no panic, but there is a sense of urgency.”