Second-half leads mean nothing when Valparaiso is playing former Mid-Con rival Oakland.
The Crusaders held a nine-point lead with less than five minutes remaining Monday night before the Grizzlies scored the final 11 points of the game to win 70-68 at the O’rena.
The late-game collapse was reminiscent of last season’s contest against Oakland when the Crusaders blew a 17-point second half lead at the Athletics-Recreation Center and fell when Reggie Hamilton buried a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
“There were a couple plays that we didn’t execute,” Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew said of the final five minutes. “Lavonte (Dority) hasn’t been in a tight game with us and we’re just getting that experience.”
Valparaiso led 68-59 with 4:27 remaining after Kevin Van Wijk scored three consecutive baskets, but the Crusaders went scoreless on their final eight possessions, including Ryan Broekhoff’s 3-point attempt with two seconds left that would’ve won the game. The Crusaders had a chance to get the ball back down one after a missed free throw with 9.1 seconds left, but Duke Mondy went one-on-four against the Valparaiso defense and came away with an offensive rebound.
“That’s something that we’ll talk about,” Drew said. “If you want to win on the road you have to move past the mental mistakes. This will be a learning experience from the last five minutes.”
That the Crusaders were in position to blow a nine-point lead was impressive given they were constantly battling the officials and an aggressive Oakland offense for the first 30 minutes of the game. Trailing by 10 points with 17:15 remaining, the Crusaders went on a 34-15 run over the next 12 minutes. During the run Ben Boggs and Jordan Coleman combined to score 11 points for Valparaiso.
“We played well enough in that stretch to win the game,” Drew said. “We haven’t had the opportunity to play in a lot of close games this year. We told the guys that we have three more games to get ready for conference. We’re still figuring some things out with our new guys.”
Dority led the Crusaders (7-4) in scoring for the second game in a row with 14 points, while Boggs and Van Wijk each added 11 points. Broekhoff had 10 points and 10 rebounds in 32 hard-fought minutes.
“I’m more worried about Ryan Broekhoff than anything right now,” Drew said. “He’s in some pain and has a lot of bruises and scratches. I’m more concerned with getting him healthy than anything else.”
Travis Bader, Ryan Bass and Mondy all led the Grizzlies (4-7) with 16 points. Mondy scored five of Oakland’s last eight points, including the eventual game-winner with 20.2 seconds remaining.