VALPARAISO | Alec Peters chose the right time to deliver his finest performance of the season.
The Valparaiso freshman delivered one of the best shooting nights in program history, scoring 29 points on 10-of-11 shooting as the No. 4-seeded Crusaders knocked off No. 9 Illinois-Chicago 73-63 in an opening-round game of the Horizon League tournament Tuesday at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
Peters’ performance came just short of matching Zoran Viskovic’s program-best 11-of-11 output against Chicago State on Jan. 3, 1998. Peters also added eight rebounds and two steals.
“Anytime you’re in a situation where tomorrow isn’t promised, you have to make the most of it,” Peters said. “Tonight was a win-or-go-home situation, and that’s the attitude that you have to have.”
The Crusaders (18-14) will play No. 5 Milwaukee on Friday night in Green Bay after the Panthers beat No. 8 Detroit 83-73 on Tuesday.
Peters scored 14 points in the first half as the Crusaders jumped out to a 39-28 halftime lead. Valparaiso stretched the lead to as many as 14 in the second half before UIC battled back and cut the deficit to three points with 6:29 remaining.
The Flames (6-24) had all the momentum until Purdue transfer Kelsey Barlow committed his fourth foul with less than six minutes left in the game. Barlow yelled at the official after the call and was assessed a technical, fouling out of the game. Lavonte Dority hit three free throws, and the Crusaders never led by less than five points the rest of the contest.
“It takes one of your best players off the court,” UIC coach Howard Moore said of Barlow’s quick technical. “Do I agree with the call? That’s a whole other story. He reacted, and you can’t react. That’s something we teach.”
The Crusaders were able to hold off UIC despite going the final 9:29 without a field goal. Valparaiso was able to hit 14 free throws down the stretch to ice the victory. Peters went the final 10:38 without attempting a shot.
“We had some success with some different things early, and then they didn’t work out as well,” Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew said. “We went back to our familiar play calls that we usually finish. Looking back, maybe we should’ve run some more stuff (for Peters).”
Marc Brown led UIC with 16 points, while Jordan Hanks added 14 points and nine rebounds.
Valparaiso High product Hayden Humes finished his collegiate career with four points and one steal before fouling out in 24 minutes of action.
“It’s just tough knowing that it’s my last game,” Humes said. “We were excited and thought we could be a dangerous team in this tournament. Obviously, we’re done now.”