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Clock strikes midnight for Crusaders
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Clock strikes midnight for Crusaders

COLUMBUS, OHIO | The Valparaiso men’s basketball team walked into Nationwide Arena on Friday afternoon wanting to prove that it belonged on the biggest stage college basketball has to offer.

The Crusaders did exactly that and perhaps that’s why the sting of Friday’s season-ending 65-62 loss to Maryland in the second round of the NCAA tournament will hurt even more.

Valparaiso had a chance to tie the game in the waning seconds but failed to shoot in its final possession. Television replays showed that Keith Carter’s arm was hit as he attempted to take a game-tying 3-pointer.

“Any game you lose hurts,” Valparaiso sophomore Alec Peters said. “Especially one that we knew we put ourselves in a situation to win.”

Players and coaches struggled to come to grips with the loss in the locker room after the game as phones were passed around with photographs of the final sequence. While there was anger over how the final possession unfolded, there wasn’t one person in the Valparaiso locker room that was putting the outcome on the final play.

“In the game of basketball there’s a lot of ups and downs,” Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew said. “A lot of things that go on. Our team’s whole focus all year has been worry about the things that we can control. There were probably different things throughout the game that could have gone either way. I’m extremely proud of our guys and extremely blessed to be around these guys for a year.”

Nationwide Arena was filled with Valparaiso fans in several spots on Friday. Valparaiso’s Executive Director for Alumni Relations Linda Roettger said the school sold its full allotment of 560 tickets and had a bus with more than 100 fans come in from Northwest Indiana.

“We had people coming from all over the place to show their support today,” Roettger said. “We had a group of people come in from St. Louis and people that were driving in from six or seven hours out to watch Valparaiso.”

The Crusaders put on quite a show for 40 minutes, something the team has struggled to do in the NCAA tournament since the 1998 run. Friday marked Valparaiso’s best chance for a tournament win since the Sweet Sixteen loss to Rhode Island. The stark reality that the offseason begins now will be difficult to process for the youthful Crusaders.

“I think anyone would tell you that we wish we could play tomorrow and just beat somebody so we could feel better,” Peters said. “This loss shouldn’t take away from anything that we accomplished. We accomplished most of our goals.”


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Sports Director

Hillary has covered prep, pro and college sports -- and even a Dixie Baseball World Series -- for newspapers north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line since 1995.

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