Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Valparaiso 66, Cleveland State 43: Shorthanded Vikings no match for Crusaders

Playing without forwards Jibri Blount (high ankle sprain) and Vinny Zollo (suspension) and guard Daniel Levitt (knee) still not ready to return, Cleveland State was overwhelmed by the defending Horizon League Champions Valparaiso Crusaders.

CSU was held to a season-low point total in a 66-43 loss to Valpo Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena.

"This is the last year, you're going to see junk like this," Vikings head coach Gary Waters said. "This was not good offense. This was bad offense. We could not score."

CSU's (8-19, 3-11 Horizon League) previous low for points scored in a game this year was 45 against Rhode Island in the third game of the season. The Vikings also were held to a season-low for field goals made (14) and were limited to seven field goals in each half. They also turned it over 17 times.

During one stretch in the first half, CSU missed 13 straight shots, including six layups.

Rob Edwards was the only Viking in double-figures with 11 points, but was limited to just seven shots from the field.

"I told some of the guys in the (locker) room, when much is given, much is required," Waters said. "And some players didn't play to their capabilities. This team isn't good enough when your best players can't score."

Waters singled out junior forward Demonte Flannigan for a lackluster performance.

Coming off a career-high 30-point performance Sunday against YSU, Flannigan struggled against the Crusaders, having as many points (six) as turnovers (six).

Flannigan was held to 3 of 10 shooting and even struggled at the free throw line, missing all three attempts from the charity stripe.

"I was disappointed in the performance that Demonte had. It's not the points, it's how he didn't attack them like he attacked YSU," Waters said. "He let (Vashil) Fernandez) take him out of the game. He just shot jump shots and that's what they want him to do."

Valpo (22-5, 12-2 HL) shot 46 percent and used its superior size to its advantage. The Crusaders outrebounded the Vikings by 10 and held a 21-10 edge in second chance points. They also had a 38-14 advantage in points in the paint.

The Crusaders massive frontcourt of 6-foot-9 forward Alec Peters and Fernandez, a 6-foot-10 shot-blocking center, overwhelmed the undersized and undermanned Vikings.

Peters finished with a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Ten of Peters' points came in the first half as he helped Valpo take a 29-17 advantage at the half.

A first-team all-Horizon League selection last year, Peters did most of his damage inside as four of his six field goals came in the paint.

Fernandez made his presence felt on the defensive end with six blocked shots and altered several others. He also contributed four points and two rebounds in 27 minutes.

"He makes the difference for them. If you take him out of the game they wouldn't be in first place right now," Waters said about Fernandez. "Because he's their anchor that holds down the middle."

Valpo used a balance scoring attack with four players scoring at least nine points.

Joining Peters in double-figures were Tevonn Walker with 13 points, while David Skara and Jubril Adekoya each added nine points a piece.

The Vikings dug a hole for themselves by missing eight layups in the first half.

Using its size to its advantage, Valpo exploited CSU inside in the first half as seven of their 12 field goals came in the paint. The Crusaders held a 16-8 edge in points in the paint in the first 20 minutes.

A strong defensive effort kept CSU in the game for most of the first half. The Vikings took four charges in the opening half  and were only down seven with seven minutes to go in the half.

But the Crusaders closed out the half with a 13-8 run to take a 12-point lead at the break.

"I thought if we had made a couple of lay-ups and made our free throws we would have been down four to six points heading into the half," said Waters. "I thought that would have been a great for our team and would have given us a big lift for the second half."

CSU shot just 25 percent (7-of-28) in the opening half, while Valpo shot 37.5 percent (12 of 32).

Both teams made two three-pointers in the first 20 minutes and turned it over seven times. Valpo was 3 of 4 from the free throw line, while CSU was 1 of 5.

In the second half, Valpo kept attacking the rim and shot 55.6 percent in the final 20 minutes as eight of their 15 field goals came in the paint.

CSU was not much better shooting in the second half. The Vikings were held to 7 of 21 shooting (33.3 percent) in the final 20 minutes as Valpo pushed the lead out to as much as 28.

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