Cleveland State was only able to contain Alec Peters for about nine minutes Saturday, but in the final 31 minutes Valparaiso's star forward showed why he's a top NBA draft prospect.
Peters, who DraftExpress.com rates as the No. 29 prospect in this year's upcoming draft, scored 19 of his 30 points in the second half to help hold off CSU's late rally as the Crusaders held on to a 78-67 victory at the Wolstein Center.
"Peters had a phenomenal game," said Vikings head coach Gary Waters. "Every time we made a mistake, he made us pay."
Rob Edwards led the Vikings (5-13, 1-5 HL) with 22 points, while Bobby Word added 14, knocking down four three-pointers.
"We needed more from Rob today [to beat a team like Valpo,]" said Waters.
The Vikings held Peters scoreless through the first two media timeouts as CSU built an early 16-4 lead.
CSU opened the game making five of its first 10 shots from the field, while Valpo (14-4, 4-1 HL) started off 1-of-11.
But the Vikings couldn't hold on to the lead for the long.
"Peters started playing,"Waters said about what turned the game around in favor of Valpo. "Then he went to work."
Peters was held to one shot in the first nine minutes.
Coming out of the second media timeout, Peters knocked down his first shot of the game - a 3-pointer - closed the Crusaders within 16-7 and sparked a 30-12 run to close out the half that allowed Valpo to take control of the game.
Peters second 3-pointer, tied it at 27-27 and his free throw gave them the lead for good, 28-27.
CSU went the final five minutes of the opening half without a field goal and trailed 34-28 at the intermission.
Peters led the Crusaders with 11 first half points, while Edwards (nine) and Demonte Flannigan (seven) paced the Vikings.
A three-point play from Peters extended Valpo's lead to 17, 47-30.
The Vikings would make it interesting. Using a fullcourt press, CSU closed to within four, 68-64, but they ran out of gas.
Valpo closed the game on a 10-3 run to pull out the win.
"I thought we played hard enough to win," Waters said. "The problem was we had two periods when we let them get away from us."
CSU shot 38.9 percent from the field and were 8-of-24 from three-point distance.
Valpo shot 42.3 percent from the field and were 2-of-11 from long range. The Crusaders held a huge edge at the free throw line, getting to the charity stripe 37 times and making 32 of them, while CSU was 17-of-25.
The Crusaders also held a 43-25 edge in rebounding.
The Vikings went through one long stretch where they made just 4-of-21 shots and took a 27-22 CSU lead and turned it into a 47-30 Valpo advantage.
"We need to shoot better period," said Waters. "We need to shoot 45 percent."
Return of the press: Waters indicated that press is here to stay.
"This week is the first week we said we are going to go at it full pledge pressing," he said. "I know in order to press like that it takes time. I thought today we took a big step. Monday we will take another step until we finally get this mastered."
Waters was asked by a reporter if he plans to press for the entire game.
"That is the plan," he said.
Maxwell shines: Following CSU's 59-54 loss to UIC on Thursday, Waters was very critical of sophomore point guard Nelson Maxwell after he turned it over four times.
But on Saturday, Waters praised the walk-on from Orange Village. Maxwell was the one running the show in the second half when CSU made its late run.
"I thought he played much better. He hit some key baskets and didn't turn it over," Waters said. "I thought he was a big reason why we got back into the game."
Maxwell tied his career-high with eight points on 3-of-6 shooting. He had one assists, three rebounds and only one turnover in 18 minutes.
Next up: CSU travels to second-place Oakland on Monday.
The Golden Grizzlies (14-4, 4-1 HL) are coming off its first conference loss - a 93-88 setback - against rival Detroit at the O'rena Friday.