Put all of these components together and you have the making of an Incredible Game, and that it was! Unfortunately, Valparaiso's Crusaders were on the losing end, the 2nd straight home game they lost, in the final 30 seconds of play!
Valparaiso started out HOT as the dessert, jumping out to a 12-0 lead on the Bulldogs. I was thinking, even though it was early, this just may be "the night". Valparaiso never trailed in the first half and had a lead as high as 13 points, due to Jake Dieblers defense on A.J. Graves (Butlers go to star player). Combine that with great shooting and inside post play from Valpo's Urele Igbavoda, Valpo led Butler 43-35 at the half!
The 2nd half began sluggish. I started having a feeling that the Bulldogs, if given the chance to stay in the game, WOULD. That's Exactly what happenned. A.J. Graves started to show his all-American form by hitting a 3 pointer that seemed to be taken from Evansville, IN - it was that deep - at least 7 feet outside NBA range and it hit nothing but the bottom of the net! He is quick, smooth, as pure as a shooter I have ever witnessed. Valparaiso still held the lead throughout the 2nd half UNTIL......the last 15 seconds remaining, when Butler's Pete Campbell hit a deep corner 3 ball to give Butler a 71-68 lead. Valpo missed one MAJOR part of their offense this night. I have been talking about it all year long, we needed Sam Hannapa's 3 point shooting badly in this game. It was not Sam's fault - Butler -( just like every team in the league so far), played him man to man, like a glove stuck on a hand! Sam fought hard to get free to no avail and ended up with only 6 points, all from the charity line. Valpo did improve greatly in the free throw category hitting over 85% for the game, but it just was not enough. The Bulldogs are incredibly coached by first year head coach Brad Stevens. It was a thriller game at the ARC, but a loss is a loss. So what's next for the Crusaders of Valparaiso ?
This loss was not only physical, it has to be an emotional/mental loss as well. Valpo played their hearts out AT HOME and led for 39:45 of a 40:00 minute game and lost. They played in front of a sold out crowd, with all of their fans and students supporting and cheering them on but they lost. They played so well in front of a Nationally televised game, but they lost. No doubt this game "MAY" take its toll on this hard playing, over achieving team. BUT a true "good team" will bounce back from this and win. The true test will be how the losing team responds in their next game! I think Valpo, under Coach Homer Drew, will bounce back. It is going to be hard, very hard, since the next 3 games are on the road. The Crusader's next Home Game is on Valentine's Day against Cleveland State (2nd in the conference). Valpo is faced with an up hill battle...can they do it and get a home court game for the upcoming Horizon League Tourney?? Time will tell. I say they will bounce back and YES host a game :)
Good Luck Valpo - Get back to your winning ways! You have no reason to hold your heads down, you just gave the 10th ranked Butler Bulldogs an incredible game - nice job !
Editorial by Jeff Safrin
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