It’s rare that a November game between mid-majors has a late-season feel to it, but Tuesday night’s matchup between No. 21 Rhode Island and Valparaiso had just that.
For Valparaiso, it was its first time hosting a ranked team since 2010, and was a chance to further prove that there hasn’t been any drop-off in the post-Drew era. For Rhode Island, it was a chance to live up to the hype that has been given to them early in the season. If the Rams want to be worthy of a Top 25 ranking and be considered a dark-horse contender, this is was game they had to win.
On Tuesday, it was the Crusaders who prevailed, 65-62. Led by their star forward Alec Peters, Valparaiso matched their best start in 70 years. This win was Valpo’s fourth of the season against a top-100 KenPom opponent and their first win over a ranked opponent in program history.
They only led by one at the half, but the Crusaders were able to extend their lead in the second half at the free throw line. They entered the game shooting 81 percent from the stripe, and reached the bonus with just under 14 minutes to go, and the double bonus by the eight minute mark. The Rams cut their lead to four at the final media timeout, and had it within two in the final minute, but the Crusaders took advantage of the free points, and finished the job by going 18-21 (85.7 percent) from the stripe.
Peters continued his hot start to the year by pouring in 27 points and snagging nine rebounds, falling one board short of his fourth double-double. He also blocked Rhode Island’s final three-point attempt to seal the win.
Tevonn Walker did a great job getting into the paint against the Rhode Island guards, and finished with a 10 points to go with seven rebounds and seven assists. Jubril Adekoya chipped in with 13 points, including the first seven of the game, as the starting five scored all but two of the Crusaders’ points.
The Rams rallied late, but their offensive woes throughout the game were ultimately their undoing. Rhode Island came into the game averaging 82.2 points per game, but on Tuesday only shot 42 percent from the floor and scored a season-low 62 points.
Jared Terrell had the hot hand in the first half, but was really the only player to get anything going for Rhode Island. He finished with a team-high 21 points. Hassan Martin and Jarvis Garrett each hit double-figures, scoring 16 and 10, respectively.
E.C. Matthews really was nowhere to be found in this one and scored in single-digits (six points) for the third straight game.
The Crusaders will have a chance to build upon this big win when they face No. 1 Kentucky on Saturday. Rhode Island, who has lost two of its last three, will look to get back on track at Providence on Saturday.