For the first time ever, an ACC team made a trip to the Athletics-Recreation Center in Valparaiso. In second round NIT action, fourth-seeded Florida State found themselves underdogs on the road against the Valparaiso Crusaders. The Crusaders seized the opportunity to defeat a power conference opponent and reaffirm why many of those types of schools are afraid to play Valparaiso during the non-conference season. Valparaiso led the whole way and finished off an emphatic win over the Seminoles to advance to the NIT quarterfinals.
The Crusaders set the tone early by jumping out to an early lead and playing the solid defense that carried them all season. Valparaiso kept the Seminoles off the scoreboard for over five minutes to start the first half. During that time, the Crusaders established a seven point lead which included an alley-oop to Shane Hammink to get the capacity crowd into the game. Florida State recovered and kept the Crusaders from stretching the lead further, cutting the lead to two with eight minutes to play in the first half. From there, Valparaiso's Alec Peters established himself and took things over for the Crusaders. Peters took advantage of some mismatches in the paint to push the lead to ten and finished the half with 16 points. Valparaiso maintained that ten point lead going into the half.
Valparaiso came out strong in the second half as well. A Vashil Fernandez alley-oop off of an inbound pass was followed up by an acrobatic layup-and-one from Keith Carter to propel the Crusaders in front by twelve. However, the Seminoles had a run in them before all was said and done. Florida State used a 10-1 run powered by Malik Beasley to cut the Crusader lead down to only three with just under thirteen minutes to play.
But, it was the Crusaders' night to shine. A Peters basket and free throw followed soon after by a Jubril Adekoya three-pointer seized momentum back in favor of Valparaiso. The Seminoles would never get closer than six points from Valparaiso the rest of the way. Valparaiso pushed the lead back into double digits with a little under five minutes to play and finished off a decisive twelve-point victory.
Peters led the Crusaders in scoring, as he so often does, with a 26 point and 9 rebound performance. Adekoya, Hammink, and Carter all also scored in double figures for Valparaiso. As a unit, the Crusaders shot 47% from the field and 44% from three. Valparaiso can also feel good about holding their lead despite having Fernandez, the Horizon League defensive player of the year, on the bench in foul trouble for a good portion of the game. Tevonn Walker also returned from injury to log 13 minutes as he looks to return to the rotation soon.
Florida State was led in scoring by Xavier Rathan-Mayes with 19 points. Beasley and Dwayne Bacon both finished with 14 points of their own as well.
Next up for Valparaiso will be the NIT quarterfinals. The Crusaders will host the winner of Sunday's contest between Georgia and Saint Mary's. The quarterfinal was announced to take place next Tuesday (March 22nd).