You can never account for an opposing player getting hot and dominating the game, especially when that player normally averages 10 points per game. And yet, that is just what Valparaiso faced Sunday night as Dillon Brooks scored a career-high 26 points, including eight during a 10-2 run midway through the second half that put Oregon ahead for good.
The Ducks would withstand a late charge from Valparaiso that saw the Crusaders get four chances to keep the game a battle, and earn the win at home, 73-67.
Brooks was the big story both offensively and on the glass, as the 6-6 sophomore added 13 rebounds to his line. Tyler Dorsey would add 21 points off the bench, going 3-for-4 from 3-point range and helping to answer the Valparaiso charge.
The Crusaders had trouble getting comfortable against the Ducks, who pressed and challenged Valparaiso on every possession early. Valpo couldn't get the ball inside to its big men, and Alec Peters was cold from shooting everywhere else on the floor. Peters would eventually earn a hard 13 points, but Oregon did a good job holding him to just two points for the first 17 minutes of the game.
Valparaiso also suffered from a major foul disparity for the majority of the game, and it took until almost 19 minutes had passed before the Crusaders made their first trip to the line. Valpo would attempt just six free throws in the game to Oregon's 24, a number inflated somewhat by the late game situation, but still wildly disproportionate.
Vashil Fernandez was again on the short end of the foul situation, marking the third game against Division 1 opponents where he has been whistled for four. He picked up three in the first half, sending him to the bench, and then grabbed his fourth less than a minute into the second half. At the time, Oregon had been whistled for just five fouls in the entire game, something that could possibly have been due to the raucous Duck fans in attendance.
Fernandez was pressed back into service midway through the second half to help calm an Oregon run, one that also caused Bryce Drew to quickly drain his time out allotment, and forced Valparaiso to play without a way to stop the clock for the final 4:30.
Had the Ducks not committed so many unforced turnovers early, Valparaiso may have never had the chance to make its late charge. The Crusaders were able to turn 10 turnovers by Oregon in the first half into 13 points, and Valpo went on a 16-6 run to close the half, punctuated by a late 3-point basket by Tevonn Walker that banked in at the buzzer. Walker would finish with 14 points to lead the Valparaiso, and had a number of key baskets to keep them in the game late.
Valparaiso will have to be content that they pushed a very good top 25 team on their own court when so many things seemed to be going against them over the course of the game. Oregon was better on the offensive glass, the Ducks had the better of the foul situation, and the Crusaders' shooters just didn't have the touch Sunday.
It will unfortunately be the last thing that voters will see this week, erasing a lot of the memories of a 5-0 start that included wins over Iona (home) and Rhode Island (road). This just wasn't the Crusaders' night.