Valparaiso would not be caught looking ahead to Green Bay -- arguably the biggest conference game of the year -- Sunday afternoon, as the Crusaders were able to take care of business in an 82-76 win over the Oakland Golden Grizzlies. A season high six players scored in double figures for the Crusaders.
In one of the most intense conference match ups of the year, Valpo was led by E. Victor Nickerson who scored 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting from the field.
Also scoring in double figures for the Crusaders were David Skara (14 points), Darien Walker (13 points), Tevonn Walker (12 points), Vashil Fernandez (11 points), and Alec Peters (11 points).
Oakland's game plan from the beginning was to force anyone other than Peters and Tevonn Walker to score, but Bryce Drew's team was ready to step up.
After the game Oakland coach Greg Kampe commented on Drew's coaching change that helped Valparaiso get the victory.
"What Bryce did that was so smart was to bring [Tevonn] Walker and Peters together on ball screens," he said.
This coaching change forced the Grizzlies to switch defenders and Valparaiso was able to take advantage of it.
The Grizzlies were able to hold Peters six points below his scoring average and allowed him only one 3-point attempt. But that shot happened to be one of the biggest plays of the game.
With just 2:27 remaining and the Crusaders leading by three, Skara found Peters wide open in the corner where he was able to knock down the open three and extend the Valparaiso lead.
"Open look and I knew we needed a big shot at the time," Peters said of the big shot.
Kampe had higher praise for the play.
"Great job on Peters and all of a sudden he is alone in the corner, and that's how championships are won," he said.
Kahlil Felder finished the game with 20 points and seven assists for Oakland. He is one of just two players (Jalan West, Northwestern State) in the country averaging more than 17 points and seven assists per game.
Although Felder scored 20, Valpo made sure he earned those points forcing him to shoot 8-for-18 from the field and holding him scoreless for the first 13-plus minutes of the second half.
In a game that contained 16 different lead changes -- all coming in the second half -- the Crusaders were able to pick up their league leading ninth conference win, placing them in a first place tie with Cleveland State and a half-game ahead of Green Bay at 8-2. Oakland falls to 7-3 in the Horizon League.
Oakland's next game up will be Tuesday at Milwaukee, where they will look to bounce back and keep pace with the rest of the pack in the standings.
The Crusaders' next game is Friday when they host Green Bay at 7 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2.