Updated: February 6, 2014 6:46AM
ROCHESTER, Mich. — Winning the first two games of the Horizon League season was within Valparaiso’s reach Saturday at Oakland.
The Crusaders were up by 11 points with around eight minutes left after playing what coach Bryce Drew called “32 great minutes.”
And then Oakland’s offense woke up, especially from 3-point range, and the Grizzlies outscored Valparaiso 25-9 the rest of the way for a 75-70 victory.
It’s Oakland’s first win as a member of the Horizon League, and Valparaiso’s sixth loss to the Grizzlies (6-11. 1-1) in the last seven meetings dating back to the teams’ days as members of the Mid-Continent Conference.
“(Oakland) made some tough shots (in the last eight minutes) and we missed some easy shots,” Drew said. “Our inexperience really showed in the second half. We have a lot of room for improvement after this game. Hopefully the guys learn for this.”
Actually, the young Crusaders (9-8, 1-1) only played a disappointing eight minutes, combined with some near-perfect play down the stretch by Oakland.
The Grizzlies hit five 3-pointers in the final eight minutes after hitting five the previous 32 minutes. They also committed no turnovers in the second half. Valparaiso had 12 turnovers — below their average for the season — but a couple came at inopportune moments.
“We had some turnovers that hurt us down the stretch,” Drew said.
Another key to Oakland’s comeback was Valparaiso’s foul issues. The Crusaders committed seven fouls in less than four minutes to start the second half, putting Oakland on the free-throw line early and often.
LaVonte Dority led Valparaiso with 20 points. He also learned some things on defense in Drew’s opinion.
“He did a really good job on defense guarding Oakland’s best player,” Drew said.
That was Travis Bader, who managed to score 20 points (1.5 below his season average). Bader did get closer to the all-time NCAA Division-I 3-pointers made record with five on Saturday. That puts him just 20 away from the mark.
Valparaiso had five players in double figures. Alec Peters and Jordan Coleman had 12 points each, while Lexus Williams scored 11 and Keith Carter had 10 off the bench.