Cleveland St. holds off Valpo 78-73 to reach Horizon title game
INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—Cedric Jackson scored 22 points, J’Nathan Bullock added 19 and Cleveland State held off Valparaiso 78-73 in the semifinals of the Horizon League tournament Saturday.
The Vikings (21-11), the tourney’s No. 2 seed, will play 14th-ranked, No. 1-seed Butler on Tuesday night for the conference championship and an automatic NCAA tournament berth. Butler advanced with a 66-50 win over Illinois-Chicago in the second semifinal at Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Sixth-seeded Valparaiso (21-13) was in the tournament for the first time after coming over from the Mid-Continent Conference this season. The Crusaders rallied from an 18-point deficit and tied the game for the only time at 65 on a 3-pointer by Jarryd Loyd with under 3 minutes to go.
Breyohn Watson then put Cleveland State back on top with a 3-pointer. Norris Cole added another basket, and the Vikings scored their final eight points on free throws.
Cole finished with 11 points for Cleveland State. Loyd had a career-high 25 points, 19 of them in the second half during Valpo’s comeback.
Shawn Huff and Urule Igbavboa added 15 points apiece for the Crusaders.
Eight of Cleveland State’s first 14 baskets were 3-pointers, including three during an 11-0 run that gave the Vikings their biggest lead of the game at 36-18.
The Crusaders countered with a smaller, quicker lineup and took away Cleveland State’s outside shot during their first rally. Michael Rogers and Brandon McPherson had two free throws apiece, Loyd and Huff each hit a 3-pointer, and Rogers scored on a layup and free throw as Valparaiso ran off 13 straight to pull within five.
The Vikings’ only points the final 6 minutes of the first half were on a basket by Cole and a free throw by Bullock. But a basket by Rogers in the closing seconds pulled Valpo within 39-33 at the break.
Cleveland State again built the lead to 15 points in the second half before Loyd led Valparaiso’s final comeback.