Bryce Drew meets the media after his Valparaiso team defeated BYU in NIT semifinals. (Photo courtesy of Ray Floriani)
BY RAY FLORIANI
New York City - They met twice in the 1940s. BYU and Valparaiso split their two games played during the Big Band era. On this night, the trip to New York, represented a trip to the NIT championship. BYU has been here four times, winning it all in 1951 and 1966. For Valparaiso, this was their first time in the NIT ‘Final Four.’
Another first was realized by the Crusader program on this evening, as Valpo advanced to their first NIT final, edging BYU 72-70 in an exciting semifinal at Madison Square Garden.
First Half: The first five possessions resulted in a 4-3 Valpo lead after 2:16 elapsed. BYU struggled at the start, committing three turnovers in five possessions. Only a Chase Fischer three-pointer on the fifth possession salvaged those first two-plus minutes. BYU continues to have trouble with turnovers. Maybe it shouldn’t be too surprising, as Valpo entered the game with an outstanding 93 defensive efficiency. Offensively, Valpo is doing a nice job with their interior passing, creating excellent close-in opportunities. Down eight midway through the half, BYU switches from man to a 1-3-1 zone, trying to give a different look. Offensively, BYU chooses the three to trim the deficit. Hitting a few, they trail by five at the eight-minute break. Kyle Collinsworth, a double-figure (season average) scorer for BYU, begins to heat up. Regardless, the BYU concern is trying to slow down and contain Valpo.
Halftime: Valpo 44, BYU 30
Possessions: BYU 43, Valpo 42
Offensive efficiency: Valpo 105, BYU 70
- BYU was forced into a 28 percent turnover rate.
Second Half: BYU wins the first four minutes, 9-6, but the Valpo lead is still 11 points at the 16-minute mark. The run is on, as the Cougars begin finding the range. Valpo’s lead is cut down to four with just under 15 minutes to play, and head coach Bryce Drew calls timeout. The brief respite calms the Crusaders, who take an eight-point lead into the under-12-minute timeout. Hard to believe with all that Valpo has thrown at the Cougars, it’s just a one-possession game midway through the final half. With just under six minutes to play, Valpo is ahead by four. BYU is shooting 37 percent from three, while Valpo is clicking at 44 percent. The three aside, BYU has the deficit trimmed to two with five minutes to go, thanks to attacking the paint. A traditional three by Collinsworth gives BYU its first lead with just over four minutes to go, but Valpo quickly regains the initiative. This one is headed to the wire, as Valpo leads 71-70 with seven seconds left. The long pass versus pressure is completed, and Shane Hammink is fouled. He hits the first shot, but misses the second. BYU rebounds and pushes up the floor, but a deep three attempt at the buzzer is rejected.
Final: Valpo 72, BYU 70
Possessions: BYU 79, Valpo 78
Offensive efficiency: Valpo 92, BYU 89
eFG%: BYU 43, Valpo 52
Free Throw Rate: BYU 25, Valpo 28
Offensive Rebound%: BYU 33, Valpo 27
Turnover Rate: BYU 23, Valpo 26
What Valpo did well: Spread the wealth. A total 18 assists on 26 field goals, plus five players in double figures, exhibited the Crusaders’ ability to share the ball and distribute. Having the will to survive a few late Cougar runs bears mention as well.
What BYU did well: Force turnovers to produce a late game run. BYU coach Dave Rose constantly switched defenses, attempting to keep Valpo off balance. In the second half, the Cougars forced turnovers and used those Crusader errors to ignite their offense.
NOTES: Valpo led 22-6 in bench points. The shot chart showed during the last 12 minutes of the game, BYU scored 10 field goals, all in the paint. Alec Peters led the way with nine rebounds. Kyle Collinsworth had a very good effectiveness factor for BYU. He was headed to an outstanding one, but five turnovers got in the way. BYU finished 7-of-21 from three. Valpo was 11-for-28 (.393). An Interesting number: BYU led for 31 seconds. Still, the Cougars nearly pulled off a game decided on the last possession.
“Wonderful experience for our program. Three home games, playing in the Garden. The second half, BYU made runs at us. Overall, I thought our team really moved the ball very well. Getting three home games was tremendous. Our path and goal was getting to New York and winning the NIT. This is so memorable, the Garden, the energy around town. All four teams here given the opportunity might have done the same thing (lower NCAA seeds advancing). We run an offense where a lot of different people can make plays. I thought our offense was good, but BYU did a great job making adjustments early second half. To beat good teams and win, you have to have people step up. To have five guys in double figures as we did tonight is an example of that.” - Valpo coach Bryce Drew
“Disappointed not getting in the NCAA, but winning an NIT is so much better than getting in the NCAA and say just playing a round.” -Alec Peters of Valparaiso
“Difficult when you catch up and let it slip away. We have been a good second half team. We got the lead and gave it back. We thought, that’s what you can ask for. The locker room was tough, a lot of emotion knowing it’s our last game of the season. We’ll rest up and then it’s back to work. That’s what I know best, work.”” - Kyle Collinsworth of BYU
“The zone gave us a chance to get back. We got some long rebounds to get in transition and get baskets before their defense was set. We had trouble in the half court executing our offense. Our advantage was to use transition, the zone allowed us to do that. It came down to the last three minutes, when one team would make one more play. We had the chances to make that play. We have been in comeback situations more than a coach would want. These guys have confidence in our abilities. We just needed to play better. I am pleased with the way we responded to a tough game in the first half. We will have a banquet and be together again, but tonight was the last time together from a competitive standpoint.” BYU coach Dave Rose