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Home NCAA series ends with close loss to Valpo

Friday August 14, 2015
Richard Whittaker

The Gee-Gees men’s basketball team closed out the home portion of its NCAA exhibition schedule with a 84-76 loss to the Valparaiso Crusaders. The Crusaders pulled away from a fairly even match in the last five minutes, running Ottawa’s non-conference record to 1-2.

Mike L’Africain led all scorers with 23 points including four three-pointers, followed by Caleb Agada with 22 points and fifteen rebounds. For the Crusaders, big man Jubril Adekoya was crucial and tallied 20 points with 10 rebounds.

Leading by six after thirty minutes, Valpo pulled out to a 68-57 lead in the opening minute of the fourth quarter and held a double-digit lead with four minutes remaining. Ottawa rallied with a big L’Africain triple cutting the lead to 76-71. A beautiful set play which sprung Agada for a back door pass from Vikas Gill had Ottawa at 76-73 with two minutes to play, but a flurry of Crusader efficiency stretched the lead back to nine at 82-73.

“One of our strengths the last few seasons has been our IQ at the end of games, and we made some poor decisions down the stretch,” said Gee-Gees head coach James Derouin. “It’s August and everyone is adjusting to their new roles, but those are things that are very uncharacteristic for our group as a veteran group and that’s what we’ll take out of this game.”

Ottawa was 14-35 from beyond the arc in the game, while Valpo went 3-21.

Valpo led 22-17 at the end of the first quarter. Agada came out strong, stopping Valpo drive attempts and hammering home a tomahawk dunk in the first quarter.

In the second, back to back threes from Agada, bringing the ball upcourt, had Ottawa within one at 28-27 and a Plunkett shot from deep tied things up at 30-30. Agada frequently took advantage of the switching man-to-man Crusader defence, something James Derouin expects the fourth-year to see plenty of when the OUA regular season starts up in November.

“You have to pull out the match up that you want and attack it, but it’s ok to miss sometimes. Caleb has to learn to shake that off and get to the next possession.”

Gill opened the second half with a deep three after a 39-37 halftime deficit. Ottawa shared the basketball well and took a 52-50 lead before stalling against a Valpo zone.

The Gee-Gees will play once more against American competition, travelling to Montreal on Thursday, August 20 to meet Texas Tech at Champlain College. Game time is 8 p.m.