CEDAR FALLS, IOWA — Another night on the road in the Missouri Valley Conference meant another big deficit to crawl out of for the Valparaiso men’s basketball team.
The Crusaders almost did so in breathtaking fashion, nearly erasing a 23-point second half deficit before falling 81-76 in a nationally-televised contest against Northern Iowa at the McLeod Center on Saturday night.
The Panthers doubled up Valparaiso 46-23 early in the second half and led by 20 points with 4:31 left in the game. Valparaiso coach Matt Lottich made an adjustment to a five-guard lineup and the Crusaders ripped off a 17-3 lead to cut the deficit to 74-69 with 82 seconds remaining.
Northern Iowa ran the lead back up to nine points in the final minute before Markus Golder knocked down a 3-pointer and the Crusaders forced a turnover. Valparaiso had multiple looks at the rim before Max Joseph appeared to tie up Tywhon Pickford for a jump ball. The possession arrow would’ve given Valparaiso another opportunity, but Joseph was called for his fifth foul and Pickford stretched the lead to three possessions at the free throw line.
“The game wasn’t as close as the final score indicated,” Lottich said. “What has been consistent with us on the road is that we’re spotting teams too much. Our execution was poor for about 35 minutes, and with five minutes to go, we were finally the aggressive team.”
Much like road games against Indiana State and Bradley earlier in the conference season, the Crusaders (11-8, 2-4) trailed by double digits midway through the first half and the Panthers led by as many as 15 points before taking a 32-21 lead into the locker room. Valparaiso erased its deficits against the Sycamores and Braves before halftime, but couldn’t get any such luck on Saturday night.
Tywhon Pickford scored seven of his career-high 23 points to open the second half scoring. Austin…