EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. –Tevonn Walker scored a game-high 22 points to send undefeated Valparaiso past SIUE 94-69 on Wednesday night at the Vadalabene Center and spoil the Cougars home opener.
Valpo, the newest member of the Missouri Valley Conference, hit 29 of 55 shots and used a 17-0 spree in the first half to build a 42-31 halftime lead and never look back. The Crusaders then scored the first eight points in the second half and led by as many as 27 points.
"You have to give credit to Valparaiso for the way they played defense, but a lot of it was us," third-year SIUE Head Coach Jon Harris said. "We wanted to attack the rim, but we were too stagnant. We need better movement and have to become more aggressive on offense."
Harris added, "Our defense is being dictated by our offense and it needs to be the other way around."
"Jalen did some good things and Daniel was the same way," Harris said. "But both need a better effort defensively."
The Crusaders' Walker, a 6-foot, 2-inch senior guard, made 6 of 11 shots, including 3 of 4 threes. He also hit on 7 of 10 free throws.
"Walker is a good player and he can handle the ball and shoot it," Harris said. The Cougars outrebounded the Crusaders 40-36, but Valpo tallied 31 points off of 21 SIUE turnovers.
Harris noted, "They play good defense, but we have to do a better job of handling the ball."
While Valpo improved to 3-0, SIUE dropped to 0-2. The Cougars made only 22 of 60 shots, 36.7 percent and were 3 of 18 on 3-pointers. Valpo connected on 9 of 16 shots from 3-point range and converted 27 of 37 free throws.
"Our defense led to a lot of offense," Valpo coach Matt Lottich said. "We challenged our guys when it was 17-16 in the first half and they responded."
The Crusaders responded with their 17-point spurt and that coincided with the Cougars going seven minutes without scoring. SIUE also went scoreless nearly the first five minutes of the second half and fell behind 50-31.
"SIUE is much better than they were last year," Lottich said. "We enjoyed playing here a lot and we are elated to be in the Missouri Valley Conference. It's a good fit for us."
The Cougars play Stetson at noon Saturday in DeLand, Fla., then return home to meet Western Illinois, of The Summit League, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 22.