Shane Hammink scored 7 of his 10 points in the game’s final six minutes, to help #1 seed Valparaiso
stave off a BYU comeback and win 72-70 in the NIT semifinal at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Valpo showed its defensive prowess in the first half by holding one of the nation’s top scoring teams to just 30 points, as the Crusaders led the #2 seed Cougars 44-30. BYU chipped away at the Valpo lead for much of the second half, until a Kyle Collinsworth three-point play gave the Cougars a 64-63 lead with 4:26 left. On the very next possession, Hammink drove down the left side of the lane with his left hand and made an emphatic two-handed slam dunk. With the game later tied at 68 with under a minute left, Valpo took a timeout. This helped to set up the go-ahead basket as Hammink assisted on a David Skara three point shot. BYU quickly scored in the paint on the next possession to trim the lead to one. A set play ensued as Alec Peters delivered a baseball pass three-quarters down the court to a streaking Hammink, who had the defender beat and almost definitely would have had an easy dunk or layup. However, Hammink bobbled the ball. But he did recover it immediately and was fouled right away. He made the first free throw as the ball bounced in and out, and then off the square of the backboard and back in. He missed the second one. So with five seconds left, BYU rebounded the basketball and hurried down the court trailing by just two points. Even if the Cougars wanted to tie the game to force overtime, they really were not able to attempt to unless they got a clean pass to an open man inside the arc. There simply was not enough time, and Valpo’s suffocating defense rarely has holes in it. So Chase Fischer dribbled diagonally across midcourt and attempted an off-balance three pointer from about 28 feet. In a postseason that has featured so many buzzer-beaters, it would not have been surprising if this shot banked off of the backboard and into the hoop. But who was there to perfectly time his jump and block the shot? None other than Hammink. That was his fifth and most important blocked shot of the game. Valpo survived with a 72-70 win.
Valpo superstar Alec Peters struggled to find any offensive rhythm and finished with, what is for him a modest effort, 15 points and a game-high 9 rebounds. David Skara was big off the bench, scoring a season-high 15 points, including three three’s. Keith Carter had a great all-around effort with 13 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. For the Cougars, West Coast Conference Player of the Year Kyle Collinsworth had a game-high 20 points, despite getting off to a slow start. Freshman phenom Nick Emery added 18 points, while Chase Fischer added 16 points. Neither team shot the ball very well today. But Valpo’s 11 to 7 edge in three-point makes proved to be a big difference. The Crusaders also moved the ball around more efficiently, as they had 18 assists, compared to just 8 for BYU. Both teams did a poor job of taking care of the basketball, as Valpo had 20 turnovers and BYU had 18. Some of this can be attributed to good defensive pressure, while nerves and the rust of not having played in over three weeks undoubtedly played roles too.
BYU has nothing to be ashamed of, as their season ends at 26-11. The NIT Championship game will take place on Thursday at 7pm on ESPN. Valparaiso (30-6) will play the winner of George Washington and San Diego State.