Forward Alec Peters scored 29 points, and fourth-seeded Valparaiso held off a late charge by ninth-seeded Illinois-Chicago for a 73-63 opening-round Horizon League tournament victory on Tuesday at the Athletics-Recreation Center in Valparaiso, Ind.
Guard LaVonte Dority added 12 for the defending league champion Crusaders (18-14).
Valparaiso saw a 14-point, second-half advantage shrink to 59-56 with 6:29 to play, but the Crusaders maintained a lead that never slipped under five points the rest of the way.
Valparaiso completed a three-game season sweep of the Flames, whose campaign ended with the defeat. Illinois-Chicago (6-25) lost 19 of its final 20 games.
Illinois-Chicago guard Marc Brown scored 16 points, forward Jordan Harks had 14, guard Kelsey Barlow contributed 11 and guard Jay Parker added 10. The Flames maintain a 29-20 series edge, but last beat the Crusaders on Feb. 15, 2008.
Valparaiso never trailed, and it claimed a 39-28 lead by halftime behind Peters’ 14 first-half points. Brown had 11 for the Flames in the opening 20 minutes.
Valparaiso meets Milwaukee on Friday night in a Horizon quarterfinal at Green Bay. The fifth-seeded Panthers beat Detroit 83-73 in an earlier first-round match. Milwaukee eliminated Detroit 83-73 Tuesday.
The Milwaukee-Valparaiso winner will play the top-seeded Phoenix in the semifinals on Saturday, also at Green Bay.
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