The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team put on a show for the home fans at the ARC on Thursday evening in its lone home exhibition game, showcasing an up-tempo, attacking mentality in running away with a 117-69 victory over Robert Morris (Ill.), which entered the game ranked 12th in the NAIA Division II preseason poll.
How It Happened
- Fittingly enough, senior Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) knocked down a 3-pointer on the Crusaders’ first possession to jump start a 16-point first-half performance. Walker’s triple ensured the Crusaders would never trail.
- With the lead 11-8 just over four minutes into the game, Valpo scored nine straight to push the lead into double figures for the first time. Senior Max Joseph (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) completed a 3-point play and finished on the fast break for five points during the spurt, while sophomore Micah Bradford (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) knocked down a pair of shots in a span of 31 seconds as well.
- After RMU closed back to within six points, the Crusaders answered with nine consecutive points – seven of which came from Walker – to sit with a 29-14 lead at the halfway mark of the first half.
- Valpo pushed the lead to 20 points for the first time on a fast-break basket from sophomore Markus Golder (Portland, Ore./Clackamas [North Idaho]) with 3:43 to play in the first half. The Crusaders eventually took a 54-36 lead into the locker room as the Eagles’ Rahaman Katumbusi knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
- With the advantage at 63-42 early in the second half, the Crusaders’ bench unit put together an impressive run. Bradford, Golder, Joseph, freshman Mileek McMillan (Merrillville, Ind./Merrillville) and sophomore Derrik Smits (Zionsville, Ind./Zionsville) played the next four minutes together and outscored RMU 15-5 over that stretch – highlighted by a pair of fast-break slams from Smits – as the lead reached 30+ points.
- Valpo cruised from there, hitting triple figures on a 3-pointer from McMillan with 5:13 to play.
Inside the Game
- The up-and-down pace of the game yielded 79 total possessions as the Crusaders averaged an impressive 1.48 points per possession on the night.
- Valpo did well in the open floor, finishing the night with 34 fast-break points. The Crusaders gave the fans plenty to cheer about as well with eight dunks from four different players, led by four jams from Golder.
- For all the highlight-reel action, it was a balanced team effort up and down the box score on Thursday. All 11 active Crusaders played between 10 and 23 minutes, while seven of the 11 players scored in double figures.
- A pair of bench players led the way with 17 points, as Bradford and Golder tied for team-high honors – the latter doing it on 8-of-11 shooting from the field. Both players scored 13 second-half points.
- Walker finished with 16 points in just 17 minutes of action, as he scored all of his points in the first half. The senior went 3-for-4 from 3-point range and added seven rebounds and four steals as well.
- McMillan went 4-for-5 from the floor in a 12-point effort, while Joseph, junior Joe Burton (Porter, Texas/Atascocita [Oklahoma State]) and sophomore Jaume Sorolla (Tortosa, Spain/Sunrise Christian [Kan.] Academy) each added 11 points.
- Joseph went a perfect 7-of-7 from the foul line and dished out a team-best six assists. Burton needed just three field goal attempts – including a pair of triples – for his 11 points, while Sorolla went 5-of-7 from the field and added five rebounds.
- Freshman Parker Hazen (Columbia City, Ind./Columbia City) led the effort on the glass for the Crusaders, grabbing a game-high 10 rebounds as Valpo out-rebounded the Eagles, 59-33.
- Sophomore Bakari Evelyn (Detroit, Mich./Hillcrest Academy/Southfield Christian [Nebraska]) started at the point and filled up the box score with seven points, four rebounds and five assists, while Smits [seven points, four rebounds, two blocks in 10 minutes] and freshman Marten Linssen (Dusseldorf, Germany/Schloss-Gymnasium Benrath) [five points, five rebounds] both had solid outings as well.
- Valpo shot 58% (40-of-69) for the game, including 9-of-16 from the 3-point line. The Crusaders also got to the foul line 38 times, hitting 28 for a 73.7% clip.
- Katumbusi and Marquel Murphy tied for team-high honors for Robert Morris with 12 points. Valpo limited the Eagles to 33.3% (25-of-75) shooting from the field.
Valpo will compete in a special hurricane relief exhibition game at Chicago State on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m.