The depth of the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team was on display again on Tuesday evening at the ARC, as the Crusaders paired two starters with three players off the bench during a big second-half run, pulling away from Samford for an 88-67 victory as part of the Savannah Invitational.
How It Happened
- A tight first half was played within a spread of just eight points, as the opening 20 minutes featured six ties and eight lead changes. Valpo’s largest lead was five points, while Samford never gained more than a one-possession advantage.
- Trailing 30-28 approaching the four-minute mark of the first half, the Crusaders went on a 9-2 run – including two baskets from senior Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) and capped by a 3-pointer by sophomore Micah Bradford (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) – to go ahead 37-32 with a minute to play.
- Samford scored two straight baskets to pull within one point, but a put-back just before the horn from redshirt junior Joe Burton (Porter, Texas/Atascocita [Oklahoma State]) made it a 39-36 Valpo lead at the break.
- A dunk from Burton opened the second-half scoring on Valpo’s first possession, but the Crusaders would score just two points over the next four-plus minutes. Samford went on a 9-2 spurt over that stretch to take a 48-45 lead, as Valpo trailed in the second half for the first time this season.
- Back-to-back dunks by redshirt sophomore Markus Golder (Portland, Ore./Clackamas [North Idaho]), the first a highlight-reel two-handed tip dunk, ignited an 11-0 Crusader run as Valpo pulled ahead 56-48 with 12 minutes to play.
- Samford would respond, however, scoring seven of the next eight points as a layup from Stefan Lakic cut the Crusader edge to 57-55 with 9:41 remaining.
- That served to just set up a closing stretch much like Sunday’s final minutes, however. Valpo out-scored the Bulldogs 31-12 over the game’s final 9:30, starting with a 16-2 run over a span of 3:30.
- Walker and Burton were joined on the court for the critical run by senior Max Joseph (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College), sophomore John Kiser (Noblesville, Ind./Noblesville) and freshman Mileek McMillan (Merrillville, Ind./Merrillville). All five players scored during the stretch, including consecutive triples by McMillan and Walker and a fast-break 3-pointer from Burton to cap the run. Burton’s triple made it 73-57 with six minutes to play, and the result was academic from there.
Inside the Game
- The Crusaders are now 5-0 for just the third time in the last 50 years, joining the 2015-16 and the 1998-99 teams. Valpo has not started 6-0 or better since the 1966-67 squad won its first seven games.
- The win over Samford was Valpo’s 14th consecutive win as part of in-season multi-team events (MTEs).
- Walker led the way for the Crusaders on Tuesday, scoring a career-best 26 points and narrowly missing a double-double as he pulled down a game-best nine rebounds. The senior also set a new career high with five assists and tallied three steals as well.
- Walker played a team-high 32 minutes on Tuesday, the first time this season Valpo has had a player with 30 or more minutes in a game.
- Led by Walker, Valpo completely dominated the Bulldogs on the boards, out-rebounding Samford by a 50-18 margin. In fact, the Crusaders had more offensive rebounds (20) than Samford did total rebounds.
- The Crusaders turned their 20 offensive rebounds into 22 second-chance points.
- Golder, Kiser and redshirt sophomore Derrik Smits (Zionsville, Ind./Zionsville) all contributed six rebounds as well. The trio combined for 10 offensive rebounds, five of which were corralled by Golder.
- Burton enjoyed his second straight strong offensive performance, hitting 7-of-8 from the floor – including all five of his two-point attempts – for 16 points while also grabbing five rebounds.
- Golder chipped in 11 points off the bench for his fourth double-figure scoring effort in five games with the Crusaders.
- McMillan connected on all three of his field goal attempts for seven points in his 13 minutes of action, while Joseph stuffed the stat sheet with six points, five rebounds and a game and career high six assists.
- In all, 41 of Valpo’s 88 points came from its bench. The Crusaders also out-scored Samford on the fast break, 22-4.
- The Bulldogs were led by 18 points from Justin Coleman, 13 of which came in the second half.
Valpo (5-0) looks to make it six in a row to start the year on Friday evening in Savannah, Ga., as the Crusaders take on Kent State. The game will not be video streamed, but as always can be heard live on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) and online at ValpoAthletics.com.