The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team got a big lift off the bench Friday night from freshman Marten Linssen (Dusseldorf, Germany/Schloss-Gymnasium Benrath) and, leading by just one with the clock inside of 30 seconds, got a huge 3-pointer from redshirt junior Joe Burton (Porter, Texas/Atascocita [Oklahoma State]) as the Crusaders went on to a 77-67 victory over Kent State at the Savannah Invitational in Savannah, Ga.
How It Happened
- Valpo led by as many as 14 points in the second half, but saw its lead cut to one point following a pair of free throws for the Golden Flashes with 3:23 to play.
- The teams traded a pair of empty possessions apiece, Kent State’s second ending on a steal by redshirt sophomore Bakari Evelyn (Detroit, Mich..Hillcrest Academy/Southfield Christian [Nebraska]), who fed senior Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) for a fast-break layup to push the lead to 68-65 with 1:54 remaining.
- The Crusaders put together a strong defensive possession, forcing a last-ditch 3-pointer from Kent State with the shot clock running out which was off the mark. On the offensive end, Valpo got multiple looks from in close, but was unable to get one to fall, and the Crusaders committed a foul on the rebound which turned into two free throws on the other end – cutting the advantage to 68-67 inside of the final minute.
- Burton came up with his huge shot on the ensuing possession, shaking off an 0-for-6 performance from the field to that point to get a soft roll on a 3-point attempt to push the lead to four points in the final 30 seconds.
- Evelyn came up with a steal as Kent State rushed into the frontcourt and was the recipient of a flagrant foul from the Golden Flashes, giving him two free throws and the Crusaders possession of the ball. The sophomore knocked down both foul shots, and following the inbounds and a subsequent foul, drained two more to solidify the victory.
- The story of the first half was the play of Linssen, who after playing just nine minutes over the last three games, was called upon with the other Crusader posts in foul trouble. The freshman played 13 first-half minutes, hitting all four of his field goal attempts and grabbing five rebounds.
- Valpo trailed by as many as seven points in the first half, the latest coming at 20-13 with 9:23 to play in the period. But the Crusaders locked down defensively over the next eight minutes, surrendering just one basket over that stretch as they went on a 19-2 run to take a 10-point lead.
- Walker and Evelyn both had six points during the run, while redshirt sophomore Markus Golder (Portland, Ore./Clackamas [North Idaho]) had a highlight-reel and-1 dunk and Linssen added two of his baskets during the same stretch. Valpo eventually went into the locker room ahead 34-27, as Kent State’s Jaylin Walker hit a 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer.
- Valpo scored the first seven points of the second half – five of which came from Tevonn Walker – to extend its lead to 41-27 with 18:31 to play. Kent State answered with eight straight, however, and while the Crusaders would never lose the lead, the Golden Flashes would close to within one on four occasions in the second half – the latter two coming in the final minutes.
Inside the Game
- Valpo extended its winning streak in multi-team events (MTEs) to 15 consecutive games. With a win on Saturday, the Crusaders would go unbeaten four straight years in MTEs.
- With their sixth straight win to open the season, the Crusaders now own the outright best start by a Valpo team in the last 50 seasons. A win on Saturday would match the 1966-67 team – which began 7-0 en route to a berth in the NCAA national quarterfinals – for the best start since the 1944-45 squad opened the year with 11 straight wins.
- All six of the Crusaders’ wins to open the season have come by double figures.
- Tevonn Walker paced four Crusaders in double figures on Friday with 17 points, his fourth effort of at least 17 points this season.
- Golder finished with 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting in 19 minutes off the bench, while Linssen had easily his best game in a Crusader uniform to date, going a perfect 5-of-5 from the field for 12 points and a team-high seven rebounds.
- Evelyn ended the night with 13 points and handed out six assists against just two turnovers. The sophomore has tallied 25 assists over Valpo’s six wins to date.
- Valpo finished the game just shy of the 50% mark from the field (26-of-53) despite going just 3-of-15 from 3-point range. The Crusaders did connect at a 78.6% clip (22-of-28) from the foul line.
- Jaylin Walker led Kent State with 15 points, but was just 5-of-17 from the field to do so as the Golden Flashes shot just 38.9% from the floor overall. Kent State also committed 20 turnovers, which Valpo turned into 25 points on the other end.
Valpo (6-0) looks to complete a perfect run through the Savannah Invitational on Saturday night as the Crusaders face off against UNCW at 6:30 p.m. CT. The game can be heard live on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso), with links for the live audio and live stats available via ValpoAthletics.com.