For the second time in as many Missouri Valley Conference road games, the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team erased a double-figure first-half deficit prior to halftime, but Bradley would claim the lead for good early in the second half as the Crusaders fell Wednesday night in Peoria, Ill. by an 80-71 final.
How It Happened
- Bradley connected on its first five shots from the floor over the opening four minutes, while the Crusaders went 0-for-4 over the same stretch as the Braves led 11-0 at the first media timeout.
- But Bradley would go just 8-for-22 from the field and commit 10 turnovers over the remainder of the half, as Valpo’s defense allowed the Crusaders to get back into the game.
- Valpo made strides using the 3-pointer, as senior Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) knocked down two triples and sophomore Micah Bradford (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) hit one in the first 10 minutes as well.
- Consecutive triples from sophomore Bakari Evelyn (Detroit, Mich./ Hillcrest Academy/Southfield Christian [Nebraska]) in a span of 42 seconds gave Valpo the lead at 20-19 with 7:45 to play in the first half, just eight minutes after being down by 11.
- The Crusaders stretched their lead to four points twice late in the half and led by three with 35 seconds to play on a highlight-reel dunk from sophomore Markus Golder (Portland, Ore./Clackamas [North Idaho]), but a 3-pointer from Bradley’s Nate Kennell tied the score at 33-33 at the break.
- The teams battled for control early in the second half, as neither team led by more than two points over the first five minutes.
- A pair of free throws from sophomore Jaume Sorolla (Tortosa, Spain/Sunrise Christian [Kan.] Academy) with 15:37 to play tied the score at 39-all, but the Braves scored the next six points over the next two minutes to take the lead for good.
- Golder connected on a 3-pointer with 13:17 remaining to bring Valpo within 47-44, but the Crusaders would miss their next nine field goal attempts over the next four minutes in their quest to even the score.
- Valpo would be unable to cut the lead any closer the rest of the way. In the late minutes, the Crusaders got as close as five points following a 3-point play from Walker, but Bradley hit 10 out of 12 free throws down the stretch to prevent Valpo from closing the gap.
Inside the Game
- Walker came up one point shy of his career high on Wednesday, finishing with a game-high 25 points – buoyed by a 10-for-10 performance from the foul line. Walker also paced the Crusaders with seven rebounds.
- With his 25 points, Walker now owns 1,195 career points and moved into a tie for 20th position in program history in career scoring. Walker currently shares the 20th spot with Scott Anselm (1985-89) and is one point away from matching Lance Barker (1991-95) for 19th place.
- Golder was the only other Valpo player to score in double figures, finishing with 11 points and three assists in 19 minutes off the bench.
- The Crusaders suffered through their worst shooting performance of the year from the field, finishing 20-for-61 (32.8%). After going 6-for-14 from 3-point range in the first half, Valpo was just 2-for-8 in the second half.
- Valpo did finish at a 74.2% clip from the foul line (23-for-31), its best single-game performance since Nov. 25.
- The Crusaders found themselves out-rebounded by a 45-30 margin by the Braves, the largest margin they have been out-rebounded by this season. Valpo, which entered conference play among the nation’s leaders in rebounding margin, has been out-rebounded in all three Valley games.
- Donte Thomas led four Bradley (12-4, 2-1 MVC) players in double figures with 19 points and also grabbed 12 rebounds as Bradley improved to 8-0 at home this year. The Braves hit 25-of-49 (51%) from the field, and after going just 4-of-9 from the foul line in the first half, were 22-of-27 from the stripe in the second half.
- The Crusaders fell to 0-3 in MVC play with Wednesday’s loss, its worst start to conference play since opening Mid-Con action in 1999-2000 with a 0-3 mark.
Valpo (9-7, 0-3 MVC) looks for its first Valley win on Saturday afternoon as the Crusaders host Southern Illinois at the ARC at 3 p.m. The game can be seen live on the MVC TV Network, including in the Valpo area on NBC Sports Chicago, and can be heard – like always – on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso). Links for all the live coverage will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.