The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team battled with preseason Missouri Valley Conference favorite Missouri State Wednesday night in Springfield, Mo. and led by five points at halftime, but preseason Player of the Year Alize Johnson scored 20 of his 24 points in the second half as the Crusaders fell to the Bears by a 64-57 final.
How It Happened
- Valpo enjoyed its best start to a game within Valley play to date, as an early 11-0 run gave the Crusaders a 13-4 advantage seven minutes into the game. Five different Valpo players scored during the early spurt, which was capped by a deep 3-pointer from sophomore Micah Bradford (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) with the shot clock winding down.
- The Crusaders would go cold from the field over the next few minutes, as the Bears put together a 14-2 run of their own to take a 3-point lead with under eight minutes remaining in the half.
- Still down three points with five minutes left in the first half, Valpo unleashed a 12-2 run over the next four minutes to gain the advantage. Sophomore Markus Golder (Portland, Ore./Clackamas [North Idaho]) had six points during the run, including a highlight-reel put-back dunk.
- The teams traded four baskets over the final 80 seconds of the half and the Crusaders eventually entered the locker room with a 31-26 lead at the break.
- Valpo pushed its lead back to seven points early in the second half on a 3-pointer from freshman Mileek McMillan (Merrillville, Ind./Merrillville), but Johnson would respond with two 3-pointers in the next minute to keep the Crusaders from extending their lead any further.
- Valpo’s advantage sat in the low single digits for much of the first 10 minutes of the second half, with a tough fadeaway jumper from Golder making it 43-39 Crusaders with 10:52 to play.
- But Valpo would score just three points over the next six-plus minutes, as Missouri State out-scored the Crusaders 18-3 over the stretch to pull ahead 57-46 with under five minutes remaining.
- The Crusaders switched to a zone defense which kept Missouri State from scoring a field goal in the final five minutes and allowed Valpo to move within striking distance. A 3-point play by senior Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) was followed two possessions later by a Walker second-chance basket in the lane as Valpo closed to 57-51 with three minutes to go.
- Senior Max Joseph (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) connected on 3-of-4 free throws over a 30-second span to make it a 58-54 game with 1:52 to play, and then came up with a blocked shot on the defensive end to give the Crusaders a chance to make it a one-possession game.
- But an offensive foul thwarted Valpo’s opportunity to cut further into the lane. Joseph knocked down a 3-pointer with 33 seconds to play to again make it a four-point game after Missouri State had hit a few free throws, but the Crusaders were unable to connect from the field the rest of the way.
Inside the Game
- For the second time in as many meetings this year, the Crusader offense struggled shooting the ball against Missouri State, while the defense performed well.
- Valpo finished the game shooting just 35.5% (22-of-62) from the field and was just 4-for-21 from 3-point range. Meanwhile, the Bears hit 42.9% (24-of-56), but were just 5-for-21 from the 3-point line.
- Golder paced the Crusaders with 12 points off the bench and added five rebounds and three steals.
- Walker was the only other Valpo player to reach double figures, but was just 4-of-15 from the floor for his 10 points. Sophomore Bakari Evelyn (Detroit, Mich./Hillcrest [Ariz.] Academy/Southfield Christian [Nebraska]) and Joseph added nine points apiece as well, with the latter pacing Valpo on the glass with seven rebounds.
- The Crusaders finished with 10 steals as a team, as both Evelyn and Joseph joined Golder with three steals apiece. Valpo has now reached double figures in steals in each of the last three games, the first time the Crusaders have posted 10+ steals in three consecutive outings since doing so in four straight games Jan. 11-23, 2003.
- After the Crusaders had limited Johnson to just 15 points and five field goals in their first three halves of play against Missouri State (15-5, 5-2 MVC) this year, the senior exploded for 20 of the Bears’ second-half points and also grabbed 11 second-half rebounds to finish with 24 points and 17 rebounds. Jarred Dixon added 12 points for Missouri State.
Valpo (11-9, 2-5 MVC) returns home to the ARC on Sunday afternoon as the Crusaders host former Horizon League rival Loyola. Tipoff is slated for 3 p.m., and the game will be televised live nationwide on ESPNU and heard, as always, on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso). Links for all the live coverage will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.