The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team went toe-to-toe with a Loyola squad which entered the game atop the Missouri Valley Conference standings on Wednesday evening in Chicago, but the Crusaders were unable to get over the hump in the late stages of the game, eventually falling to the Ramblers by an 80-71 final.
How It Happened
- The Crusaders got off to a slow start offensively, as its first field goal didn’t come until a short-range jumper from sophomore Jaume Sorolla (Tortosa, Spain/Sunrise Christian [Kan.] Academy) nearly seven minutes into the game.
- But the basket from Sorolla made it a two-point game at 7-5, as after Loyola scored seven points in the first four minutes, the Crusaders held them scoreless over the next three-plus minutes. Valpo would eventually take its first lead at 11-9 nearly nine minutes into the game as sophomore Markus Golder (Portland, Ore./Clackamas [North Idaho]) hit three free throws.
- The Crusaders would score just three points over the next six minutes as Loyola took control with a 13-3 advantage over that span to go ahead 22-14.
- A cold-shooting first half ended with the Crusaders trailing 28-21.
- Valpo needed just 88 seconds in the second half to erase the seven-point deficit. Freshman Mileek McMillan (Merrillville, Ind./Merrillville) converted a 3-point play to open the half and followed with a runner in the lane before sophomore Derrik Smits (Zionsville, Ind./Zionsville) finished inside to tie the game.
- The Crusaders were never able to take the lead outright, but tied it on three more occasions in the second half. A pair of free throws from senior Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) tied it at 37-37 with 14:38 to play, and Valpo actually had a shot for the lead on its next possession that was off the mark. Valpo then tied the game at 39 with 13:25 to play, and then 42-42 with 11:56 remaining on a 3-point play by Golder.
- A 6-0 spurt by Loyola over a span of just 41 seconds proved vital, as it put the Ramblers ahead 48-42 with 10:54 to play.
- The two squads then went on over the next six-plus minutes to trade haymakers, as both Valpo and Loyola scored on eight of their next nine possessions. The Crusaders’ stretch concluded with three consecutive baskets by Sorolla, the last of which made it 64-61 with 4:43 to play.
- Valpo was unable to keep the pace, however, missing shots on each of its next two trips, while the Ramblers would not have an empty possession the rest of the game until its final turn with the ball. After trailing by as many as nine, the Crusaders pulled back to within five on a 3-point play from Walker with 1:28 to play and had a shot to make it a one-possession game on its next possession, but could not convert.
Inside the Game
- After combining for just 49 first-half points, both teams exceeded that mark by themselves in a second half which finished 52-50 in favor of Loyola.
- The Crusaders shot just 6-of-24 from the floor in the first half, but were 18-for-31 (58.1%) over the final 20 minutes.
- Valpo also continued its strong free throw shooting of late, hitting 18-of-20 (90%) from the foul line.
- Walker paced four Crusaders in double figures with 18 points. The senior also added five assists without committing a turnover, matching his career high in the assist column for the second straight game.
- Golder and Sorolla both chipped in 12 points off the bench, the latter doing so while shooting 6-of-7 and also contributing five rebounds and three blocked shots.
- Evelyn added 11 points, four rebounds and three assists.
- Sophomore John Kiser (Noblesville, Ind./Noblesville) led the Crusaders on the glass for the fifth time in the last eight games, pulling down a game-best eight rebounds as Valpo out-rebounded the Ramblers, 34-27.
- Loyola (22-5, 12-3 MVC) was just as hot as the Crusaders offensively in the second half, hitting at a 60.7% (17-of-28) clip from the field. Valpo did continue to be strong defensively against the 3-pointer, as the Ramblers went just 5-for-15 from downtown.
- Clayton Custer led four Rambler starters in double figures with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting.
- Valpo is still looking for its first MVC road win of the season. The Crusaders have been tied or ahead in the second half of six of the eight games.
Valpo (13-15, 4-11 MVC) takes to the court for its final two home games of the season over the next week, starting with a Saturday night matchup with Bradley. Tip is set for 8 p.m., with the game being televised on the MVC TV Network – including locally on NBC Sports Chicago. The game will also be available on ESPN3 outside the MVC footprint, and as always, it can be heard on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso).