The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team battled through foul trouble Thursday afternoon in its opener at the Myrtle Beach Invitational in Conway, S.C., closing to within three points with 13 minutes to play, but could not get over the hump in the second half as it fell to Western Kentucky, 83-71. With the loss, Valpo will play Monmouth at 5:30 p.m. CT on Friday.
How It Happened
- Valpo got out to a quick start on Thursday, going up 11-6 in the opening 3:17. Junior Ryan Fazekas (Chesterton, Ind./Marquette Catholic [Providence]) had six points during the early spurt, while freshman Javon Freeman (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) had a basket, an assist and a pair of steals.
- Valpo would maintain a lead for most of the opening 10 minutes of the game, and held a 21-19 advantage at the halfway mark of the first half following an inside basket from junior John Kiser (Noblesville, Ind./Noblesville).
- WKU edged back in front, but the deficit was just one at 28-27 with 6:49 to go in the half following an alley-oop from senior Deion Lavender (Alton, Ill./Marquette Catholic [UAB/Southern Illinois]) to junior Markus Golder (Portland, Ore./Clackamas [North Idaho]). But WKU out-scored Valpo 16-4 over the next four and a half minutes to extend its lead to 13 points.
- It looked like the Hilltoppers would take their largest lead into the locker room, going to the foul line up 13 with mere seconds remaining before halftime. But WKU missed a pair at the line and Fazekas was fouled on the rebound. Fazekas hit the first, and his miss of the second was put back by Golder to bring Valpo within 49-39 at the intermission.
- The lead was 11 for WKU at 56-45 with 16:19 to play before a Valpo spurt brought it back into the ballgame. It started with a 3-pointer from Freeman to spark a 10-2 stretch, as Lavender scored five points during the run as well and capped the spurt with a triple with 13:16 to go to make it 58-55.
- Valpo actually had a 3-point attempt to tie on its next possession, but could not get it to fall, and WKU would score on five of its next six trips to extend its lead to 69-59 with 9:23 to go.
- The Hilltoppers would not hit a field goal for the next six minutes, but after a pair of free throws from Golder brought Valpo within 72-65 at the 6:20 mark, it went scoreless for the next three and a half minutes as WKU extended the lead back to double digits in closing out the win.
Inside the Game
- The loss was Valpo’s first as part of a multi-team event since 2013, snapping a 17-game winning streak in such events.
- Valpo was plagued by foul trouble throughout, finishing the game with 24 fouls as WKU shot 33 free throws. The first half alone saw one Valpo player pick up three fouls and four others end the period with two each.
- Valpo shot just 9-of-31 from 3-point range on Thursday versus WKU’s 9-for-17 clip.
- Golder led Valpo with 15 points, going 5-of-7 from the floor, and also pulled down a team-best eight rebounds – five of which came on the offensive end.
- He was one of four Valpo players to finish in double figures on Thursday. Fazekas totaled 14 points and added four rebounds.
- Junior Bakari Evelyn (Detroit, Mich./Hillcrest Academy/Southfield Christian [Nebraska]) finished with 11 points, four rebounds and four assists, while Freeman notched 10 points as well.
- Lavender dished out a game-high seven assists to go with eight points, and now has 12 assists in his first two games in a Valpo uniform.
Valpo (1-1) will play at 5:30 p.m. CT on Friday evening against Monmouth. The game can be seen live on ESPN3.