The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team returned to competition with its final non-conference game of the regular season Saturday afternoon, defeating Purdue Northwest 97-61 at the ARC behind a balanced offensive effort which saw five players score in double figures.
How It Happened
- Valpo never trailed on Saturday, getting a 3-pointer from junior Ryan Fazekas (Chesterton, Ind./Marquette Catholic [Providence]) on its second offensive possession to claim the lead for good.
- It was a slim lead for Valpo for much of the first six-plus minutes of the game, but after PNW’s Brennon Palmer hit a putback 6:15 into the game to cut Valpo’s lead to 12-9, the hosts hit their next five field goal attempts to pull away.
- The run started with a Fazekas mid-range jumper, followed by back-to-back inside baskets from junior Jaume Sorolla (Tortosa, Spain/Sunrise Christian [Kan.] Academy). A driving layup from freshman Daniel Sackey (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada/Thornlea) pushed the lead into double figures, and Fazekas bookended the run with a triple to make it 23-9 Valpo just before the halfway mark of the opening period.
- PNW was within 11 at 27-16 with nine minutes to play in the half, but Valpo kept the Pride off the board for the next four-plus minutes as it pulled away a bit more with nine consecutive points – featuring a 3-point play from junior Markus Golder (Portland, Ore./Clackamas [North Idaho]) and a putback from freshman Javon Freeman (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) – to push the lead to 20 points.
- Valpo got a dunk from Golder on its last play of the first half, but PNW’s Chandler Spring hit a 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer to cut Valpo’s advantage to 48-29 at the intermission.
- The Pride scored on its first three possessions of the second half, outscoring Valpo 8-4 in the opening 90 seconds to pull to within 52-37.
- Valpo went on a 14-2 run at that point over the next three-plus minutes, getting five points from Golder and four from junior Derrik Smits (Zionsville, Ind./Zionsville) during the run as it led 66-39 with 15:08 remaining.
- PNW would get no closer than 24 points the rest of the way.
Inside the Game
- The game was Valpo’s first since playing at Texas A&M on December 19. The 10-day span between games was the most for a Valpo team in regular season action since the 2006 squad went 11 days between playing at Evansville (Dec. 5) and at Ball State (Dec. 16).
- Saturday’s win secured Valpo’s ninth consecutive winning non-conference slate.
- Valpo used just its third different starting lineup of the year on Saturday. Junior Bakari Evelyn (Detroit, Mich./Hillcrest Academy/Southfield Christian [Nebraska]) missed the game, while graduate transfer Deion Lavender (Alton, Ill./Marquette Catholic [UAB/Southern Illinois]) came off the bench for the first time this year. In their place, Golder made his first start of the season and Sackey made the first start of his Valpo career.
- Five Valpo players scored in double figures on Saturday, led by 19 points from Fazekas, who connected on five 3-point attempts.
- Golder matched his career best in Saturday’s starting assignment, pouring in 18 points – 10 of which came on dunks. Golder also pulled down six rebounds and matched a career high with three steals.
- Freeman tallied 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting and tied his season bests with seven rebounds and four assists.
- Despite being limited to just 12 minutes due to foul trouble, Smits was a perfect 5-of-5 from the field for 10 points and also blocked four shots.
- Sorolla narrowly missed a double-double off the bench, scoring 11 points and grabbing nine rebounds – both of which marked season bests.
- While he was the only Valpo starter not in double figures in the scoring column, Sackey set a new career high with six assists and also matched his best effort to date with four rebounds.
- Lavender maintained his place among the MVC’s leaders in assists, coming off the bench to hand out five assists without committing a turnover.
- Also off the bench, sophomore Mileek McMillan (Merrillville, Ind./Merrillville) scored nine points and grabbed six rebounds, while junior John Kiser (Noblesville, Ind./Noblesville) pulled down six boards as well.
- Valpo hit at a 56.3% clip from the floor for the game, assisting on 25 of its 36 makes, and was 8-for-18 from 3-point range.
- The Brown and Gold dominated the inside, out-rebounding PNW – which was playing the game as an exhibition – by a 50-26 margin and out-scoring the Pride in the paint, 54-16. 24 of Valpo’s 54 interior points came via 12 dunks from six different players, led by Golder’s five slam jams.
Missouri Valley Conference play is on the horizon for Valpo (7-6) next time out, as it hosts Illinois State on Wednesday night at the ARC at 7 p.m. The game can be seen live on ESPN+.