It was only fitting that graduate transfer Deion Lavender (Alton, Ill./Providence Catholic [UAB/Southern Illinois]), returning to the home arena from his freshman year, was the one to cap off the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team’s win at Southern Illinois on Saturday, as Lavender converted on a layup with 13 seconds remaining to secure Valpo’s 65-61 win over the Salukis. With the win, Valpo improves to 4-0 in Missouri Valley Conference play, remaining alone atop the league standings heading into a Tuesday night game at Loyola.
How It Happened
- 3-pointers from junior John Kiser (Noblesville, Ind./Noblesville), making his first start of the year, and freshman Javon Freeman (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) helped stake Valpo to a slim 8-7 lead at the first media timeout.
- SIU went on a 10-2 run from that point to go ahead 17-10 with 12:07 to play in the first half, a mark both teams would be stuck at for over three minutes.
- Junior Jaume Sorolla (Tortosa, Spain/Sunrise Christian [Kan.] Academy) had five points during a 7-0 Valpo spurt, while junior Markus Golder (Portland, Ore./Clackamas [North Idaho]) tipped in a free throw miss as well as Valpo rallied to even the score at 17-17 with 7:15 to play in the half.
- SIU held a 21-20 lead with 5:46 to go in the period, but Valpo – as it had in each of the previous two games – reeled off a big run late in the first half. This run featured a pair of Golder baskets and three fast-break baskets in all as Valpo outscored SIU 12-2 over a five-minute stretch.
- A tip-in from the Salukis just before the intermission made it a 32-25 Valpo lead at the break.
- The two squads traded offensive punches early in the second half, and for the first 11 minutes of the half, Valpo’s lead would fluctuate between seven and 11 points.
- SIU moved to within six points on a 3-point play from Kavion Pippen with 8:28 remaining, but Valpo responded with a fadeaway baseline jumper by Golder and a 3-pointer from Freeman to push the lead to 57-46.
- Two possessions later, a layup from junior Derrik Smits (Zionsville, Ind./Zionsville) gave Valpo its largest lead at 59-46 with 6:46 to play.
- SIU had a rally remaining, however, going on a 12-2 run over the next four minutes. Aaron Cook closed the run with a 3-pointer with 2:57 to play as Valpo’s lead was down to 61-58.
- Golder came up with a big play on the offensive end with a follow tip dunk, but SIU responded with a second-chance basket by Pippen to again make it a three-point game.
- The two sides traded defensive stops, and then Valpo had an effort at the rim blocked. SIU came down and missed on their end, but were fouled in a scramble for the rebound, and Armon Fletcher split a pair of free throws to bring SIU within 63-61 with 40 seconds to play.
- The Salukis elected to play out the ensuing defensive possession and not extend the game by fouling, and Valpo would make them pay. Smits got the ball in the post on the right block and delivered a perfect bounce pass to Lavender cutting down the lane, and Lavender finished at the rim to make it 65-61 with 13 seconds remaining. The clock would run out on SIU after two misses on its final offensive possession.
Inside the Game
- Valpo remained atop the MVC standings with the win, improving to 4-0 in conference play. Loyola, at 3-1, is the only other Valley team with fewer than two conference losses just four games into the MVC slate.
- Valpo continues an unbeaten run to start conference play for just the third time this century, as this year’s team joins the 2015-16 and 2002-03 Valpo squads – both of which started their respective conference campaigns 6-0.
- Saturday’s win improved Valpo to 4-2 in true road games this season and 2-0 in MVC road games. Valpo has already exceeded its overall and MVC-only road win totals from last year, as last year’s team was just 3-12 in true road games and 1-8 in MVC play.
- Valpo won on Saturday despite playing without leading scorer Ryan Fazekas due to injury.
- The win came despite shooting 4-of-15 from the 3-point line – the 26.7% clip from deep was Valpo’s worst in a victory this season. The Brown and Gold had entered the game hitting at 41% from 3-point range in wins.
- Valpo did post a season-low total of seven turnovers while forcing 13 SIU miscues. Valpo enjoyed an 18-4 advantage in points off turnovers.
- Smits paced three Valpo players in double figures on Saturday with 16 points. 14 of Smits’ 16 came in the final 20 minutes, as the junior went 4-of-4 from the field and 6-of-7 from the foul line in the second half.
- Smits, who led Valpo in scoring for the sixth time this year and the first time since the High Point game, also led Valpo with eight rebounds.
- Freeman added 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting, while Golder chipped in 10 points as well.
- Lavender finished with nine points and a team-high four assists in his return to SIU Arena.
Valpo (11-6, 4-0 MVC) puts its perfect conference record on the line Tuesday against last season’s MVC champion and Final Four participant, Loyola. The game tips at 7 p.m. and can be seen live locally on NBC Sports Chicago.