The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team erased most of a second-half double-digit deficit, but could never reclaim the lead, as UNI eventually pulled away for a 64-53 victory over Valpo Saturday evening in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
How It Happened
- It was UNI which put together the first run of the game, going on a 10-2 run over a six-minute stretch of the first half to go ahead 17-9 with 8:16 to play in the opening period.
- The Panthers would maintain a lead for the remainder of the first half, pushing it up to as many as 10 points before junior Bakari Evelyn (Detroit, Mich./Hillcrest [Ariz.] Academy/Southfield Christian [Nebraska]) hit a 3-pointer in the final minute of the half to bring Valpo within 30-23 at the half.
- UNI got a 3-point play on its first possession of the second half to lead 33-23, but Valpo would outscore the Panthers 12-4 over the next seven-plus minutes. Junior Markus Golder (Portland, Ore./Clackamas [North Idaho]) had five points during the stretch, while another triple from Evelyn cut Valpo’s deficit to 37-35 with 12:35 to play.
- UNI led 41-37 with nine minutes to go following a second-chance basket before freshman Javon Freeman (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) came down and connected on a 3-pointer to make it a one-point game.
- The Panthers came right back with a basket on their ensuing offensive possession, but two trips later, Freeman knocked down a pair of free throws to bring Valpo within 43-42 with 7:21 to play.
- After a UNI miss, Valpo had a shot in the lane to take the lead, but it came up short and the Panthers came down and immediately hit a 3-pointer.
- The triple sparked a 10-2 UNI run over the next 2:30 as the Panthers led 53-44 with 3:58 to play.
- Valpo would get no closer than six points down the stretch.
Inside the Game
- The teams’ shooting was the floor was nearly identical, as Valpo hit 22-of-50 (44.0%) and UNI hit 21-of-48 (43.8%). Both squads went 5-of-15 from 3-point range as well.
- The difference in the game came at the foul line and in taking care of the basketball. UNI finished the night 15-of-17 from the charity stripe, while Valpo was just 6-of-10.
- Meanwhile, the Crusaders turned the ball over 16 times to lead to 15 UNI points. On the flip side, the Panthers committed just 12 turnovers and Valpo converted those into just eight points.
- Freeman led Valpo with 11 points on Saturday. The freshman also came up with three steals, pushing his season total to 56 steals. He is now tied for sixth-most in a single season in program history, tied with Stalin Ortiz’s 2002-03 campaign, and is just seven shy of Valpo’s single-season record.
- Junior Derrik Smits (Zionsville, Ind./Zionsville) added 10 points off the bench, while Evelyn and senior Deion Lavender (Alton, Ill./Marquette Catholic [UAB/Southern Illinois]) chipped in nine points and five rebounds apiece.
- The loss was Valpo’s 13th in as many games all-time in Cedar Falls, as the Crusaders have never beaten the Panthers on their home court.
Valpo (14-15, 7-9 MVC) plays its final regular season road game on Wednesday evening as it heads to Peoria, Ill. to face Bradley. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m., and the game can be seen live on ESPN+.