The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team was playing on the road for the first time in the regular season Wednesday night, but other than the venue, the game played out quite similar to the Crusaders’ first two outings of the season, as Valpo used a big first-half run to take control in a 94-69 victory at SIUE.
How It Happened
- It was a tight battle between the two squads in the early going, as Valpo held a 17-16 lead inside of nine minutes to play in the first half. The defensive glass was the Crusaders’ bugaboo during that stretch, as SIUE claimed seven offensive rebounds in the first nine minutes and scored a trio of second-chance baskets.
- But just as in their first two regular season games, the Crusaders locked down defensively for a long stretch to gain the upper hand. SIUE went a span of 7:35 without scoring a point, as the Cougars were 0-for-10 from the field and committed three turnovers during the span.
- Meanwhile, Valpo got it done on the offensive end during the defensive lockdown as well, finishing up with a 17-0 run which extended its lead to 34-16 with under four minutes to play in the half.
- Sophomores Jaume Sorolla (Tortosa, Spain/Sunrise Christian [Kan.] Academy) and John Kiser (Noblesville, Ind./Noblesville) both had two baskets during the run, while senior Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers in the middle of the stretch to push the lead into double figures for good.
- The Cougars would put together a brief push near the end of the half, hitting five of their final six field goal attempts of the first period, but Valpo still carried a 42-31 lead into the locker room.
- Valpo left little doubt out of the halftime break about the eventual winner, scoring the first eight points of the half – capped by a Walker feed to sophomore Derrik Smits (Zionsville, Ind./Zionsville) for a dunk – to push the lead to 50-31 with 15:27 to play. The Crusaders just missed another stretch of five-plus shutout minutes on the defensive end, as SIUE scored its first second-half basket at the 15:08 mark.
- SIUE would get no closer than 17 points the rest of the way, and the Crusaders closed out the victory with a pair of highlight-reel plays in the final minutes. Freshman Mileek McMillan (Merrillville, Ind./Merrillville) went up with two hands to block a dunk attempt from SIUE’s Keenan Simmons with a couple minutes to go, and then a minute later on a two-on-one fast break, sophomore Micah Bradford (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) tossed a lob to redshirt sophomore Markus Golder (Portland, Ore./Clackamas), who threw it down with authority for the exclamation point on the win.
Inside the Game
- The 3-0 start marks the third straight season the Crusaders have won at least their first three games of the year. Last year’s squad also started 3-0, while the 2015-16 team opened the year 5-0.
- This is the first time in program history that Valpo has won each of its first three games by at least 25 points.
- The 94 points marks the Crusaders’ highest single-game output since putting 96 on UIC at the ARC last season.
- Valpo enjoyed advantages of 36-20 in points in the paint and 31-8 in points off turnovers on Wednesday night. Over their first three games of the year, the Crusaders own an 83-14 advantage off turnovers and 114-34 in the paint.
- For the second straight game, Walker led the way offensively for the Crusaders, finishing with 22 points – including a 3-for-4 effort from the 3-point line. 18 of Walker’s 22 came before halftime to help stake Valpo to the 11-point lead at the break.
- Redshirt sophomore Bakari Evelyn (Detroit, Mich./ Hillcrest Academy/Southfield Christian [Nebraska]) had a strong game at point guard for the Crusaders, finishing with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting and handing out a game-high seven assists.
- Golder added 10 points and five rebounds as well off the bench in the win.
- Valpo was outrebounded for the first time this year, 40-36, but surrendered just six offensive boards in the final 31 minutes after giving up seven in the first nine. Senior Max Joseph (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) led the Crusader effort on the glass with six rebounds.
- The Crusaders finished the night with 20 assists versus just 13 turnovers, and forced a total of 21 SIUE turnovers – 10 of which were steals. Walker tallied four steals for the second straight game.
- Valpo shot 52.7% (29-of-55) for the game and finished 9-of-16 from the 3-point line. Meanwhile, the Cougars hit just 36.7% (22-of-60) from the floor and went 3-of-18 from downtown. Daniel Kinchen and Jalen Henry tied for team-high honors for SIUE with 21 points apiece.
Valpo (3-0) returns home for the ARC for a pair of campus-site games as part of the Savannah Invitational, beginning with a visit from Southeastern Louisiana on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. The game can be seen live on The Valley on ESPN3, WatchESPN and the ESPN app, and heard live on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso). Links for the live coverage will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.