The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team roared back from a double-digit first-half deficit Thursday night in its first Missouri Valley Conference game at Indiana State to take a halftime lead, and then tied the game again after falling behind by nine in the second half, but were unable to regain the lead as the Sycamores went on to defeat the Crusaders, 73-64.
How It Happened
- Valpo’s offense sputtered out of the gate Thursday night, as the Crusaders were just 2-for-8 over the first 10+ minutes to go along with eight turnovers as Indiana State raced out to a 16-4 lead.
- The Crusaders’ deficit was still 10 points at 25-15 with 4:28 to play in the half before Valpo put together a big spurt to go into halftime with the lead. Freshman Marten Linssen (Dusseldorf, Germany/Schloss-Gymnasium Benrath) started the run with a basket inside with four minutes to play in the half.
- A triple from sophomore Micah Bradford (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) and a driving layup by sophomore Bakari Evelyn (Detroit, Mich./ Hillcrest Academy/Southfield Christian [Nebraska]) kept the run going, and a 3-point play by senior Max Joseph (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) tied the game at 25-all just over two minutes after Valpo had trailed by 10.
- The teams would trade a basket apiece before Evelyn connected on a 3-pointer – his third of the half – with 55 seconds to play which put Valpo ahead 30-27 at halftime. All told, the Crusaders forced the Sycamores into five turnovers in the closing stretch of the opening period during the run.
- The lead went back and forth a number of times in the early part of the second half, with a triple from Evelyn with 15 minutes to play making it a 39-38 Valpo lead. Indiana State would score the next 10 points over a span of three minutes, however, to claim a 48-39 advantage.
- A big 4-point play from senior Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) in his return to the Crusader lineup halted the Sycamore run and kicked off a quick Valpo spurt. Walker would connect on another 3-pointer on the Crusaders’ next trip down the floor, and when he hit two free throws with 9:36 to play, the score was tied at 50 apiece.
- But Valpo was unable to reclaim sole possession of the lead, and the Sycamores scored the next seven points to take the lead for good. Evelyn connected on another 3-pointer with 5:37 to play to cut it to a four-point deficit, but Indiana State’s Jordan Barnes answered with a 3-pointer of his own.
- Indiana State’s lead reached 65-55 with three minutes to go, and the Crusaders got no closer than six points down the stretch.
Inside the Game
- Thursday’s game was the debut for the Valpo men’s basketball program as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference.
- The Crusaders renewed a conference rivalry with Indiana State on Thursday, as the two schools were both members of the Indiana Collegiate Conference in the middle of the last century. The last conference matchup between the two programs prior to Thursday came in 1968.
- Valpo had dropped its conference opener just twice in the last seven years (2012-13; 2014-15), both seasons it would go on to regular season titles.
- Walker returned to the Valpo lineup Thursday after missing four games due to illness and tied for team-high honors with 19 points while also grabbing five rebounds.
- Evelyn was nearly perfect from the floor on Thursday night, finishing 7-of-8 overall and 5-of-6 from 3-point range to match Walker with 19 points. The sophomore set a new career high with his five 3-pointers.
- Joseph had another strong game for the Crusaders, this time coming off the bench. The senior went 4-of-6 from the field en route to 13 points and led the Crusaders with seven rebounds.
- Valpo shot nearly 50% from the field on Thursday, going 23-for-48, and connected on eight 3-pointers, but were undone by 22 turnovers which Indiana State turned into 28 points.
- The Crusaders used their sixth different starting lineup of the season in their 14th game of the campaign.
- Indiana State (6-7, 1-0 MVC) was led by 18 points – including four 3-pointers – from Barnes. The Sycamores connected on 10 of their 18 3-point attempts.
Valpo (9-5, 0-1 MVC) returns home for the first time in over a month to continue MVC play on Sunday afternoon with a 3 p.m. matinee at the ARC versus preseason favorite Missouri State. As always, the game can be heard live on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) and seen live on ESPN3. Links for all the live coverage will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.