A 23-2 run to end the first half proved to be the decisive blow as the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team placed five players in double figures in an 83-72 victory Saturday afternoon at the ARC over Southern Illinois. The win was the first victory for the Crusader men’s basketball program within Missouri Valley Conference play.
How It Happened
- The Crusaders found themselves behind the eight-ball early on, as SIU jumped out to an 11-4 lead just 3:30 into the game and led by as many as nine points at 18-9 with 12:52 to play in the first half.
- Valpo scored seven straight points over the next two minutes – four from sophomore Jaume Sorolla (Tortosa, Spain/Sunrise Christian [Kan.] Academy) and a 3-pointer by sophomore Bakari Evelyn (Detroit, Mich./Hillcrest Academy/Southfield Christian [Nebraska]) – to close within two, but the Salukis staved off the Crusaders’ first push and extended the lead back to 27-20 with 7:52 to play in the half.
- A 3-pointer from sophomore Micah Bradford (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) would spark the Crusaders’ big run to end the half. Senior Max Joseph (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) hit a triple on Valpo’s next possession, and a pair of free throws from sophomore Derrik Smits (Zionsville, Ind./Zionsville) gave the Crusaders the lead for good with 5:56 to play in the first half.
- Valpo would go 7-of-10 from the field during the 23-2 run over the final 7:23 of the half, led by seven points from sophomore Markus Golder (Portland, Ore./Clackamas [North Idaho]), while the Crusaders held SIU to 0-for-11 shooting and forced a pair of turnovers in the same stretch.
- With the shot clock off, a 3-pointer by Evelyn in the waning seconds of the half sent the Crusaders into the locker room with a 43-29 lead.
- It was more of the same offensive efficiency to start the second half for the Crusaders, as they opened the final 20 minutes by hitting nine of their first 10 field goal attempts over the first eight minutes. Joseph scored eight of his points during the stretch to help Valpo push its lead into the 20s.
- Southern Illinois got no closer than 15 points with the game in the balance, and a free throw from Sorolla gave Valpo its largest lead at 77-55 with 4:47 to go. The Crusaders’ lead was 19 with just over two minutes remaining before the Salukis ended the game by scoring eight straight.
Inside the Game
- Valpo’s offense performed at its best on the whole since the Crusaders’ eight-game winning streak to open the season.
- The Crusaders scored 83 points on Saturday, their highest output since beating Samford on Nov. 21, 88-67.
- Leading the way in the scoring column were Joseph and Sorolla, who both set new career highs as they finished with 17 points apiece.
- Joseph finished 6-of-9 from the field, including a 3-of-5 performance from the 3-point line. The senior matched his career high for made baskets and set a new career best for 3-pointers while also pulling down seven rebounds and handing out four assists.
- Sorolla’s career best in the scoring column came on 5-of-6 shooting from the floor and 7-of-8 from the foul line, setting a new career high for free throws made. The sophomore scored his 17 points in just 12 minutes off the bench – his first time this season coming off the bench.
- The duo had plenty of help scoring the basketball on Saturday, however, as Valpo placed five players in double figures in scoring for the first time since a 92-89 win over BYU on Nov. 23, 2016.
- Evelyn finished the game with 14 points as he went 4-for-5 from distance, adding four assists as well.
- Golder recorded 13 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the floor and 5-of-5 from the foul line off the bench. The sophomore also matched his career high with four assists.
- Smits, who made his first start against a Division I opponent this season, rounded out the quintet in double figures with 11 points and five rebounds.
- The 10 3-pointers Valpo hit on Saturday tied for its highest single-game output of the year, while its 55.6% (10-of-18) percentage from the 3-point line was the team’s second-best effort from deep of the season.
- The Crusaders handed out 22 assists on their 27 baskets, their highest assist total in a game since passing out 22 helpers in a win over Cleveland State on Feb. 9 of last year.
- Bradford led the way distributing the basketball, setting a new career best with six assists off the bench. The sophomore also finished with eight points and matched his career high with five rebounds.
- For the first time in its four MVC games, Valpo owned the advantage on the glass, out-rebounding SIU by a 39-33 margin. Senior Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) led the Crusaders on the boards with eight rebounds.
- With a 3-pointer 5:36 into the game, Walker moved into 19th position on Valpo’s career scoring chart, surpassing Lance Barker.
- Armon Fletcher led Southern Illinois (10-7, 2-2 MVC) with game highs of 32 points and 14 rebounds.
Valpo (10-7, 1-3 MVC) concludes its brief two-game homestand on Wednesday evening as the Crusaders host Drake, which will enter the game atop the MVC standings at 4-0 in conference play. The game is set for a 7 p.m. tipoff and can be seen live on The Valley on ESPN3 and heard live, as always, on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso). Links for all the live coverage will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.