Trailing by as many as 23 points in the second half and by 19 points with less than four minutes remaining at UNI, the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team unleashed a furious rally, cutting the lead to single digits in just over a minute and getting as close as five points late. But the Crusaders couldn’t complete the comeback, falling by an 81-76 final in Cedar Falls, Iowa Saturday night.
How It Happened
- For the third time in as many MVC road games, the Crusaders struggled out of the gate, and their shooting struggles persisted throughout most of the first half. Valpo was just 7-of-26 from the floor, including just 2-for-10 from deep, over the opening 20 minutes.
- A 12-0 run midway through the half took a three-point game and turned it into a 23-8 lead for UNI. The Panthers still led by 15 at 27-12 with five minutes to play in the half before a mini-spurt from the Crusaders.
- Sophomore Micah Bradford (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) dished out assists to freshmen Mileek McMillan (Merrillville, Ind./Merrillville) and Marten Linssen (Dusseldorf, Germany/Schloss-Gymnasium Benrath) during the run, while sophomore Bakari Evelyn (Detroit, Mich./ Hillcrest [Ariz.] Academy/Southfield Christian [Nebraska]) had a 3-point play as well as Valpo cut the deficit to eight points with 3:46 left in the half.
- The Crusaders would eventually go into the locker room trailing 32-21 at the break.
- UNI put together a quick run to start the second half, scoring on five consecutive possessions as part of a 14-2 run over the opening 4:55 of the half to push its lead to 46-23.
- Valpo started to cut into the deficit around the midway point of the half, as five quick points from Evelyn and a fast-break basket from sophomore Markus Golder (Portland, Ore./Clackamas [North Idaho]) in a span of 1:40 brought the Crusaders within 53-39 with 9:45 left.
- UNI needed just 76 seconds to push its advantage back out to 20 points, and it would stay between 17 and 20 points for the next few minutes. A pair of free throws from Wyatt Lohaus made it 71-52 UNI with 3:52 to play.
- With five guards on the court, the Crusaders started to full-court press and trap, a move which sparked the rally. Evelyn started the run with a 3-pointer, and two possessions later, came up with a steal and fast-break basket for five quick points.
- Senior Max Joseph (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) came up with a steal of his own, and another triple by Evelyn was followed by yet another UNI turnover. This time, Bradford would connect on a jumper as the Crusaders erased 10 points off the deficit in the span of a minute, moving within 71-62 with 2:33 to play.
- UNI went 3-for-4 on free throws over its next two trips, with a pair of layups on the other end from Joseph serving to cut another point off the lead. Another steal, this time by senior Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College), led to another 3-pointer – this one from Golder – as the Crusaders closed the deficit to 74-69 with 1:22 to play.
- The Panthers would do enough at the foul line down the stretch to hold off any further Valpo advances, however, hitting 7-of-10 from the charity stripe over the final minute-plus. The Crusaders had a pair of possessions where they had the ball with the chance to make it a one-score game, but were unable to take advantage as five points proved to be as close as they would get.
Inside the Game
- Valpo scored 24 points over the game’s final 3:35 after scoring just 52 over the opening 36:25. The loss was the Crusaders’ first of the season when scoring more than 71 points.
- Evelyn finished with a team-best 19 points, as he hit four 3-pointers in his 38 minutes of play. The sophomore also tallied a career-best four steals.
- Golder came off the bench to score a career-high 18 points, going 7-of-11 from the field and knocking down three triples. He also paced the Crusaders on the glass with six rebounds.
- Joseph finished in double figures for the sixth time in the last seven games, tallying 10 points and five rebounds.
- For the third consecutive game, Bradford notched a new career high in the assists column – this time handing out nine helpers against just one turnover. Over the last three games, the sophomore has recorded 22 assists and turned it over just four times.
- Valpo ended the night with 13 steals while committing just 10 total turnovers as a team. The Crusaders have registered 23 steals over their last two games after opening MVC play with just 28 steals combined in the first four games.
- Walker led the defensive effort with five steals to match his career high. The senior is just six steals shy of Valpo’s all-time top-10 in the category.
- UNI (9-9, 1-5 MVC) finished the game shooting 47.8% from the field and was 6-of-13 from 3-point range, but hurt the Crusaders with their second-half offense, as the Panthers shot 65% from the floor over the final 20 minutes.
- The Panthers also finished the game 31-of-38 as a team from the foul line, while Valpo was just 9-of-16 from the charity stripe. A pair of freshmen led the way for UNI, as Tywhon Pickford tallied 23 points (6-6 FG; 7-8 FT), while Austin Phyfe – making his first career start – nearly matched his season output in the scoring column with 20 points.
Valpo (11-8, 2-4 MVC) faces another tall task in Valley play on Wednesday evening, as the Crusaders travel to preseason favorite Missouri State for a 7 p.m. matchup. The game can be seen live on The Valley on ESPN3, or as always, heard on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso). Links for all the live coverage will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.