It was a total team effort Tuesday evening at the ARC as the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team won its seventh consecutive season opener, defeating Concordia University Chicago by a 121-65 final. Valpo was led by 22 points from freshman Javon Freeman (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young), the highest output by a Valpo freshman making his debut in two decades.
How It Happened
- Valpo newcomer Deion Lavender (Alton, Ill./Marquette Catholic [UAB/Southern Illinois]) wasted no time making an impact, recording a dunk just 36 seconds into the game. The Cougars briefly tied the game at 2-2, but Valpo scored the next seven – five of which came from Freeman – to claim the lead for good.
- Valpo broke the game open with a 24-4 run over a six-minute span, pushing its lead to 35-11 with 8:48 to play in the first half. Junior Derrik Smits (Zionsville, Ind./Zionsville) led the way with 10 points during that stretch, including each of the last four baskets of the run.
- Valpo scored the final seven points of the first half to go into the locker room leading 63-31.
- Concordia University Chicago came out stronger than Valpo to start the second half, out-scoring Valpo 19-7 over the first 7:45 of the period to move within 72-52.
- With the lead at 77-56 with 11 minutes to play, Valpo put the game away with a 16-0 run which took just over two minutes. Junior Ryan Fazekas (Chesterton, Ind./Marquette Catholic [Providence]) had 10 points during the run, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Inside the Game
- Tuesday’s matchup between Valpo and Concordia University Chicago was the first since the two squads met in the opening round of the 1969 NCAA Tournament in Hilltop Gym. In fact, prior to Tuesday, the last two meetings between the two teams both came in postseason play.
- Valpo’s 121 points scored on Tuesday evening are tied for the fourth-most in program history, and match the most scored by a Valpo squad since its school-record 138-point performance against Muhlenberg in December of 1968.
- The 56-point margin of victory is the seventh-largest in program history.
- Valpo has now won its season opener in each of the last seven years, all of which have come at the ARC.
- Valpo extended its streak of victories in home openers to 14 consecutive years, 13 of which have come by double figures.
- Tuesday’s effort featured strong performances up and down the roster, as all 10 active players for Valpo played between 11 and 25 minutes. All 10 scored at least three points and all grabbed at least three rebounds as well.
- Leading the way was Freeman, who opened his Valpo career with a 22-point effort, going 7-of-8 from the floor while adding four assists and three steals. Freeman produced the highest-scoring performance by a Valpo freshman in his debut and became the first Valpo freshman to lead the team in scoring in a season opener since Lubos Barton scored 27 in a win over South Carolina in November of 1998.
- Freeman had plenty of help, as six Valpo players in all scored in double figures on Tuesday. Smits and Fazekas both finished the night with 18-point, seven-rebound performances – Smits doing so on 8-of-9 shooting, while Fazekas went 6-of-8 and knocked down three 3-pointers.
- Junior Markus Golder (Portland, Ore./Clackamas [North Idaho]) tallied 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting to go with five rebounds, while freshman Daniel Sackey (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada/Thornlea) debuted with 13 points and junior Bakari Evelyn (Detroit, Mich./Hillcrest Academy/Southfield Christian [Nebraska]) filled up his line with 12 points, five rebounds and five assists.
- Lavender notched nine points and five assists in his Valpo debut, while walk-on Langston Stalling (Gary, Ind./Bowman Academy) saw his first action in the second half and finished with four points and three rebounds in 11 minutes.
- Valpo shot 65.2% (43-of-66) for the game and out-rebounded the Cougars, who were playing Tuesday night’s game as an exhibition, by a 48-33 margin.
- Valpo got up and down the floor through Tuesday’s contest, finishing the night with nine dunks and a total of 45 fast-break points.
Valpo (1-0) will have nine days away from live action before returning to the court at the Myrtle Beach Invitational against WKU next Thursday, Nov. 15.