A trio of double-figure scoring efforts from newcomers led the way for the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team on Friday from the Myrtle Beach Invitational in Conway, S.C., as Valpo never trailed in a 64-53 victory over Monmouth.
How It Happened
- An early 10-2 run over a span of five minutes helped create separation, featuring 3-pointers from freshman Javon Freeman (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young), junior Ryan Fazekas (Chesterton, Ind./Marquette Catholic [Providence]) and junior Markus Golder (Portland, Ore./Clackamas [North Idaho]). The lead hit double figures as the run concluded, as Valpo was up 18-8 nearly nine minutes into the game.
- The 10-point advantage would be the largest for Valpo in the opening period. Twice in the first half, Monmouth cut the lead to three points, but both times Freeman came up with driving layups while being fouled to push the lead back out to multiple possessions.
- Valpo eventually went into halftime with a 29-23 lead.
- The Crusaders pushed their lead back into double figures early in the second half, as Fazekas connected on a triple and junior Derrik Smits (Zionsville, Ind./Zionsville) converted inside on back-to-back trips to put Valpo ahead 36-25 with 16:08 to play.
- The lead would hover right around the 10-point mark for much of the half, as Valpo did a good job of responding every time Monmouth would score. It took the Hawks until 8:56 to play to score consecutive baskets without a Valpo score in between.
- Monmouth would close to within seven points on a 3-pointer from Deion Hammond with 5:20 to play, as the triple cut Valpo’s advantage to 51-44. But Valpo responded immediately, as Smits grabbed an offensive rebound to keep the possession alive and Fazekas canned a triple of his own to again make it a 10-point game.
- Fazekas’ 3-pointer started a quick 10-0 run over a span of just over two minutes. Smits scored another inside basket, Fazekas connected from mid-range and Golder knocked down a 3-pointer – the last basket making it 61-44 Valpo with 2:47 to play as the Crusaders cruised to the win from there.
Inside the Game
- Friday’s game was Valpo’s first against a MAAC opponent since running away with an 83-58 win over Iona at the ARC in November of 2015. It was also the first meeting all-time between Valpo and Monmouth.
- Valpo shot 50% from the field for the game. The Brown and Gold also found their stroke from deep in the second half, connecting on 4-of-8 from 3-point range in the final 20 minutes after going just 12-of-45 from 3-point range over the tournament’s first 60 minutes.
- Valpo’s defense was strong Friday, limiting Monmouth to just 39.6% shooting and just a 4-of-18 effort from behind the 3-point line. Hammond entered the game as the Hawks’ leading scorer, but finished with just eight points on 2-of-8 shooting.
- Freeman finished in double figures for the third straight game, scoring 12 points to go with four rebounds, three assists and two steals. He is just the third Valpo freshman in the last three decades to open his career with three straight games of 10 or more points, joining Bryce Drew and Erik Buggs.
- Senior Deion Lavender (Alton, Ill./Marquette Catholic [UAB/Southern Illinois]) enjoyed the finest game of his young Valpo career. The graduate transfer poured in a game-high 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting, grabbed a game-best eight rebounds and dished out five assists – his third consecutive game with at least five dimes.
- Fazekas knocked down a trio of triples en route to 13 points as he has scored in double figures in each of Valpo’s first three games as well.
Valpo (2-1) advances to the fifth-place game of the Myrtle Beach Invitational, where it will face ACC foe Wake Forest on Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m., live on ESPNU. It is Valpo’s first game against an ACC opponent since a victory over Florida State in the second round of the 2016 NIT at the ARC.