The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team connected on 15 3-pointers Saturday evening, perhaps none bigger than a triple from junior Ryan Fazekas (Chesterton, Ind./Marquette Catholic [Providence]) which broke a tie with three minutes to play and gave Valpo the lead for good as it defeated George Washington in Washington, D.C. by an 82-79 final.
How It Happened
- George Washington led nearly the entire first half as it hit at a 66.7% clip from the field for the opening 20 minutes. The Colonials pushed their lead into double figures at 30-20 with 6:10 to play in the half.
- Freshman Javon Freeman (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) connected on a 3-pointer on Valpo’s next possession as the Brown and Gold would rally going into the half.
- Fazekas and fellow junior Bakari Evelyn (Detroit, Mich./Hillcrest Academy/Southfield Christian [Nebraska]) would each connect on a pair of triples in the final six minutes of the half, and a fast-break layup from Evelyn briefly tied the score at 42 in the late stages of the period. George Washington would get a pair of free throws in the final seconds to take a 44-42 lead into the half.
- It was all Valpo at the start of the second half, as the Crusaders started on a 12-3 run over the first four minutes to take a 54-47 lead and force GW to use a timeout. Evelyn connected on two more 3-pointers during the run, while Fazekas nailed another triple as well.
- Another Fazekas 3-pointer with 13:54 to play gave Valpo a double-digit advantage for the first time at 59-49, and the lead would reach its apex at 13 as sophomore Mileek McMillan (Merrillville, Ind./Merrillville) knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 69-56 with 9:15 to go.
- George Washington would rally, however, out-scoring Valpo 18-5 over the next 5:40 and tying the game at 74 on a Terry Nolan 3-pointer with 3:31 to play.
- But Fazekas returned the lead to Valpo just 24 seconds later as he nailed a deep triple yet again, as junior Derrik Smits (Zionsville, Ind./Zionsville) hit him with a feed out of a double-team in the post. George Washington split a pair of free throws on its next possession, and then Smits hit Fazekas for another 3-pointer as Valpo led 80-75 with 2:21 to go.
- Neither team would score again until a tough step-back 3-pointer from GW’s Maceo Jack with 20 seconds to play, making it a two-point game. Fazekas hit both ends of a key one-and-one with 17 seconds to go, and George Washington never had the ball with a chance to tie in the closing seconds.
Inside the Game
- Valpo debuted a new set of brown alternate uniforms on Saturday. The brown jerseys already have more victories than Valpo’s last set of alternate uniforms – the short-lived gray jerseys from the 2010-11 season.
- Valpo enjoyed its second strong shooting performance in the last three games Saturday, hitting at a 53.6% clip (30-of-56) from the field.
- Valpo was especially strong behind the arc, knocking down 15-of-27 3-point attempts. The 15 triples were the program’s highest total against a Division I opponent since going 15-of-26 from deep in a Feb. 5, 2013 win over UIC.
- The majority of the damage from deep was done by Evelyn and Fazekas, who connected on six triples apiece. Evelyn went 6-of-9 from 3-point range and 10-of-15 overall, setting new career bests for both field goals made and 3-pointers made, as he finished with a game-high 27 points.
- Meanwhile, Fazekas went 6-of-11 from downtown and finished with a season-best 22 points and eight rebounds. Fazekas is now hitting at a 45.8% clip from the 3-point line this year.
- Valpo finished with 21 assists against just 12 turnovers on Saturday, led by the distribution from graduate transfer Deion Lavender (Alton, Ill./Marquette Catholic [UAB/Southern Illinois]). Lavender handed out 10 assists, making him the first Valpo player with multiple 10+ assist games in the same season since Ron Howard in 2004-05.
- Four Valpo starters scored in double figures in Saturday’s win, as Evelyn and Fazekas were joined by Freeman – who had his best performance against a D-I opponent to date with 15 points and seven rebounds – and Smits – who narrowly missed his third double-double of the year, finishing with 11 points and nine rebounds.
- Valpo won on Saturday despite George Washington shooting at a 58.5% clip from the floor. It was the first time Valpo won with its opponent shooting 50% or better since a victory at Wright State on Feb. 24, 2017. The last time a Valpo opponent shot better from the floor in a Crusader win came back on Dec. 31, 2011 in a win over Green Bay, a night when the Phoenix shot 59.2%.
Valpo (6-4) will take a nine-day break from competition with finals week awaiting next week before returning to action on Monday, Dec. 17 at the ARC against Ball State. Half-price tickets ($10 for chairbacks, $5 for bleachers) are available for the game against the Cardinals by visiting the ticket office or buying online.