The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team dropped its first Missouri Valley Conference game of the year on Tuesday evening, falling at defending conference champion Loyola by a 71-54 final. Despite the loss, which snapped a five-game winning streak, Valpo remains in a tie for first place in the MVC standings.
How It Happened
- Valpo never led in the game, but took each shot Loyola threw at it in the early going. Back-to-back baskets from junior Jaume Sorolla (Tortosa, Spain/Sunrise Christian [Kan.] Academy) and senior Deion Lavender (Alton, Ill./Marquette Catholic [UAB/Southern Illinois) cut a five-point Loyola lead to 9-8 with 12:48 to play in the first half.
- Then, after Loyola hit a pair of 3-pointers to extend its lead to seven, Valpo answered with an inside basket from junior Derrik Smits (Zionsville, Ind./Zionsville) and a 3-pointer by freshman Javon Freeman (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) to move within 15-13 with 8:35 to play in the half.
- Loyola scored the next six points over the next two minutes to extend its lead to 21-13, but junior Markus Golder (Portland, Ore./Clackamas [North Idaho]) came back with four straight points of his own to make it a four-point game.
- The Ramblers scored seven of the next nine to extend their lead to nine, and after the teams traded baskets, Golder came up with a mid-range jumper to make it a seven-point lead with a minute to play in the first half. But Loyola’s Cooper Kaifes hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the period – his third triple of the first half – to give the Ramblers a 33-23 lead at intermission.
- Loyola started the second half on a 15-1 run to extend its lead to 24 points, and Valpo would get no closer than the final margin the rest of the way, outscoring Loyola 15-4 over the final five and a half minutes.
Inside the Game
- Tuesday’s loss snapped Valpo’s five-game winning streak dating back to December 29. With the loss, Valpo falls into a tie for first place in the MVC standings with Loyola at 4-1.
- Valpo sits at 4-1 in conference play having already played each of the conference’s top four choices in the preseason poll.
- Loyola limited Valpo to a season-low 17 baskets from the floor (17-for-40) and a season-low eight assists. Meanwhile, Valpo committed 14 turnovers which the Ramblers converted into 23 points.
- Valpo did enjoy one of its top free throw shooting performances of the year, going 14-of-17 from the charity stripe. Sophomore Mileek McMillan (Merrillville, Ind./Merrillville) led the way by going 6-for-6 as part of a nine-point effort.
- Defensively, Valpo surrendered its second-highest opponents’ field goal percentage of the year, as Loyola hit 53.3% (24-of-45) from the field. The Ramblers matched that percentage from the 3-point line, going 8-of-15 from deep – the highest 3-point percentage by a Valpo opponent this season.
- Golder led Valpo in scoring for just the second time this season, coming up just two points shy of his career best as he went 6-of-8 from the floor for 16 points.
Valpo (11-7, 4-1 MVC) returns to action at the ARC Saturday afternoon as it hosts UNI as part of Basketball Day Indiana. Tipoff is slated for 3 p.m., and the game will be broadcast regionally on the MVC TV Network (NBC Sports Chicago; FOX Sports Midwest/Indiana/Kansas City).