The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team held a nine-point lead over MVC leader Loyola at the ARC Sunday afternoon with just over seven minutes remaining, but the Ramblers scored the next 13 points to take the lead for good as Valpo eventually fell by a 56-51 final in front of a capacity crowd.
How It Happened
- Valpo led 5-3 early following a 3-pointer from freshman Daniel Sackey (Winnipeg, Man./Thornlea) before Loyola went on an 11-3 run to take a 14-8 lead with 11:55 remaining in the first half.
- Valpo responded with nine points in quick succession, scoring on four straight possessions – starting with a 3-pointer from freshman Javon Freeman (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) and including a pair of layups by sophomore Mileek McMillan (Merrillville, Ind./Merrillville) – to reclaim the lead.
- The teams would basically trade baskets for the rest of the half, but Loyola claimed momentum into the locker room as Clayton Custer hit an off-balance 3-pointer from the corner at the buzzer to cut Valpo’s advantage to 24-22 at intermission.
- Valpo wouldn’t surrender the lead in the opening 10 minutes of the second half despite Loyola making it a one-possession game on multiple occasions.
- Valpo gained a bit of separation with an 8-2 spurt spanning the midway point of the half, as junior Bakari Evelyn (Detroit, Mich./ Hillcrest Academy/Southfield Christian [Nebraska]) hit a 3-pointer and senior Deion Lavender (Alton, Ill./Marquette Catholic [UAB/Southern Illinois]) had a 3-point play during the stretch.
- When Freeman knocked down a pull-up from the edge of the paint with 7:41 to play, Valpo led 43-34.
- But the Crusaders would then be kept off the board by the Ramblers on their next seven trips down the court on offense, going 0-for-7 with a turnover during that stretch.
- Loyola tied the game on an inside basket from Cameron Krutwig with 3:50 to play, and took the lead for good on an Aher Uguak free throw at the 2:43 mark, while a 3-pointer by Marques Townes capped the 13-0 run and gave the Ramblers a 47-43 lead with 1:59 to play.
- Lavender knocked down a pair of free throws with 1:42 remaining to cut the deficit to two points, but Townes drove inside for a layup on Loyola’s next trip to push the lead back to four points. An interior basket from Lavender in the final seconds would be the only other time Valpo made it a one-possession game late.
Inside the Game
- Sunday’s game was played in front of Valpo’s largest crowd of the year (5,148). It was the program’s largest crowd at the ARC since setting the attendance record of 5,444 in the 2016 NIT quarterfinals against Saint Mary’s.
- The defeat drops Valpo into a two-way tie for fifth place at 6-6 in conference play. Valpo is still just one game out of the second-place tie, however.
- Sunday marked the second straight defeat Valpo has held a nine-point lead and lost (at Evansville), marking the largest lead lost in a defeat this season. On the flip side, Valpo has overcome double-digit deficits for wins three times.
- Freeman continued his recent strong play with a team-high 17 points on Sunday.
- Lavender added 12 points on 3-of-4 shooting from the floor and 6-of-6 from the foul line, as well as five rebounds and four assists off the bench. The 12 points tied Lavender’s second-highest output of the year in the scoring column, as he reached double figures in scoring for the first time since the Jan. 23 game at Indiana State.
- Junior John Kiser (Noblesville, Ind./Noblesville) tied a career high with nine rebounds as Valpo out-rebounded the Ramblers, 33-29.
Valpo (13-12, 6-6 MVC) hosts Indiana State at the ARC on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3.