The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team held a nine-point lead with seven minutes remaining in its regular season finale at the ARC Saturday afternoon against Evansville, but the Purple Aces rallied as Valpo fell by a 65-63 final. Valpo will take on Indiana State at 6 p.m. on Thursday evening to kick off Arch Madness in St. Louis.
How It Happened
- Trailing by two points with under 13 minutes to play, Valpo scored eight straight points as part of a larger 12-1 run to try to pull away. The run started with a basket from junior Bakari Evelyn (Detroit, Mich./ Hillcrest Academy/Southfield Christian [Nebraska]), his third made shot in a two-minute stretch.
- Junior Markus Golder (Portland, Ore./Clackamas [North Idaho]) had back-to-back baskets during the run, including a slam on the fast break, while senior Deion Lavender (Alton, Ill./Marquette Catholic [UAB/Southern Illinois]) hit all four of his free throw attempts in the stretch – the last two putting Valpo ahead 52-43 with 7:11 to play.
- But it would take the Purple Aces just 90 seconds to erase nearly the entire deficit, as they outscored Valpo 9-1 over in the blink of an eye to make it a one-point game. That was part of a stretch which saw Evansville score on seven consecutive possessions, the last of which were a pair of free throws from KJ Riley with 3:04 remaining to cut Valpo’s lead to 60-59.
- The next 90 seconds went by with neither team scoring, as Valpo turned the ball over on four straight possessions. Evansville missed a pair of free throws with 1:56 to go, but was able to secure an offensive rebound on the second miss and knocked down a triple with 1:30 remaining to go ahead 62-60.
- After empty possessions for both teams, junior Derrik Smits (Zionsville, Ind./Zionsville) was fouled with 40 seconds to play and hit both free throws to tie the game at 62-all.
- Evansville came down and got a driving layup from John Hall with 23 seconds to play to regain the lead, 64-62, before Smits was fouled on the offensive end with 7.9 seconds to go. Smits hit the first to cut it to a one-point game, but missed the second, and a tie-up on the rebound gave possession to Evansville with five seconds remaining.
- Valpo fouled the Purple Aces’ Noah Frederking with 4.2 seconds to play on the ensuing inbounds. Frederking made the first free throw, but missed the second, and Valpo’s last-second heave from halfcourt was wide right.
- A back-and-forth first half saw Valpo lead by four at 16-12 with 8:29 to play in the half following a basket from freshman Javon Freeman (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young).
- Evansville scored the next nine points to pull out to a 21-16 lead with 5:04 to play in the half, and pushed its lead to six points at 24-18 with 2:56 to go in the period.
- Valpo scored the next eight, including back-to-back baskets by Smits, to pull ahead, and after Evansville briefly regained the lead, Smits hit a pair of free throws as Valpo led 28-27 at the half.
- Evansville hit three 3-pointers in the first four minutes of the second half as part of a 12-6 stretch to open the half, going up by five points. The lead was still two with 13 minutes to play before Valpo started its aforementioned run.
Inside the Game
- Saturday’s result means that Valpo will be the ninth seed at Arch Madness. Valpo and Indiana State, which defeated UNI on Saturday, finished tied for eighth place at 7-11 in conference play. The Sycamores won the tiebreaker by virtue of the season sweep over Valpo.
- Prior to Saturday’s game, Valpo recognized Lavender, the lone member of its roster in his final season of eligibility.
- Valpo out-shot Evansville on Saturday, connecting on 48.9% from the floor to the Purple Aces’ 40% clip. Valpo was also 75% (15-of-20) from the foul line, while Evansville was just 50% (12-of-24).
- But the Purple Aces went 9-of-22 from the 3-point line, as compared to 2-of-10 shooting from deep for Valpo.
- Valpo also committed 17 turnovers which the Purple Aces turned into 16 points. Evansville grabbed 11 offensive rebounds as well and scored 15 second-chance points.
- Smits led Valpo with 15 points on Saturday, drawing 10 Evansville fouls all by himself.
- Evelyn added 13 points off the bench, going 6-of-8 from the field, while Freeman ended with 10 points before fouling out.
- Playing in his final home game, Lavender tallied eight points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals – the latter three marks all game highs.
- Evansville is one of just two MVC schools (Loyola) Valpo hasn’t yet defeated since joining the conference prior to last season.
Arch Madness opens for Valpo (14-17, 7-11 MVC) Thursday night at 6 p.m. Valpo will have to win four games in four days to claim the conference tournament title.