A career night from Eron Gordon (Indianapolis, Ind. / Cathedral [Seton Hall]) and a monstrous second half from Javon Freeman-Liberty (Chicago, Ill. / Whitney Young) highlighted a complete team effort that saw the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team pull away late to down High Point 87-72 at the Millis Center in High Point, N.C. on Wednesday. The contributions came from up and down the roster as Valpo outscored the Panthers 48-30 after halftime.
How It Happened
- Valpo jumped out to a quick lead, creating transition chances and getting to the foul line in the early going to vault to a 10-3 edge after a Donovan Clay (Alton, Ill. / Alton) fast-break basket with 17:20 to go in the first half. Freeman-Liberty came away with a steal and created another transition push that led to two free throws, extending the cushion to 12-3 with 16:56 left in the opening half.
- The tide quickly turned in High Point’s favor, and by the 11:21 mark of the first half, the Panthers had their first lead at 17-16.
- High Point’s John-Michael Wright was the star for the remainder of the first half. His made jumper with 10 seconds until halftime capped his 16-point half and sent the Panthers (2-9) into the locker room with a three-point edge.
- A key factor in the opening half was Freeman-Liberty entering foul trouble. He picked up his second foul with 11:40 remaining in the first half and sat the rest of the opening period. Valpo held a slim 16-15 edge at the time of his second foul.
- Gordon played a crucial role in Valpo stemming the tide with Freeman-Liberty sidelined by foul trouble. The redshirt junior scored 11 points before the break, nine of which came after Valpo’s leading scorer left the floor.
- Junior Mileek McMillan (Merrillville, Ind. / Merrillville) scored two quick baskets to start the second half, then senior John Kiser (Noblesville, Ind. / Noblesville) buried a game-tying triple to knot the score at 46 with 18:06 remaining. The Brown & Gold created their first lead since the game’s early stages when Freeman-Liberty hit a go-ahead jumper with 16:41 remaining. Freeman-Liberty picked up his third foul less than three minutes into the half, but stayed in the game and went on to spark the victory.
- Ben Krikke (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada / Jasper Place) had a big stretch where he scored six consecutive points to snap a 51-all deadlock and give Valpo a 57-51 lead with 12:47 left in the first half. Gordon lifted his game total to 14 points with another 3 to make it 62-54 with 11:09 to play.
- Valpo’s lead was only two with 8:32 on the clock, but a key 9-0 run gave Valpo its first double-figure cushion at 75-64 with 6:59 to go.
- Kiser drained a huge trey on Daniel Sackey’s (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada / Thornlea) ninth assist of the evening, lifting the lead to 80-68 at the 4:02 mark. Gordon knocked down yet another 3 with 2:50 to go in the second half.
- If that final Gordon 3 was the dagger, what happened next was the exclamation mark. A Kiser steal created a fast-break opportunity for Valpo with 1:56 left, and Freeman-Liberty took full advantage, slamming home a highlight-reel dunk.
Inside the Game
- After previously setting a personal best with 14 points against Central Michigan, Gordon shattered his career high with his first 20-point effort. He nailed six 3s, becoming just the sixth Missouri Valley Conference player to do so in a game this season.
- Before Gordon’s six treys on Wednesday, no Valpo player had more than four this season. It was the first time a Valpo player had six made 3s in a game in nearly a calendar year, as Ryan Fazekas did it on Jan. 5, 2019 at Missouri State. Gordon went 7-of-9 from the field and 6-of-8 from beyond the arc.
- Freeman-Liberty scored 22 points in 27 minutes while also contributing six rebounds, four assists and multiple steals. He has scored in double figures in all 12 games this season and has scored at least 17 points in every game against a Division-I opponent.
- Sackey handed out nine assists, setting his career high. He previously had eight assists on two occasions, most recently Dec. 3 at Eastern Michigan. The point guard added 11 points, went 6-of-8 at the foul line, drew six fouls and didn’t turn the ball over.
- Sackey’s nine-assist effort was only the seventh by a Valley player this season, and he became the fifth different MVC player with a nine-assist outing. It was the most assists in a game by a Valpo player in over a year as Deion Lavender had 10 on Dec. 8, 2018 at George Washington.
- For the second consecutive game, Kiser led the way in the rebounding department. His eight boards matched a season high, the third time he’s hit that mark. He has been the team leader or co-leader in rebounding in five games this season, the most on the team.
- Valpo received great balance as seven players scored eight points or more.
Valpo (7-5) will fly to Little Rock, Ark. early on Thursday for a neutral-site matchup with SEC opponent Arkansas on Saturday at 7 p.m. CT. The game will have no video streaming available, but the trusty voice of Todd Ickow will describe the action alongside Brandon Vickrey on 95.1 FM Valparaiso and online via the TuneIn radio app. Links to live video and stats are available on ValpoAthletics.com.