January 11, 20201st2ndFinal
Stats at a GlanceDRAValpo
FG Percentage.491 (28-57) .333 (19-57)
3P FG Percentage.100 (2-20) .323 (10-31)
FT Percentage.750 (3-4) .900 (18-20)
Offensive Rebounds79
Defensive Rebounds2923
Total Rebounds3632
Bench Points1616
PointsPenn - 21
Clay - 18
ReboundsMurphy - 8
Penn - 8
Clay - 7
AssistsPenn - 7
Freeman-Liberty - 5
StealsWilkins - 3
McMillan - 3
Kiser - 3
BlocksRobbins - 4
Clay - 1
Valpo Makes Key Plays Down Final Stretch to Top Drake on Saturday
Saturday, January 11, 2020
Valpo Makes Key Plays Down Final Stretch to Top Drake on Saturday
Donovan Clay had an 18-point, seven-rebound effort to lead the team on Saturday.

An unconventional but successful version of the home-run ball, a go-ahead 3-pointer by senior John Kiser (Noblesville, Ind. / Noblesville) and a clutch effort at the free-throw line were the key ingredients that helped create a 66-61 victory for the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team over defending Missouri Valley Conference regular-season champion Drake on Saturday afternoon at the Athletics-Recreation Center.

How It Happened

  • Drake scored the first five points and owned the edge in the game’s early stages, but Mileek McMillan (Merrillville, Ind. / Merrillville) tied the contest with a layup at the 16:15 mark to make it 7-7. A McMillan offensive rebound extended the next possession, and Valpo eventually inched ahead for the first time with 15:38 on the clock thanks to a pair of made free throws.
  • A slim 15-14 edge enlarged to seven when Valpo ran off six straight points including a trey by Eron Gordon (Indianapolis, Ind. / Cathedral) and a 3-for-3 foul-line stint by Donovan Clay (Alton, Ill. / Alton) that made it 21-14 Valpo with 11:22 remaining in the half.
  • Drake had six straight points late in the half to cause a six-point lead to vanish and cause a 32-all stalemate. Ben Krikke (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada / Jasper Place) utilized a nifty shot fake to create a dunk with 45 seconds left in the half, but the Bulldogs responded with a slam of their own to go back to even at 34-34 heading into halftime.
  • Valpo came out of the break cold, failing to score for nearly five minutes to open the second stanza. During that time, Drake ran off six straight points to snag a 40-34 advantage. Kiser ignited the Brown & Gold with a trey at the 15:23 mark for the team’s first points of the half.
  • The hosts spent much of the second half attempting to erase the hole created by the early-half run. The Bulldogs were still in front at 55-48 after an Anthony Murphy dunk with 6:44 to play, but Gordon provided one of the game’s key baskets with a trey at the 6:24 mark. Clay followed with a 3 of his own, but Valpo wouldn’t hold its first lead of the second half until Kiser hit the biggest shot of the night with 3:01 remaining.
  • Kiser’s triple put Valpo ahead 60-59, but Drake quickly regained the edge in a back-and-forth finish. After trailing 61-60 with 1:16 remaining, Valpo won this game the same place they struggled in the last one – at the free-throw line. Clay and Javon Freeman-Liberty (Chicago, Ill. / Whitney Young) went a perfect 6-for-6 at the stripe down the stretch, accounting for the final six points of the contest.  
  • Valpo ran a “home-run play” that was well covered, but Kiser chucked a long pass into the frontcourt on a baseline inbounds and Freeman-Liberty used a lightning-quick burst to track it down to help secure the triumph.   

Inside the Game

  • After scoring a career-high 21 in Valpo’s first MVC home game, Clay followed with an 18-point effort on Saturday. His showing was highlighted by a 7-for-7 performance from the free-throw line, where he entered the afternoon 4-for-13 for the season.
  • His free-throw shooting contributed to Valpo’s biggest statistical strength in the win over the Bulldogs (12-5, 2-2). The team went 18-of-20 at the line, its third performance of the season at 90 percent or better, two of which have come in the last three games. Valpo improved to 6-1 when shooting free throws at a clip of 70 percent or better.
  • Clay also squeezed a team-high seven rebounds, his third straight game with seven boards or more.
  • Freeman-Liberty dished out a team-best five assists to go along with 15 points and five rebounds, his 17th straight game with a double-figure scoring output.
  • Kiser and McMillan each had three steals. McMillan’s figure marked a career high, while Kiser matched a personal best and turned in his second straight three-steal effort. Winning the turnover battle 18-12 helped Valpo survive a 33.3 percent shooting night.
  • The Valpo defense behind the 3-point arc also played a key role in the outcome, as the team held Drake to 2-of-20 (10 percent). It was the squad’s second-best effort in that area this season after holding Central Michigan to 1-of-17 (5.9 percent) from 3.

Up Next

Valpo (9-8, 2-2) will hit the road again for a Wednesday matchup with UNI in Cedar Falls, Iowa that begins at 7 p.m. on ESPN+.