The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team made a late run to pull within two points with 3:44 to play on Wednesday night at Bradley, but the Braves finished strong to hold on for an 80-69 win at Carver Arena. Javon Freeman-Liberty (Chicago, Ill. / Whitney Young) and Ryan Fazekas (Chesterton, Ind. / Marquette Catholic [Providence]) both returned to form, with Freeman-Liberty scoring a game-high 21 points while the now-healthy Fazekas drained four 3s.
How It Happened
- Valpo didn’t score from the 11:15 mark to the 5:22 mark of the first half, giving up an 11-0 run that pushed the Bradley lead from five to 16 at 30-16.
- The Braves (15-7, 6-3) shot 56 percent before halftime while holding Valpo to 36.7 percent. Valpo connected on three of 16 3-point tries before the break.
- Despite several pushes early in the second half, Valpo still trailed by 10 with 7:11 remaining. That’s when the team embarked on an 8-0 run, shrinking the lead to two on a huge triple by Fazekas with 3:44 left in the game. That run saw four different Valpo players score, combining to make it a 68-66 game.
- The Braves went on the final run, scoring 10 straight points to put the game away. After Fazekas’ aforementioned trey, Valpo went cold and didn’t score again until a 3-point play by Freeman-Liberty with 15 seconds to go.
Inside the Game
- Freeman-Liberty led the team in points (21), rebounds (seven) and assists (four) while tacking on a block and two steals. He has 49 steals for the season, four away from moving into the program’s single-season Top 10 in steals for the second straight year. He reached double figures for the 22nd straight game.
- Donovan Clay (Alton, Ill. / Alton) had just two points in the opening half, but came to life with 13 in the second half to finish with 15 on his birthday. It was the highest scoring output in a road game in his collegiate career.
- Fazekas drained four 3s, equaling his season high from the season opener on Nov. 5 vs. Toledo. He scored 14 points in 29 minutes, matching his point total from his previous two games combined.
- Bradley shot 52.9 percent for the game including 6-of-12 from beyond the arc, plus went 20-of-25 at the free-throw line.
- Senior John Kiser (Noblesville, Ind. / Noblesville) had four steals to set a career high.
- The home team has won all eight all-time meetings between Valpo and Bradley. Wednesday’s defeat came to a team that is 12-1 at home this season and went to the NCAA Tournament a year ago.
- Valpo reached double-figure steals for the eighth time this season. The team had 10 steals, its highest total in the last six games. Valpo won the turnover battle 18-10 and has turned the ball over 10 times or fewer in back-to-back games for the first time all season after a season-low eight turnovers against Evansville on Sunday.
Valpo (11-11, 4-5) will play back-to-back home games for the first time all season, starting on Saturday as Illinois State comes to town for a 7 p.m. tip off. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.