The contributions came from a variety of sources for the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team on Saturday night in an 80-70 win over Illinois State at the Athletics-Recreation Center. On a night where seven players finished with seven points or more and four players had five rebounds or more, it was Ben Krikke (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada / Jasper Place) who shined the brightest. He scored 17 points, his highest total against a Division-I opponent, to lead the way for the Brown & Gold.
How It Happened
- Both teams got off to a cold shooting start, as Valpo didn’t score before the first media timeout, allowing Illinois State to inch out to a 5-0 lead. After trailing 7-2, Valpo scored nine of the next 12 points to jump ahead 11-10 when Donovan Clay (Alton, Ill. / Alton) made a 3-pointer at the 11:23 mark.
- A technical foul and a common foul against Illinois State led to four free throws for Valpo with 10:08 to go in the half, and the Brown & Gold took full advantage with Krikke and Zion Morgan (Chicago, Ill. / Kenwood [Wabash Valley/UNLV]) combining to go 4-for-4, putting the hosts up 15-13.
- Valpo had the lead for the remainder of the first half, leading by as many as nine after a trey by Ryan Fazekas (Chesterton, Ind. / Marquette Catholic [Providence]) with 50 seconds remaining. The Redbirds scored the final three points of the half on free throws, and Valpo went into the break leading 34-28.
- The lead went back-and-forth early in the second half, with Zach Copeland’s layup snapping a 41-all tie with 14:48 to go in the game, providing the Redbirds with a short-lived lead. Valpo followed with an 11-0 run during the game’s key stretch, culminating with a layup by Clay just inside the 12-minute mark.
- Valpo led by no fewer than six the rest of the way, fending off several attempt to fight back by Illinois State (7-15, 2-8 MVC). The lead reached 13 points with 3:51 left, then increased to 14 on Freeman-Liberty free throws with 1:32 on the clock.
Inside the Game
- Krikke’s 17 points was his highest scoring output since notching 18 against Trinity Christian on Nov. 27. It was his highest scoring output against a Division-I opponent this season. In addition, he set career highs in rebounds with eight and assists with four. His eight boards shattered his previous mark of six set in the conference opener against Loyola, while the assists equaled his personal best set in the aforementioned Trinity Christian game. He led the team in scoring, rebounds and assists on Saturday.
- Freeman-Liberty was in double figures for the 23rd straight game, finishing with 12 points to go along with seven rebounds, three assists and two steals. He is two steals away from joining Valpo’s single-season Top 10.
- Morgan scored seven points and pulled down five rebounds in 12 minutes of action. The point total was his D1 best and matched his overall career high set against Trinity Christian.
- Clay continued his home MVC success, finding double figures again with 12 points. He also squeezed six caroms.
- Valpo outscored Illinois State 36-13 on bench points.
- The Brown & Gold overcame early shooting struggles by knocking down 60.7 percent of their shots after halftime. That atoned for a 10-of-30 first half and helped the team finish the night at 46.6 percent from the field.
- Valpo improved its home mark to 8-1, continuing this year’s ARC dominance.
- Valpo has not lost back-to-back games or won back-to-back games through the first 10 conference contests, a trend of trading wins and losses that stayed intact on Saturday.
Valpo (12-11, 5-5) will play a second straight home game for the first time all season on Wednesday night as UNI comes to the ARC for a 7 p.m. tip. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ with coverage links available on ValpoAthletics.com.