The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team erasing a double-figure deficit has become old news, but the fashion in which the Brown & Gold came from behind to beat Bradley made for yet another memorable night at the Athletics-Recreation Center on Saturday.
Valpo knocked down 18 3-pointers, one shy of a program record that has stood since 1989, on its way to turning a 13-point first-half hole into a 90-78 win. In the process, the team surpassed its Missouri Valley Conference win total from a year ago and secured its highest conference win total since joining The Valley.
How It Happened
- Bradley (19-10, 10-6) scored the first six points of the game, and by the 15:30 mark of the first half, it was a 14-4 lead for the Braves.
- A 3-pointer by Eron Gordon (Indianapolis, Ind. / Cathedral [Seton Hall]) sliced the deficit to four with 9:07 to go in the first half, but Bradley scored nine straight points to take its largest lead of the game at 29-16 with 7:43 on the clock, forcing Matt Lottich to call timeout.
- Valpo chipped away, eventually getting back to within four on another Gordon 3, his fourth of the half in as many attempts. That came with 2:28 to go and made it 35-31. Bradley went into the locker room with a 42-36 edge despite 13 first-half points from Gordon. Valpo shot 50 percent in the first half including 7-of-13 (53.8 percent) from 3-point distance.
- Donovan Clay (Alton, Ill. / Alton) and Mileek McMillan (Merrillville, Ind. / Merrillville) each hit 3s early in the second half to help Valpo trim the deficit to two. The Brown & Gold finally tied the game when Ryan Fazekas (Chesterton, Ind. / Marquette Catholic [Providence]) buried one from beyond the arc to level the score at 50 with 15:55 on the clock. McMillan hit a trey to tie it at 53 with 15:09 remaining.
- The first Valpo lead came courtesy of an old-fashion 3-point play by Javon Freeman-Liberty (Chicago, Ill. / Whitney Young) to make it 58-55 Valpo with 12:27 left in the game.
- The hosts led from that moment forward, using a 20-4 spurt to make it a Valpo blowout at 73-59 with 7:30 to go. The lead reached as many as 15 after a Fazekas triple with 6:08 remaining. The Braves made a final push and cut it to as few as seven, but a McMillan 3 with 2:03 to go pushed it back to 11 as Valpo eventually closed out the double-figure win.
Inside the Game
- The 18 made 3s by Valpo were the team’s most in a single game since Feb. 6, 1989 against Butler, when the squad hit a program-record 19 triples. The 18 3s tied for the 24th-most nationally in a single game this season.
- It was the most made 3s by an MVC team in a league game this season and the most by an MVC team in any Division-I game this year. UNI hit 19 vs. Luther College on Dec. 2.
- Valpo’s 3-point percentage of 64.3 was the fourth-best by an MVC team this season and the third-best in conference play.
- Valpo registered its eighth conference win of the season, its highest MVC win total since joining The Valley with two games still to come.
- Four Valpo players finished in double figures, led by Freeman-Liberty with 18 points. He cracked double figures for the 29th time in 29 games this season, moving to within eight points of tying Alec Peters’ school record for points by a sophomore. He also needs eight points to crack the Top 10 in program history for points in a single season.
- Fazekas (17), McMillan (16) and Gordon (13) all hit double figures. Fazekas had his highest scoring output since his career high of 23 on Nov. 5 vs. Toledo, the first game of the season. Clay finished in double figures for the fifth time in the last eight games, and McMillan has now scored 36 total points over the last two games.
- This was the 10th time this season including each of the last three games that Valpo has trailed by double figures and come back to tie or take the lead. It was the fifth time where Valpo has trailed by double figures and come back to win the game.
- This marked the 13th time in Matt Lottich’s head coaching tenure (only his fourth season) where Valpo has been down by double figures and come back to win. It was the sixth time under Lottich and second time this season (at SIUE) where Valpo came from double figures down to win by double figures.
- This was the second time in the last three years that Bradley has led by double figures at the ARC and lost the game by double figures. In 2017-18, the Braves led by as many as 10 in an eventual 77-64 Valpo win.
- Clay set a career high with six assists, breaking his previous mark of five set on Feb. 12 vs. Southern Illinois. He was the team’s assist leader on Saturday.
- Freeman-Liberty pulled down a team-high seven rebounds, his eighth time in the last nine games with seven rebounds or more.
- The home team has won all nine games in the all-time series between Valpo and Bradley.
- For the second time this season, Valpo turned a double-figure defeat from the first meeting (80-69 on Jan. 29 at Bradley) into a double-figure victory in the second meeting. Before turning the trick this year against Southern Illinois, Valpo hadn’t reversed a double-figure loss into a double-figure win in a conference double-round robin since 2008-09 against Loyola in the Horizon League.
- The 90 points were Valpo’s most in a game against a Division-I opponent this season, surpassing 89 on Nov. 12 at SIUE. In fact, it was Valpo’s highest single-game point total against a D1 team since scoring 94 on Nov. 15, 2017, also at SIUE. It was Valpo’s highest point total in an MVC game since joining the conference and highest in any league game since Jan. 22, 2017, 96 in a Horizon League matchup with UIC.
Valpo (15-14, 8-8) will host Missouri State for the final home game of the season on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at the Athletics-Recreation Center. It’s senior night as John Kiser and Ryan Fazekas will be recognized prior to the game and speak to the crowd following the contest. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ with links to live video, audio and stats available on ValpoAthletics.com.