A strong first half had the Valparaiso University men’s basketball teams in good shape on Monday, but host Evansville roared from behind and Valpo went cold offensively as the Purple Aces pulled out a 58-51 victory. Valpo shot a sizzling 54.2 percent before halftime but was held to just 37.5 percent after the break in a tale of two halves at the Ford Center in Evansville. Donovan Clay (Alton, Ill. / Alton) was Valpo’s top scorer with 14 points.
How It Happened
- After getting off to a slow start in Sunday’s first meeting between the two teams, quite the opposite occurred on Monday. Valpo set the tone on the defensive end, and Connor Barrett (Chicago, Ill. / Loyola Academy) knocked in an early triple to help his team to a 7-2 advantage.
- Daniel Sackey (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada / Thornlea) had a five-point burst midway through the half to up a one-point lead to six, then Sheldon Edwards (West Palm Beach, Fla. / Palm Beach Lakes [TLAP Sports Academy]) connected from distance to extend the advantage to 17-10 at the 8:22 mark.
- Edwards continued to make plays on both ends of the court for the remainder of the half, providing a pair of steals while adding a second 3-pointer, this one to open up Valpo’s first double-figure lead of the day at 20-10 with 7:45 to go in the half. Edwards also had a hoop despite being fouled at the 7:05 mark to push the lead to 14.
- Mileek McMillan (Merrillville, Ind. / Merrillville) got in on the act with a trey and a layup in succession before Evansville picked up some momentum with five straight points to close the half and make it a 33-24 game, slicing the deficit down to single figures.
- After going 5-of-8 from 3 in the first half, Valpo would go on to miss all five attempts from distance after halftime.
- Clay had two quick buckets early in the second half, but a Jax Levitch trey whittled the lead to five with 16:35 to go.
- Clay continued to provide Valpo’s only offense, as he scored the team’s first eight points of the half. A second-chance layup by Goodnews Kpegeol (St. Paul, Minn. / North [Southwest Mississippi CC / Kansas State]) with 9:27 to go accounted for the first Valpo points by a player other than Clay after halftime.
- Evansville had gotten the lead down to two before the Kpegeol bucket, then Iyen Enaruna hit his third 3 of the season to slice the deficit to one.
- A second-chance layup by Enaruna gave Evansville its first lead of the game with 5:02 to go. Ben Krikke (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada / Jasper Place) and Sackey each had game-tying jumpers, but Evansville snapped a 49-all deadlock with seven straight points from the 3:26 mark to the 1:27 threshold, grabbing the lead for good.
Inside the Game
- Clay bounced back after a quiet day on Sunday with a game-high 14 points, scoring in double figures for the ninth time this season and 28th time in his career. It was the sixth time this season that he paced the team in scoring and his 11th time doing so in a Valpo uniform.
- Clay made his 50th consecutive start on Sunday.
- Sackey contributed nine points and Edwards had eight, while both players registered a pair of steals.
- Much of Valpo’s success offensively came in transition, where the guests outscored Evansville 10-2. However, the Aces owned a 10-2 edge on second-chance points as Valpo pulled down just one offensive rebound.
- This marked just the third time Valpo lost a game in which it held a double-figure lead during Matt Lottich’s coaching tenure. More frequently, Valpo has been on the other side of such rallies, as Lottich’s teams own 16 double-figure comebacks.
- Prior to Monday’s setback, Valpo owned a 22-4 record under Lottich when holding opponents under 60 points.
- Evansville (8-8, 6-4) was led by Shamar Givance and Jawaun Newton with 12 points apiece, while Levitch (11) and Noah Frederking (10) also reached double figures.
Valpo (6-11, 3-5) will welcome a nationally-ranked opponent to the Athletics-Recreation Center for the first time since an upset victory over No. 21/25 Rhode Island on Nov. 29, 2016 this weekend. No. 25 Drake will bring its undefeated record to Northwest Indiana for a 1 p.m. tip on Saturday on either ESPN3 or ESPN+. Links to live video, audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.