A lengthy first-half scoring drought was too much to overcome for the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team on Friday night at the Athletics-Recreation Center. An early scoring run propelled visiting Indiana State to a 58-43 victory despite the Brown & Gold outscoring the guests 27-20 after halftime. Saturday’s rematch will hold high significance in the conference standings as Valpo battles to secure a first-round bye in the upcoming State Farm MVC Tournament.
How It Happened
- Valpo jumped out to a 6-3 lead with the team’s two post players, Ben Krikke (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada / Jasper Place) and Mileek McMillan (Merrillville, Ind. / Merrillville), combining for three early baskets.
- Indiana State had a 9-8 edge by the first media timeout, and from that point forward cold shooting plagued Valpo for the remainder of the first half. After a basket by Sheldon Edwards (West Palm Beach, Fla. / Palm Beach Lakes [TLAP Sports Academy]) with 16:25 left in the half, Valpo did not make another field goal until a Donovan Clay (Alton, Ill. / Alton) bucket with 4:37 on the clock. Clay’s basket snapped an 11 minute, 48 second stretch without a made field goal and a scoring drought of nearly 10 minutes.
- The Sycamores went on a 19-0 run during that time to open up a 23-point lead. The halftime edge was 22 at 38-16.
- The Brown & Gold played a much better second half, getting as close as 12 after a fastbreak basket by Jacob Ognacevic (Sheboygan, Wis. / Sheboygan Area Lutheran) with 8:36 to play, capping a 9-0 run. Indiana State held on for the 15-point victory, but the hosts outscored the guests 27-20 after halftime.
Inside the Game
- Indiana State improved to 10-1 in its last 11 games as the Sycamores continued their recent run of success.
- Krikke and Clay led Valpo with 11 points apiece, while Clay and Eron Gordon (Indianapolis, Ind. / Cathedral [Seton Hall]) shared the team lead on the glass with seven rebounds each.
- Krikke finished in double figures for the 19th time this season, while Clay did so for the 13th time. Both have led the team in scoring on nine occasions. Gordon and Clay have each paced the team on the glass 11 times this year.
- It was simply a cold shooting night for Valpo, which shot a season-low 29.1 percent, the team’s lowest field goal percentage since Feb. 5, 2020 at UNI (28.1 percent). Valpo went 3-of-22 from the 3-point line (13.6 percent), the team’s lowest clip since going 1-for-14 at UIC on Dec. 1.
- Valpo defended the 3-point arc well as the Sycamores went 3-of-20 from distance.
- Valpo can clinch a first-round bye at the State Farm MVC Tournament with a victory on Saturday. In addition, a win would allow Valpo to clinch a .500 or better record at home for the 29th consecutive season.
- Should Indiana State prevail on Saturday, Valpo could still garner its first opening-round bye since joining The Valley with help on the out-of-town scoreboard. Entering the season’s final day, Valpo, UNI and Evansville are all tied for fifth at 6-11, with Southern Illinois and Bradley both one game back at 5-12. Since Valpo and UNI split the head-to-head meetings, a “top down” tiebreaker system would be used should those two teams finish tied, and Valpo would win that tiebreaker and own the sixth seed based on its victory over Drake. Valpo fans should root for Drake, Illinois State and Loyola on Saturday.
- Valpo could still finish anywhere from fifth to ninth depending upon Saturday’s outcomes.
Valpo (9-17, 6-11) will close out the regular season with the home finale on Saturday at 5 p.m. CT at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3 and the Valpo Sports Network with links to live video, audio and stats available on ValpoAthletics.com.