The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team saw its hopes of repeating its 2020 run from the opening round to the championship game at the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament dashed on Friday as the seventh-seeded Beacons fell to second-seeded Missouri State 67-58. Thomas Kithier (Macomb, Mich. / Clarkston [Michigan State]) turned in his top scoring output against a league foe this season while battling through a back injury for the second straight night. Valpo was playing the second game of a back-to-back, while Missouri State was competing in its first game of the tournament.
How It Happened
- Valpo knocked down its first four shots of the game, the first three of which were driving layups by Kithier with the other basket coming from fellow post player Ben Krikke (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada / Jasper Place). That helped the Beacons to a 9-5 advantage.
- The Bears scored the next seven points to grab a 12-9 lead. Missouri State built that cushion to five, but a 3-point play by Kevion Taylor (Milwaukee, Wis. / Whitnall [Winona State]) at the 8:25 mark helped the Beacons get back to within two at 20-18.
- The Missouri State lead continued to fluctuate between three and five. With 4:19 left of first-half time, Kithier went to the basket and scored to make it 25-22, but the Bears hit a big 3 on the other end to up the advantage to six at 28-22, then a traditional 3-point play for the Bears gave them their largest lead to that point, a nine-point advantage.
- Sophomore Sheldon Edwards (West Palm Beach, Fla. / Palm Beach Lakes [TLAP Sports Academy]) heated up from distance late in the half. After Valpo missed its first eight 3-point tries, Edwards hit one at the 2:40 mark to trim the lead to six and another step-back triple with 1:05 on the clock to make it 33-28. However, the Bears got two free throws for the final points of the half and Valpo went into the locker room down 35-28.
- Valpo head coach Matt Lottich called a timeout 45 seconds into the second half after the Bears sandwiched a stop around two baskets that expanded the lead to 11, the first double-figure deficit of the day. Taylor nailed a 3 coming out of the timeout to get the Beacons back to within eight.
- Taylor hit another huge shot at the 15:27 mark, swishing a corner 3 to whittle the lead to five. Valpo got to within four, but the Bears ballooned the advantage to 14 by the 10:09 mark thanks in part to a 7-0 run.
- Missouri State owned a 62-48 lead with 8:06 to go, but Valpo scored eight straight including four by Kithier to battle back to within six with 4:37 on the clock. It was once again a six-point game after an Edwards 3 at the 3:12 mark, but Missouri State scored the only three points for the game’s duration.
Inside the Game
- Kithier was in double figures by halftime, his ninth double-figure scoring output of the season and second straight since returning from an injury in time for Thursday’s Arch Madness opener. He scored eight points or more for the fifth straight game.
- Kithier also had five rebounds in the first half alone, guaranteeing he’d finish with five or more rebounds for the 18th time in 22 games this year. His 17 points marked his highest output since 19 on Dec. 5 at Western Michigan and his third-highest total of the season. His production on Friday came on 8-of-12 shooting. He finished with seven boards.
- Taylor returned to double figures after a one-game hiatus, where he finished with nine in the tournament opener. He scored in double figures in five of his last six and 19 times in total this season. Furthermore, this marked the 100th double-figure game of his collegiate career, which included four years at Winona State.
- Edwards turned in 10 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, his third career double-double (all this season). His previous two double-doubles came in the two regular-season matchups with Evansville.
- King squeezed nine rebounds, while Krikke finished with nine points, snapping his 12-game double-figure scoring streak.
- The Beacons shot 36.1 percent from the floor and 16.7 percent (4-of-24) from 3-point territory. Valpo did enjoy a 10-of-12 (83.3 percent) performance at the free-throw line, the team’s fourth straight game over 80 percent.