March 03, 20241st2ndFinal
Illinois St.314172
Stats at a GlanceILSVALPO
FG Percentage.536 (30-56) .525 (31-59)
3P FG Percentage.381 (8-21) .400 (10-25)
FT Percentage.800 (4-5) .500 (3-6)
Offensive Rebounds48
Defensive Rebounds2223
Total Rebounds2631
Bench Points616
PointsPoindexter - 17
Lewis - 17
Schwieger - 28
ReboundsLewis - 9
Stafford - 8
AssistsPoindexter - 5
Banks - 5
Palm - 4
StealsPoindexter - 2
Williamson - 2
Stafford - 2
BlocksFoster - 1
Kinziger - 1
Lewis - 1
Schwieger, Stafford Lift Valpo Past Illinois State in Regular-Season Finale
Sunday, March 3, 2024
Schwieger, Stafford Lift Valpo Past Illinois State in Regular-Season Finale
Jerome Palm proposed to his girlfriend Chloe as part of the pregame ceremony.

Freshman Cooper Schwieger (Overland Park, Kan. / Blue Valley Southwest [Link Year]) didn’t look like a freshman. There was a marriage proposal on Senior Day at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team beat Illinois State. No, this isn’t an assemblage of headlines seen on over the last decade, and yes this is a game story summarizing new developments that occurred on a memorable Sunday afternoon.

All of these things had happened before, and they happened again on Sunday, this time coinciding with each other to make for a superb ending to the regular season as the Beacons held on to edge the Redbirds 75-72 in the last home game of the 2023-24 season. Before the game tipped off, Jerome Palm (Almere, Netherlands / Echnaton [Hillsborough CC]) – like Vashil Fernandez back in 2015 – proposed to his girlfriend as part of the Senior Day Ceremony. Palm and Chloe’s moment capped a pregame celebration that also featured Connor Barrett (Chicago, Ill. / Loyola Academy), Anthony Sciarroni (Columbus, Ohio / St. Francis DeSales]), student manager Nate Maxwell and cheer/dance seniors. Following the victory, an emotional head coach Roger Powell Jr. addressed the crowd and gave each of his seniors the opportunity to say a few words.

How It Happened

  • Barrett buried a 3-pointer with 14:21 left in the first half to put Valpo ahead 11-8.
  • Freshman Jahari Williamson (Pickering, Ontario, Canada / Royal Crown Academy) had consecutive baskets including a triple to push the Valpo lead to six.
  • A 3 by Malachi Poindexter allowed Illinois State to leapfrog in front at 20-18, but Valpo scored the next seven points, a run capped by an Isaiah Stafford (Bolingbrook, Ill. / Crispus Attucks [John A. Logan / Southern Indiana]) trey to go up by five.
  • A flurry from the one-two punch of Schwieger and Stafford helped Valpo raise the lead to double-figures. Stafford’s 3 just before the halftime horn created a 13-point gap at 44-31.
  • Illinois State did not go away, charging to within two at 52-50 just seven minutes into the second half. A big 3 by Sherman Weatherspoon IV (Bowie, Md. / Bethesda Chevy-Chase [Golden State Prep]) helped get the lead back up to seven at 57-50 midway through the second stanza.
  • The lead fluctuated between five and seven until a 3 by Johnny Kinziger with 6:43 to play trimmed the Illinois State deficit to two. Poindexter swished a 3 to put Illinois State ahead 62-61 with 6:19 to go.
  • Despite the halftime lead evaporating, the Beacons kept their composure down the stretch. Schwieger and Stafford both had go-ahead baskets during a seesaw portion of crunch time, then the rookie ripped off a 3 with three minutes remaining to make it 68-64 Valpo and send the ARC into a frenzy.
  • The Redbirds responded with a 3-pointer of their own and eventually went ahead 69-68 with 1:27 to go. Schwieger picked up another basket with 1:07 to go, putting the Beacons in front yet again, this time by the Valpo-friendly score of 70-69.
  • Valpo got a defensive stop, then Stafford swished a 3 with 24 seconds left to extend the lead to 73-69. Poindexter responded with a three of his own to make it a one-point game again, then Schwieger hit two free throws to extend it to three with 12 seconds left.
  • Illinois State missed the triple try that would have tied it, and the Beacons notched an exhilarating win in the home finale.

Inside the Game

  • Schwieger established a career high for the second straight game, accruing 28 points to outdo his previous best of 26 that occurred on Feb. 24 at Murray State, his most recent appearance since he missed Feb. 27 at UNI due to illness. He made big play after big play down the stretch, finishing the game with five rebounds and a 12-of-17 shooting clip.
  • Schwieger’s 28 points marked the highest scoring output by a Valpo freshman since Alec Peters had 29 on March 4, 2014 vs. UIC.
  • Stafford scored 20 points, his 11th game this season with 20 points or more. He is tied with Belmont’s Malik Dia for the third most 20-point games in the MVC this year, behind only Drake’s Tucker DeVries and Southern Illinois’ Xavier Johnson.
  • Stafford collected eight rebounds to go along with his 20 points. He went 8-of-13 from the floor and 4-of-8 from 3. His eight boards represented his highest total in conference play and his most since nine on Nov. 25 vs. Southern.
  • Palm scored eight points on 4-of-7 shooting, his third time in the last four games with eight points or more.
  • Barrett drilled a season-high three 3s on his senior day, his first time with three triples since Dec. 18, 2022 at Elon. His nine points marked a season high.
  • This represented a return to the win column for the Beacons, who brought an 11-game skid to a halt.
  • Valpo won the rebounding battle 31-26 and held an 8-4 edge on the offensive glass. This marked Valpo’s first time winning the rebounding battle in the last 12 games.
  • This continued a run of success in head-to-head matchups with Illinois State as Valpo is now 11-1 in the last dozen games between the two teams with the only defeat in that 12-game stretch coming in overtime. Five of the last seven games between these two foes have been decided by five points or fewer. Valpo has won six straight matchups that have occurred at the ARC.

Postgame Press Conference

Click here for postgame press conference.

Up Next

The Beacons (7-24, 3-17 MVC) will play the No. 5 seed on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. in the opening round of Arch Madness, the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in St. Louis. The opponent will not be confirmed until Monday morning due to tiebreakers that involve the NCAA NET Ranking when it is updated on Monday. Thursday’s game will be broadcast on the MVC TV Network, including NBC Sports Chicago Plus in the Chicago market.