Five players scored in double figures and the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team led nearly start to finish in an 82-73 victory over UC Riverside at the ARC Sunday afternoon.
How It Happened
- UC Riverside took a 2-1 lead on the game’s first field goal 1:17 in before freshman Javon Freeman (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) converted a layup 18 seconds later to give Valpo the lead for good. Freeman’s basket started a 9-0 Valpo run which saw four different players score, capped by a fast-break layup from senior Deion Lavender (Alton, Ill./Marquette Catholic [UAB/Southern Illinois]) to force an early UC Riverside timeout with the score 10-2 just 3:28 in.
- Just past the midway point of the first half, Valpo scored eight straight – including a pair of 3-pointers from junior Bakari Evelyn (Detroit, Mich./Hillcrest Academy/Southfield Christian [Nebraska]) – to extend its lead to 30-16 with 6:47 to play in the period.
- UC Riverside scored the next nine in a stretch of 86 seconds, but Valpo came back with a 7-1 spurt. A 3-pointer from junior Markus Golder (Portland, Ore./Clackamas [North Idaho]) with 3:33 to play in the half returned the lead to double figures. Only a putback by UCR’s Ajani Kennedy right before the halftime buzzer kept it from being a double-digit lead at the break, as Valpo’s lead was 44-35.
- The story of the second half was Valpo maintaining the lead, never able to put away the Highlanders but also never seeing its advantage seriously threatened. A 3-pointer from UCR’s Kennedy cut the lead to 57-52 with 12:23 to play in the game, but Valpo out-scored the Highlanders 13-5 over the next seven minutes to extend its lead to 13 points.
- UCR scored on each of its next five possessions, the last a 3-pointer from Dragan Elkaz, to cut Valpo’s advantage to just 76-71 with 2:39 remaining. The Highlanders had the ball with a chance to make it a one-possession game, but a miss was followed by a Lavender elbow jumper to make it a seven-point lead with 1:32 to go.
- UCR’s Dikymbe Martin connected on a deep jumper on the ensuing possession to cut the lead to five, but junior John Kiser (Noblesville, Ind./Noblesville) was fouled on Valpo’s next trip and calmly sank both ends of a one-and-one to again make it a three-possession game. UCR missed twice on its next trip, and Evelyn hit a pair of free throws for the final margin.
Inside the Game
- Valpo’s offense was clicking on Sunday, as the team shot at a 60% clip from the field and hit 9-of-18 from the 3-point line. The 50% mark from 3-point range was the team’s best of the year, while the overall field goal percentage was Valpo’s best against a Division I opponent since hitting at a 60.4% mark in a win over UIC on Jan. 8, 2015.
- Valpo dominated the paint, doubling the Highlanders’ output from in close, 44-22. Valpo also out-rebounded UCR, 32-24, and tallied 17 assists against just 10 turnovers.
- The quintet in double figures was paced by 18 points from junior Derrik Smits (Zionsville, Ind./Zionsville), who hit 8-of-13 from the field and also grabbed six rebounds. Smits has now led Valpo in scoring in four of the last five games.
- Golder enjoyed one of the best offensive games of his career, connecting on 6-of-8 from the floor – including 3-of-4 from deep – for 16 points to match his season high.
- Junior Ryan Fazekas (Chesterton, Ind./Marquette Catholic [Providence]) knocked down four of his six 3-point attempts in finishing with 14 points.
- Lavender stuffed the stat sheet as he has been wont to do all season long. The graduate transfer went 6-of-8 from the floor for 12 points, grabbed a game-high seven rebounds and handed out a game-high seven assists against just one turnover.
- Evelyn tallied 10 points to round out the group of five Valpo players in double figures. Freeman finished with eight points on 4-of-6 shooting and handed out three assists, while freshman Daniel Sackey (Winnipeg, Manitoba/Thornlea) chipped in four rebounds and four assists off the bench.
Valpo (5-3) faces a quick turnaround, hosting High Point at the ARC Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. The game can be seen live on ESPN3.