Playing most of the game without its top three scorers, the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team battled gamely against Drake at the ARC Saturday night and was within four with 3:44 to play before running out of gas down the stretch, as the Bulldogs left Valpo 70-59 victors.
How It Happened
- Drake scored the first five points of the game, but a 9-2 spurt gave Valpo an early 9-7 lead just over five minutes in.
- The Bulldogs scored the next eight points, but the Brown and Gold responded with seven straight of their own – including five points from junior Jaume Sorolla (Tortosa, Spain/Sunrise Christian [Kan.] Academy) – to regain the lead, 16-15, with 10:56 to play in the first half.
- The last 12 minutes of the first half were played within a six-point span, as it was a one-possession game the entire time. An inside basket by freshman Daniel Sackey (Winnipeg, Man./Thornlea) put Valpo ahead 23-21 with 4:51 to play in the half, but Drake would score eight of the final 11 points of the half to take a 29-26 lead into intermission.
- Valpo evened the game at 35-35 3:28 into the second half on a steal and fast-break basket from Sackey, but that tie would last just 23 seconds, as Drake’s Garrett Sturtz connected on a 3-pointer on the Bulldogs’ next possession.
- A 3-point play from sophomore Mileek McMillan (Merrillville, Ind./Merrillville) cut the Drake lead to 41-39 with 12:17 to play. The Bulldogs would go on a 9-2 spurt at that point, however, to extend their lead to nine points.
- An inside basket from Sorolla and a 3-pointer by junior Bakari Evelyn (Detroit, Mich./Hillcrest Academy/Southfield Christian [Nebraska]) on back-to-back possessions brought Valpo back to within 52-48 with 7:30 to play.
- That was the first of three times down the stretch that Valpo cut Drake’s edge to four points, the others coming with 4:17 to play on a Sorolla layup and 3:44 remaining on a pair of free throws from freshman Javon Freeman (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young). All three times, the Bulldogs responded with points on their next possession.
- Drake scored seven straight points in a span of 90 seconds, starting with 3:05 to play, to put the game away.
Inside the Game
- Valpo was playing without leading scorer Ryan Fazekas (Chesterton, Ind./Marquette Catholic [Providence]) due to injury for the fifth straight game.
- Second-leading scorer Derrik Smits (Zionsville, Ind./Zionsville) was ruled out due to injury shortly before the game. Then, third-leading scorer Markus Golder (Portland, Ore./Clackamas [North Idaho]) went down while being fouled leading into the under-16 media timeout of the first half. He exited seconds after shooting his free throws following the timeout, and did not return.
- Leading the way in the scoring column Saturday were Sackey and Sorolla, who shared team-high honors with 13 points. Sackey matched his career high with the 13 points and also came up with a career-best four steals.
- Meanwhile, Sorolla went 6-of-7 from the field for his season-high point total. The six field goals made matched his career best, while he set a new career high on the defensive end with five blocked shots.
- Freeman added nine points and a career-high tying four assists without committing a turnover, while Evelyn contributed eight points and a season-best six rebounds off the bench.
- Senior Deion Lavender (Alton, Ill./Marquette Catholic [UAB/Southern Illinois]) led all players on Saturday with nine rebounds.
- With the rotation severely shortened due to injuries, minutes played piled up for a number of players.
- Freeman played the full 40 minutes, the first time a Valpo player has gone the distance in a regulation game since Will Bogan and Erik Buggs played the full 40 in the NIT at Miami in March of 2012.
- Sackey played a shade under 37 minutes, just the second time this year he has even cracked the 30-minute mark.
- Sorolla played a season-high 28 minutes, the most time he’s logged on the court since going 30 minutes last year at Evansville.
- Without its three leading scorers, the Valpo offense struggled from the field Saturday. The Brown and Gold shot just 37.9% (22-of-58) and were just 2-of-16 from the 3-point line.
- Valpo did force 17 Drake turnovers and held a 21-12 advantage in points off turnovers.
Valpo (12-9, 5-3 MVC) continues Valley play Tuesday evening when it hosts Missouri State at the ARC at 7 p.m. The game can be seen live on ESPN+.