Valparaiso University men’s basketball sophomores Donovan Clay (Alton, Ill. / Alton) and Ben Krikke (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada / Jasper Place) both put together strong showings, but it was not enough to lift the squad past host Toledo on Saturday afternoon at Savage Arena. A top-100 team in the Ken Pom ratings, the Rockets recorded a 71-57 triumph behind an 18-point effort by leading scorer Marreon Jackson.
How It Happened
- Valpo held Toledo to just three points over the first five minutes of the game, but during that same stretch the Rockets played well on the defensive end of the court. Valpo did build up an early 8-3 advantage after a traditional 3-point play by Nick Robinson (Chicago, Ill. / Kenwood [St. Joseph’s].
- After trailing 10-6, the Rockets scored five straight to take their first lead, then the two teams exchanged leads back and forth for the remainder of the half.
- A triple by Clay put Valpo up 19-18 with 5:41 left in the opening half, then Krikke knocked down a 15-foot jumper to extend the edge to three. Toledo responded to climb back on top, but a hook shot by Clay with 1:13 to go until the break cut the Valpo deficit to one at 26-25 and proved to be the final basket of the first half.
- The Brown & Gold took care of business on the defensive end in the opening 20 minutes, holding Preseason All-MAC First Team selection Marreon Jackson to five points and 1-of-7 from 3. A strong 3-point shooting team, the Rockets went just 3-of-16 from distance in the first half.
- Valpo also incurred woes from behind the 3-point line, missing 10 of its 12 first-half attempts. Clay was on the verge of his double-double by the intermission with team highs in points (10) and rebounds (7).
- Eron Gordon (Indianapolis, Ind. / Cathedral [Seton Hall]) provided a nice burst early in the second half, scoring a pair of driving layups on aggressive takes to the basket in the first two and a half minutes. The second of those also drew a foul and allowed the senior to polish off a three-point play with a made free throw.
- After missing Thursday’s game vs. Purdue Northwest, Mileek McMillan (Merrillville, Ind. / Merrillville) returned to action on Saturday and buried a big 3-pointer with 12:24 remaining. The triple sliced a six-point deficit in half and made it 44-41 in favor of the hosts.
- However, Toledo scored the next eight points and in the blink of an eye, owned an 11-point edge less than two minutes after Valpo had cut the lead to one possession.
- Valpo battled back to within seven when Robinson splashed in a 3 ball with 7:15 to go, and had the lead down to five with 3:36 on the clock. A 59-54 game turned into a 67-54 contest after an eight-point Rocket run that expanded the gap to 13, capped by a game-clinching 3 by Spencer Littleson with 2:16 remaining.
Inside the Game
- Clay garnered Valpo’s first double-double of the season and the first of his career with his 17-point, 13-rebound effort. The sophomore’s performance on the glass established a new career high, obliterating his previous best of nine rebounds reached on Jan. 7, 2020 at Southern Illinois. He matched Javon Freeman-Liberty’s 13 at SIUE in November 2019 for the most rebounds in a game by a Valpo player in the last two seasons.
- Krikke scored a season-high 16 points and established a career high with eight made field goals, outdoing his previous best of seven on Feb. 12, 2020 vs. Southern Illinois. It was Krikke’s third career game of 16 points or more – 17 vs. Illinois State on Feb. 1, 2020 and a career-high 18 on Nov. 27, 2019 vs. Trinity Christian accounting for the others. The eight made field goals on Saturday came in efficient fashion on just 11 shots.
- The tandem of Clay and Krikke accounted for over half of the team’s points – scoring 33 of Valpo’s 57 (58 percent). In addition, the sophomore pair provided 20 of the team’s 36 rebounds and if you take out the six team rebounds, two thirds of the boards squeezed by a Valpo player came courtesy of either Krikke or Clay on Saturday.
- After entering the game with an MVC-leading 10.0 steals per game average, Valpo had just one steal as the Rockets committed only four turnovers.
- On the flip side, a bright spot was Valpo’s lack of giveaways as the team committed a season-low nine turnovers.
- Valpo was outdone on the offensive glass 12-4 and outscored 16-2 in second-chance points. Toledo held Valpo to 20 percent (4-of-20) from 3-point distance, while the Rockets made seven second-half 3s after struggling on the perimeter in the opening stanza.
- Toledo outscored Valpo 17-5 at the free-throw line, a 12-point difference in what proved to be a 14-point game.
- Gordon contributed nine points – all after halftime – while Robinson chipped in eight.
Valpo (3-5) will close out the nonconference portion of the season on Monday at 6 p.m. CT vs. Mount St. Joseph at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3 as well as the Valpo Sports Network, 95.1 FM Valparaiso and the Tune In Radio app.