A day after being held to a season-low four points while battling foul trouble, sophomore Ben Krikke (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada / Jasper Place) joined elite company in program lore on Sunday, putting together a 25-point, 15-rebound game to lift the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team to a 70-66 victory over host Illinois State. Valpo fended off a Redbird rally after leading by as many as 16, securing a Missouri Valley Conference sweep this weekend at Redbird Arena in Normal, Ill.
Krikke became just the third Valpo player in the last 25 years to boast a 25-point, 15-rebound effort, joining elite company alongside Alec Peters (3x) and Dan Oppland (Feb. 17, 2005).
How It Happened
- Krikke was a factor from the outset, scoring five of Valpo’s first seven points as a 7-all deadlock lasted until the 12:55 mark of the first half. That’s when Daniel Sackey (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada / Thornlea) grabbed a steal and swished a pair at the free-throw line, then Krikke added two more baskets to make it eight early points and help Valpo to a 13-7 lead at the 11:47 mark.
- Sackey got out in transition on consecutive possessions, first off a defensive rebound and then off a Donovan Clay (Alton, Ill. / Alton) steal. The first of those breaks turned into an old-fashion 3-point play for the Valpo point guard, while the second resulted in another driving layup to make it 18-10.
- Mileek McMillan (Merrillville, Ind. / Merrillville) drained Valpo’s first triple of the day with 8:30 left in the half to up the lead to nine, and later a Connor Barrett (Chicago, Ill. / Loyola Academy) bullseye created Valpo’s first 10-point lead of the day at 25-15 with 6:56 on the clock.
- Sackey and Krikke combined for Valpo’s next 11 points, helping lift the lead to as many as 16. Eron Gordon (Indianapolis, Ind. / Cathedral [Seton Hall]) made two key hustle plays, one of which saved a ball from going out of bounds to lead to a Sackey 3. The second of those plays helped Gordon get to the line for a pair, and Valpo boasted a 38-26 edge at the break.
- DJ Horne of Illinois State scored six points in the first three minutes of the second half, setting the tone for his second consecutive second-half flurry. After a 3 by Gordon put Valpo up 13 with 17:38 to play, the Redbirds (5-10, 2-7) scored seven straight to slice the deficit to six just over two minutes later.
- Krikke, Clay and Sackey all made offensive contributions during a back-and-forth stretch where the pace picked up and both teams scored at will. The Redbirds started to pair their baskets with stops after a trey by Sheldon Edwards (West Palm Beach, Fla. / Palm Beach Lakes [TLAP Sports Academy]) with 12:22 to go, scoring six straight to get to within three.
- Krikke made a key bucket to stem the tide and bulk the edge to five, but Horne continued to make plays while several other Illinois State players got in on the act. After trailing by as many as 16, the Redbirds grabbed their first lead of the game on a pair of free throws by Antonio Reeves with 2:27 remaining to make it 64-63 in favor of the hosts.
- A second-chance basket by Krikke put Valpo back in front, then a driving layup by Sackey extended the edge to three. After Horne trimmed the lead to one at 67-66, Valpo came away with two enormous offensive rebounds on the ensuing possession. Barrett tracked down a long board in the left corner after an Edwards miss, then a tap-out and an Edwards rebound off a Sackey miss caused the shot clock to turn off.
- Following a Matt Lottich timeout, the Valpo head coach inserted walk-on free-throw specialist Steven Helm (Valparaiso, Ind. / Valparaiso [Carroll]) into the game, knowing the Redbirds had to foul. A well-designed inbounds play allowed Valpo to get Helm wide open, and the redshirt sophomore delivered at the charity stripe, hitting a pair of late free throws in a one-and-one situation for the second straight night, this time with 10 seconds remaining.
- Leading by three, Valpo denied the 3-point arc on the final Illinois State possession, but Krikke was called for a foul and Reeves got a one-and-one. He missed the front end, and Krikke squeezed the board before tacking on one more free throw in the final seconds to account for the four-point margin.
Inside the Game
- Krikke’s 25 points bested his previous career high of 21, which came on Jan. 9 of this season vs. Missouri State. His 15-rebound effort obliterated his previous personal best of eight, achieved most recently on Dec. 17 of this season vs. Purdue Northwest.
- After Clay and Gordon’s double-doubles on Saturday, Krikke enjoyed the team’s third double-double of the weekend. Before the weekend, Valpo had just three double-doubles in its last 54 games. Valpo matched that number of double-doubles in just two games this weekend in Normal.
- Krikke had just the seventh 25&15 game by a Valpo player in the last 33 seasons and became just the fifth different player to do so in that span. Alec Peters had three in his historic career, while the others belonged to Dan Oppland (Feb. 17, 2005 vs. Southern Utah), Chris Ensminger (Feb. 20, 1995 vs. Troy State) and Casey Schmidt (March 7, 1994 vs. UIC). The Valpo sophomore had the program’s best scoring/rebounding performance since Peters posted 29 points and 15 boards on Dec. 17, 2016 vs. Indiana State.
- Krikke’s 15 rebounds marked the second-most by a Missouri Valley Conference player this season behind only Missouri State’s Gaige Prim (Jan. 9 at Valpo). Krikke enjoyed the first 25&15 game by an MVC player since Missouri State’s Alize Johnson over four years ago on Dec. 31, 2016 vs. Indiana State.
- Krikke made 12 field goals, the most by any Valpo player since Javon Freeman-Liberty also had a dozen last January at UNI.
- Sackey finished two assists shy of a double-double, matching his season best for the second straight day with eight helpers. He has three games with eight or more assists this season, all Valpo victories (vs. SIUE, at Illinois State x2).
- Sackey joins Drake’s Roman Penn as the only Missouri Valley Conference players with three games this season with eight or more assists.
- In addition to coming within an assist of tying a career high, Sackey had his first double-figure scoring output this season with 16 points. That marked the second-best scoring showing of his career and best since his career-high 22 in November 2019 at Saint Louis.
- Gordon and Clay both threatened double-doubles as well, as Gordon finished with nine points and seven boards, while Clay contributed 9&8.
- Valpo won the rebounding battle for the second straight day, this time 42-34. This is the first time Valpo has owned a rebounding margin of +8 or better in consecutive games since the 2018-19 season vs. Indiana State and Drake.
- The Brown & Gold owned a distinct advantage in offensive rebounds (16-9), second chance points (18-9), points in the paint (36-26) and fastbreak points (14-2). The 16 offensive rebounds were the team’s most since the 2019-20 season opener vs. Toledo (18).
- Valpo won back-to-back games by fewer than 10 points this weekend after entering the weekend with an 0-5 mark in games decided by 15 points or fewer this season.
- Valpo extended its head-to-head winning streak over Illinois State to seven, making the Redbirds the seventh Division-I opponent against which Valpo currently owns a streak of seven victories or more. Valpo has active streaks longer than seven games against just three Division-I programs – Youngstown State (9), Buffalo (8) and Eastern Illinois (8).
- Valpo has won back-to-back road games in conference play for just the second time since joining The Valley and first since 2018-19 (Jan. 5 at Missouri State, Jan. 12 at Southern Illinois).
- Valpo went zero days between road wins after previously going 343 days between road triumphs. Each of Valpo’s last three road victories have come at Illinois State.
Valpo (5-9, 2-3) will continue a busy slate, turning around to prepare for a midweek battle with Bradley, which tips off at 6 p.m. on Thursday night at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The 2020 MVC title game rematch will be broadcast on ESPN3 or ESPN+ via The Valley on ESPN exclusive with Jordan Bernfield and David Kaplan on the call. Todd Ickow and Garrett Willis will have the radio call on 95.1 FM Valparaiso and the TuneIn Radio app. Links to live video, audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.