On a night where a freshman played like a senior and January felt like March, the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team engineered its latest come-from-behind victory, knocking off defending Missouri Valley Conference champion Bradley 91-85 in a topsy-turvy, double-overtime rematch of last season’s league title game.
The most normal aspect of an abnormal evening was Valpo’s no-quit attitude when facing a double-figure deficit, something that has become a hallmark of the program in recent seasons. A 14-point Bradley lead vanished as quickly as it appeared on a night where rookie Sheldon Edwards (West Palm Beach, Fla. / Palm Beach Lakes [TLAP Sports Academy]) scored 11 of his 18 points in overtime to will his team to its third straight victory.
How It Happened
- Bradley leaped out to an 8-2 lead and used an eight-point run to claim a 16-5 advantage with 12:04 remaining in the opening half.
- When Sean East II connected on a 3-point with 10:29 on the clock, the Braves upped the lead to 12, and two and a half minutes later the guests had opened up a 14-point advantage at 25-11 in what looked like a rout.
- A 7-0 Valpo run featured a major exclamation mark as Donovan Clay (Alton, Ill. / Alton) threw down a highlight-reel dunk to cut the lead to seven. Bradley bolstered the margin back to 12 at 32-20 leading into the final media timeout prior to the intermission.
- The final four minutes of the first half were essential in reversing the game’s complexion, as Valpo scored nine straight points to shrink the margin to three. Eight of those nine points came from freshmen, including a key 3 by Connor Barrett (Chicago, Ill. / Loyola Academy).
- Ben Krikke (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada / Jasper Place) scored the first basket of the second half, then Barrett drained a 3 with 19:10 on the clock to give the Brown & Gold their first lead of the game. Bradley didn’t score in the first three minutes of the half and didn’t knock down its first field goal of the half until over four minutes in. Valpo went on a 16-0 run spanning the end of the first half and start of the second half.
- The lead stretched to nine when Eron Gordon (Indianapolis, Ind. / Cathedral [Seton Hall]) buried a 3 with 11:33 left in the second half, but the Braves responded with seven straight points to shrink the lead to 52-50 with 9:33 to play.
- The lead was back up to nine at 61-52 with 5:13 on the clock, but Bradley got stop after stop down the stretch in regulation as Valpo was stuck on 61 points for 4 minutes, 45 seconds. The Braves used a 10-0 run to regain the lead with 49 seconds to play, but a common foul on Bradley followed by a double technical with 28 seconds left allowed Steven Helm (Valparaiso, Ind. / Valparaiso [Carroll]) to come in and hit a game-tying free throw.
- Valpo got a defensive stop in the final seconds to force overtime at 62-all. A low-scoring overtime period saw Krikke hit an enormous, go-ahead jumper with 13 seconds on the clock to make it 69-68 Valpo.
- Krikke squeezed the defensive rebound after a miss on the other end of the court, and he split a pair of free throws to make it 70-68 with three seconds remaining. The Braves inbounded the length of the court and the heave made its way to Elijah Childs, who banked it in to tie the game with less than a second remaining, sending the contest into double overtime.
- A high-scoring second OT saw Edwards take over. Clay fouled out in regulation and Krikke did the same early in the second extra session, leaving Edwards to shoulder the load with Valpo’s top two scorers sidelined.
- Edwards hit a 3 to start the scoring in double OT, then his fellow freshman Barrett drained one with 4:01 on the clock. Edwards put Valpo up five with a 3 at the 1:23 mark, then he drained another to make it a six-point game with 45 seconds remaining.
- Terry Nolan Jr. had a pair of late baskets to twice help Bradley get back to within three, but free throws by Gordon, Mileek McMillan (Merrillville, Ind. / Merrillville), Helm and Edwards helped put the game on ice.
Inside the Game
- Valpo played its first double-overtime game since Dec. 22, 2016, an 87-80 home loss to Santa Clara. This marked the program’s first 2OT victory since beating Miami (Ohio) 99-94 in a BracketBuster game on Feb. 23, 2008.
- Valpo has won three straight games in MVC play, the team’s first league winning streak of three games since rapping off four straight January 2-12, 2019.
- This was the 16th time during the Matt Lottich Era (fifth season) that Valpo has come from double-figures down for a victory. Conversely, Valpo has blown a double-figure lead just once in that span. Last season alone, Valpo erased double-figure deficits to win on six occasions and 11 times came back to tie or take the lead in a game the team trailed by 10 or more.
- This is the second straight year Valpo has trailed by 13 and rallied to win in a home game against Bradley. Bradley head coach Brian Wardle has lost 10 straight as the visiting head coach at the ARC (six with Green Bay, four with Bradley).
- The home team has won all 10 regular-season all-time matchups between Valpo and Bradley.
- Valpo had five players score in double figures for the first time since Jan. 18 of last season vs. Indiana State. All five accrued 12 points or more on Saturday, and four of the five were freshmen or sophomores.
- Edwards led the way with 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting, sharing the team lead with Krikke, who poured in 18 of his own on 8-of-15. Edwards had his fourth double-figure scoring output of the season and finished two points shy of a career high, while Krikke has scored 18 points or more in back-to-back games.
- Barrett’s four 3s helped him finish with 14 points, Gordon knocked down six free throws on his way to 12 and Clay was a perfect 6-for-6 at the stripe while finishing with 15 points and eight rebounds.
- Sackey collected a team-high nine rebounds, topping his previous career high of six. He led the team in rebounds for just the third time in his career and first this season. The junior point guard also had five assists and three steals.
- Gordon was two rebounds shy of a double-double, turning in his seventh straight game with five or more rebounds and the fifth game in his last six with seven or more.
- Valpo scored an eye-popping 21 points in the second overtime period to prevail despite being outscored 50-22 on points in the paint.
- Valpo went 28-of-38 (73.7 percent) at the free-throw line, outscoring the Braves 28-9 at the stripe. The 28 made free throws accounted for Valpo’s most since Nov. 6, 2018 vs. Concordia Chicago (28). It was Valpo’s highest made free throw total against a Division-I opponent since Nov. 25, 2017 (28 vs. UNCW).
Valpo (6-9, 3-3) will attempt to extend its winning streak to four on Sunday afternoon at Evansville in a game that tips off at 3 p.m. CT. The contest will be broadcast on The Valley on ESPN Exclusive (ESPN3) in addition to the Valpo Sports Network (95.1 FM Valparaiso and the TuneIn Radio app). Links to live video, audio and stats will be available.