The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team went toe-to-toe with a nationally-ranked foe on Saturday afternoon at the Athletics-Recreation Center, but No. 25 Drake eked out an 80-77 victory to remain one of three undefeated teams in the nation. Freshman Sheldon Edwards (West Palm Beach, Fla. / Palm Beach Lakes [TLAP Sports Academy]) poured in 20 points to match a career high and help the Brown & Gold give the Bulldogs (18-0, 9-0) a scare in their second-closest game of the season. Valpo put together one of its best assist-to-turnover ratios in recent memory in the defeat.
How It Happened
- Behind a fast start that featured nine of the game’s first 12 points, Drake owned a 12-8 advantage at the first media timeout. Valpo freshman Jacob Ognacevic (Sheboygan, Wis. / Sheboygan Area Lutheran) came off the bench for a big trey at the 13:18 mark, slimming Drake’s edge to one at 12-11.
- The Bulldogs built the lead back up to six, but Valpo leaped ahead with seven straight points. A steal and transition hoop by Edwards helped the host grab an 18-17 lead moments after Edwards had knocked in a 3.
- Edwards buried a go-ahead triple with 8:47 left in the first half, then Eron Gordon (Indianapolis, Ind. / Cathedral [Seton Hall]) connected from distance to make it 25-19 and force a Drake timeout. Valpo had the lead up to eight, but Drake cut it to one with 5:11 remaining in the half.
- Ognacevic swished a pair of 3s on consecutive possessions late in the half to force another Drake timeout and up the lead to nine. The rookie added a layup to crack double figures by halftime, and Gordon drained his third 3 of the period with 48 seconds to go. By the break, Valpo owned a 43-35 edge.
- A basket by Ben Krikke (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada / Jasper Place) with 16:34 left in the second half helped Valpo grab its first double-figure lead of the day at 49-39. The lead was nine with 14:19 on the clock, but an 11-2 burst by the guests leveled the score at 55.
- A made trey by Daniel Sackey (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada / Thornlea) stemmed the tide, but later a Drake 3 by Garrett Sturtz gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the second half at 61-60 with 7:32 to play.
- A deep 3 by the hot-shooting Edwards put Valpo ahead by four with 4:52 to go, but a timely 11-0 Drake run flipped the script and gave the nation’s 25th-ranked team a seven-point lead with a minute remaining.
- An improbable 4-point play by Edwards provided a glimmer of hope as Valpo whittled the deficit to three with 35 seconds left, but the Bulldogs hit their free throws down the stretch to escape with the win.
Inside the Game
- Edwards matched his previous season/career high of 20 points that occurred on Dec. 9 vs. SIUE. This marked his second career 20-point output, his fifth double-figure game and his third time leading the team in scoring. He made four 3s, equaling a personal best set in the overtime victory over Bradley.
- Ognacevic’s 11 points came on 4-of-6 shooting in just 10 minutes of action. He buried three of his four 3-point tries en route to his fifth double-figure scoring output.
- Krikke had 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting while Gordon was Valpo’s fourth double-figure scorer with 11 points on 4-of-6 from the field.
- Gordon and Donovan Clay (Alton, Ill. / Alton) shared the team lead in rebounds with seven apiece. Gordon had seven or more for the seventh time this season with six of those coming in the last nine games. Gordon has led the team in rebounds (outright or tied) on eight occasions this season.
- Clay and Sackey had four assists apiece on a day where Valpo moved the ball to the tune of a season-high 19 dimes on 29 made baskets. This was Valpo’s highest assist total since dishing out 20 in last year’s MVC Tournament semifinal win over Missouri State.
- Valpo drained 12 3-pointers, which marked a season high after previously knocking down 11 on three occasions. The 41.4 percent clip (12-of-29) from beyond the arc was also a season best. The dozen triples marked Valpo’s highest single-game total since an MVC league-only record of 18 on Feb. 22, 2020 vs. Bradley.
- Valpo took excellent care of the basketball, committing a season-low five turnovers. The team had 10 or more turnovers in each of the previous seven games. The turnover total was Valpo’s lowest since a five-turnover game on Jan. 4, 2015 vs. Youngstown State.
- Valpo tied with Loyola (Jan. 16 vs. UNI) and Drake (Jan. 26 at Missouri State) for the fewest turnovers in a game by an MVC team this season.
- This was Valpo’s first game with five or fewer turnovers and 15 or more assists since a five-turnover, 20-assist performance on Feb. 3, 2011 at Cleveland State.
- This marked Valpo’s first home game against a Top 25 opponent since Nov. 29, 2016, a 65-62 upset of No. 21/25 Rhode Island. It was Valpo’s closest loss to a nationally-ranked team since a heartbreaking 65-62 setback vs. No. 12 Maryland in the first round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
- The 77 points were Valpo’s most against a nationally-ranked team since an 88-77 loss to No. 6/4 North Carolina on Nov. 11, 2009.
- This marked the first time since at least the start of the 1999-2000 season that Valpo played an undefeated team with a record better than 12-0.
- Northwest Indiana natives Tremell Murphy (11&11) and ShanQuan Hemphill (18&12) both had double-doubles for Drake, while a third Region product -- Roman Penn -- posted 10 points and a team-high seven assists.
Valpo (6-12, 3-6) and No. 25 Drake will match up again on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Sunday’s game will be available on ESPN+ and on the Valpo Sports Network (95.1 FM Valparaiso, TuneIn Radio app). Links to live video, audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.