The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team played its third consecutive game decided by three points or fewer on Monday as a late scoring surge fell short in a 67-64 defeat to host Southern Illinois at the Banterra Center in Carbondale. After a one-point Valpo win on Sunday, the Salukis (11-11, 5-11) tightened the race for first-round byes in the middle of the Missouri Valley Conference standings, setting up an intriguing final weekend of Valley action.
How It Happened
- Valpo sprinted out to a strong start, scoring the first seven points of the game with the first five coming from sophomore Ben Krikke (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada / Jasper Place).
- Krikke continued his early scoring barrage, helping Valpo to an 11-4 edge at the 16:22 mark by recording nine of the team’s first 11 points.
- Sheldon Edwards (West Palm Beach, Fla. / Palm Beach Lakes [TLAP Sports Academy]) knocked down a trey with 15:15 left in the first half, and Valpo carried an eight-point edge at 14-6 at the first media timeout.
- The Valpo lead reached nine with another Krikke basket at the 14:13 mark, but Southern Illinois’ Lance Jones scored six straight points to shrink the deficit to three.
- Krikke had 13 points by the time the game was eight minutes old, but didn’t score for the remainder of the first half. The nine-point lead had evaporated by the 10:51 mark when Ben Harvey knocked in a pair of free throws to tie the game, and eventually SIU inched ahead. After a Goodnews Kpegeol (St. Paul, Minn. / North [Southwest Mississippi CC / Kansas State]) bucket tied the game at 21, SIU scored six straight to boast its largest lead of the day.
- The first half of this one ended in similar fashion to the second half of Sunday’s matchup as neither team scored over the final 4:53. Zion Morgan (Chicago, Ill. / Kenwood [Wabash Valley / UNLV]) blocked a shot in the closing seconds to keep the Valpo halftime deficit to four at 30-26.
- Edwards hit a 3 early in the second half that sliced the gap to three, then Donovan Clay (Alton, Ill. / Alton) got on the board with his first basket of the game, a driving layup that cut the SIU lead to one at 32-31. The Salukis scored the next seven and eventually built up a 45-33 cushion thanks mostly to takes to the basket for high-percentage looks.
- Defense led to offense as Kpegeol and Morgan came up with consecutive steals that led to transition hoops by Kpegeol, then Jacob Ognacevic (Sheboygan, Wis. / Sheboygan) hit a 3 with 13 minutes left to cut the lead to eight.
- SIU stretched the lead back out to double figures and owned an 11-point edge with three minutes to play. The Salukis struggled to hit late free throws, while Edwards trimmed the deficit to six with a 3 at the 1:14 mark, then a second-chance triple by Eron Gordon (Chicago, Ill. / Loyola Academy) made it 61-57 with 41 seconds to go.
- Sigurd Lorange (Trondheim, Norway / Metis Videregaende Skole) and Gordon each made layups as a flurry of late Valpo baskets continued, and Lorange drilled a 3 as time expired to account for the final three-point margin as time ran out on Valpo’s rally. Valpo scored 13 points in the final 1:14 of the contest.
Inside the Game
- Krikke did the bulk of his damage early on his way to a team-high 15 points, his fifth straight game with nine points or more and his fourth double-figure output in the last five games.
- Ognacevic and Edwards finished with nine points apiece, while Kpegeol had eight on 4-of-6 shooting in just 13 minutes before fouling out. Edwards and Ognacevic have each produced eight points or more in six of their last eight games.
- Gordon dished out a team-high five assists, while Clay and Morgan had five rebounds apiece to pace the team. Gordon’s assist total matched his career watermark established on Jan. 21 at Illinois State, while Morgan has corralled five or more rebounds in three straight games.
- Lorange saw his first action since Dec. 17 vs. Purdue Northwest after battling an injury and scored five late points in three minutes of run.
- After only one of Valpo’s first 22 games this season was decided by three points or fewer, the Brown & Gold have now played three straight games that featured a one-possession margin. This marks Valpo’s first stretch of three straight games decided by three points or fewer since Dec. 29, 2011 to Jan. 6, 2012, tight Horizon League games against Milwaukee, Green Bay and Detroit.
Valpo (9-16, 6-10) will close out the regular season this weekend with a pair of important games vs. Indiana State at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The Friday game will air on The Valley on ESPN Exclusive (ESPN3 or ESPN+) beginning at 6 p.m. with the hometown radio call available on the Valpo Sports Network (95.1 FM, TuneIn Radio app). Links to live video, audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.