Ben Krikke (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada / Jasper Place) is back, and the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team is sure glad he is – that much was clear on Monday night in Nassau, The Bahamas.
After missing the first three games of the season with an injury, the team’s leading returning scorer didn’t miss a beat in the Beacons’ 78-70 victory over Jacksonville State to open the Nassau Championship, hosted at the Baha Mar Convention Center. He matched a career high with a 25-point performance and turned in a strong defensive showing to boot, leading a team effort that saw Valpo rally from down four at halftime with a 50-point second half.
The victory represented a stellar finish to a strange day. The game was delayed until 9:10 p.m. Eastern Time after being slated to tip off at 5:30 due to a water leak that made the game court unplayable. The end of the previous game (Drexel vs. Tulane) and the entire Valpo vs. Jacksonville State game were played on the Baha Mar practice court.
How It Happened
- Krikke made difficult baskets on each of Valpo’s first two possessions, then he converted a fastbreak layup after swiping a steal on the other end to put Valpo ahead 6-4 three minutes into the game.
- Valpo extended the lead to 9-4 behind a Kevion Taylor (Milwaukee, Wis. / Whitnall [Winona State]) triple, and later in the half it was Connor Barrett (Chicago, Ill. / Loyola Academy) swishing one from distance to extend the Valpo lead to 18-12 with 10:19 to go in the half. That marked Barrett’s first points of the season.
- The Gamecocks made the next run, rattling off eight straight points. A 3 by Demaree King – who went off for five made 3s in the game – put JSU in front 20-18 with 7:58 left in the first half.
- Barrett buried another 3 with 2:08 left in the half to vault Valpo ahead 28-26, but the Gamecocks scored the half’s final six points to take a 32-28 edge into the locker room. King hit a low-percentage 3 as JSU narrowly got the ball inbounds following a well-defended inbounds to end the half. His trey came as the horn sounded concluding the opening 20 minutes.
- Eron Gordon (Indianapolis, Ind. / Cathedral [Seton Hall]) – playing in front of numerous friends and family members as his mother’s side of the family hails from Nassau – hit a tough triple for his first points of the season to start the second-half scoring.
- The Gamecocks scored the next six to open up a seven-point lead at 38-31, but Valpo responded and eventually tied it on Barrett’s third 3 with 15:09 to go. After being hampered by foul trouble in the first half, Thomas Kithier (Macomb, Mich. / Clarkston [Michigan State]) came to life in the second half, including back-to-back layups to put Valpo on top 45-41 with 13:04 on the clock.
- Krikke had several spectacular finishes despite drawing heavy contact including an impressive 3-point play with 11:40 to go that put Valpo up by seven.
- A 12-4 spurt by Jacksonville State tilted the game back in their favor at 55-54 with 7:19 remaining.
- Valpo turned it over with 4:01 remaining as Krikke hit a wet spot on the floor and slipped to the ground. That led to a fastbreak 3 by King that put Jacksonville State back on top 61-60. Coming out of the ensuing media timeout, Valpo responded to the adverse moment in a positive manner, as Sheldon Edwards (West Palm Beach, Fla. / Palm Beach Lakes [TLAP Sports Academy]) converted a 3 on an Anderson assist.
- Kithier turned a monster 3-point play at the 1:57 mark to snap a 63-all tie, and from that point forward, Valpo would lead the rest of the way. Krikke knocked down a shot on an Edwards assist with 1:15 to go, then the Beacons made the bulk of their free throws down the stretch to ice the triumph.
Inside the Game
- Krikke’s 25 points tied his career high, which came on Jan. 24 of last season at Illinois State. He also had his seventh career two-steal game and rejected a pair of shots while shooting 10-of-17 from the floor and 5-of-6 at the foul line.
- Anderson squeezed 11 rebounds, the second straight double-figure rebound effort for the Valpo point guard. After a 10-rebound showing at Stanford, he established a collegiate career high on the glass for the second consecutive contest. He finished one point shy of his second straight double-double.
- Valpo shot 55.6 percent from the floor in the second half while going 16-of-20 (80 percent) at the free-throw line over the final 20 minutes. The team posted a 50-point half for the first time since scoring 54 after halftime in a 90-78 win vs. Bradley on Feb. 22, 2020.
- Edwards tallied double figures for the fourth time in as many games this season, finishing with 12 points. He has hit double figures in five straight dating back to last season. The sophomore had two steals and two blocks in the victory.
- Taylor also cracked double figures with 11, his third time in four games reaching the 10-point precipice. Kithier chipped in nine points on 4-of-7 shooting. Taylor and Kithier grabbed five rebounds apiece.
- The back-and-forth game featured nine ties and 13 lead changes.
- After committing 19 turnovers on Wednesday at Stanford, Valpo made a season-low six giveaways on Monday. That was Valpo’s lowest turnover total since also having six in a 66-65 win at Southern Illinois on Feb. 21 of last season.
- Valpo went 18-of-22 (81.8 percent) at the free-throw line, the team’s second straight game above 80 percent. This marked season highs in both free throws made and free throws attempted. It represented the team’s highest total in both areas (FT and FTA) since going 24-of-29 in an upset victory over No. 25 Drake on Feb. 7 of last season.
- Valpo improved to 21-4 in its last 25 multi-team event games.
- The win came over a Jacksonville State team picked third of 12 in the A-Sun Preseason Poll and a team that posted an 18-9 record and 13-6 conference mark a year ago.
Postgame Press Conference
Click here for postgame press conference.
Valpo (1-3) will play Coastal Carolina in the semifinal round of the Nassau Championship at 7 p.m. CT / 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday. The game will be carried on FloHoops as long as the tournament is able to return to the main gym. The hometown radio call will be available on 95.1 FM Valparaiso, The TuneIn Radio app and ValpoAthletics.com.