For a third consecutive season, the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team had host Loyola on the ropes in a game at Gentile Arena, but once again one of the nation’s top mid-major programs escaped the Beacons, this time with an 81-74 double overtime victory. Valpo led by as many as 12 and nearly knocked off a Ramblers team that is receiving votes nationally in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches’ polls, but instead the hosts extended their longstanding home court winning streak to 30 on Chicago’s north side.
How It Happened
- The Beacons played strong defense throughout the first half and held a slight lead for the bulk of the game’s first 10 minutes.
- Valpo owned a 16-13 edge at the 9:10 mark of the opening half before a triple by Preston Ruedinger (Oshkosh, Wis. / Lourdes Academy) sparked a crucial run. The guests scored nine straight points during that stretch, and when Kevion Taylor (Milwaukee, Wis. / Whitnall [Winona State]) drilled a 3 at the six-minute mark, the Valpo lead ballooned to 12.
- As to be expected from a high-quality opponent, Loyola battled back to trim the deficit to five at 25-20 with 4:49 left in the half. But Valpo responded, scoring the next five points including a 3 by Kobe King (La Crosse, Wis. / La Crosse Central [Wisconsin]) to surge back ahead by double figures at 30-20 with 2:38 to go in the half.
- The Ramblers scored the only bucket of the half’s final 2:30, but Valpo still entered the break holding a 30-22 advantage.
- The lead fluctuated between nine and 11 for the first six minutes of the second half before Valpo broke through with its largest cushion of the day at the 13:49 mark after Sheldon Edwards (West Palm Beach, Fla. / Palm Beach Lakes [TLAP Sports Academy]) drained a triple to widen the gap to a dozen. Loyola responded with a traditional 3-point play, but Taylor connected from deep at the 13:02 mark to up the lead back to 12 at 42-30.
- A five-point Loyola surge got the Ramblers back within seven, but Valpo again stretched the edge to double figures when Ben Krikke (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada / Jasper Place) converted a jumper with 7:46 on the clock.
- Loyola lowered the lead to four, but a steal by Thomas Kithier (Macomb, Mich. / Clarkston [Michigan State]) led to an acrobatic bucket by Taylor on the other end, and Valpo owned a 55-49 advantage with 1:34 to play.
- The hosts scored the final six points of regulation, burying two free throws with 17 ticks on the clock to tie the game at 55. That marked the contest’s first deadlock since 2-2 as Valpo had led for nearly the entirety of regulation.
- The Beacons couldn’t cash in on the final possession of regulation, and then Loyola grabbed its first lead of the game at 56-55 early in overtime.
- Ruedinger hit a massive go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:17 left in the first extra session, and Valpo built up a 66-63 lead with 37 ticks remaining in OT when Taylor swished a pair of free throws. However, Loyola’s Braden Norris hit a game-tying shot with 23 seconds left in OT, and the showdown extended to a second overtime tied at 66.
- The Ramblers outscored the Beacons 15-8 in a double OT session in which Valpo never led. Valpo trailed by three with 28 seconds left before Loyola scored the game’s final four points at the foul stripe.
Inside the Game
- The 22 first-half points represented a season low for Loyola, which had previously scored no fewer than 28 points in the opening half in each of its first 13 contests this season. The only other team to hold Loyola under 30 prior to halftime was Michigan State, which kept the Ramblers to 28 points in the opening 20 minutes.
- The 22 opening-half points were the fewest allowed by Valpo this year against a Division-I opponent. Previously, 26 on Nov. 23 vs. Coastal Carolina was the team’s best opening-half performance in terms of points permitted. The only time Valpo allowed fewer than 22 was against East-West University on Dec. 7 (21).
- The eight-point halftime deficit marked Loyola’s largest of the season. Previously, DePaul’s 37-31 edge was the largest halftime advantage a Loyola opponent owned this season.
- The Beacons used their eighth different starting lineup of the season and their fifth unique lineup in the last five games as Kithier, Taylor, King, Krikke and Ruedinger comprised the starting five. Taylor re-entered the starting group with Edwards coming off the bench, while starting point guard Trevor Anderson was sidelined with a back ailment for the second consecutive contest.
- This game marked the first time Valpo owned a double-figure lead over Loyola at any point in the 10 showdowns since Valpo joined the Missouri Valley Conference. The last time Valpo owned a double-figure edge in a game against the Ramblers was the final Horizon League matchup between the two schools on Feb. 19, 2013, a game Valpo led by as many as 17 en route to an 85-76 victory at Gentile Arena.
- Taylor made multiple 3s for the 13th time in 17 games this season. In fact, he’s had multiple made 3s in eight straight outings. He’s the first Valpo player in over 30 years to make a 3 in each of the first 17 games of the season. Furthermore, Taylor knocked down a triple for the 80th consecutive game dating back to Dec. 15, 2018, a stretch that spans much of his career at D-II Winona State plus this season at Valpo.
- Edwards finished with 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting, reaching the 20-point threshold for the second time this season and the fourth in his collegiate career. This marked his second-highest output of the year behind 23 vs. Tulane on Nov. 24. Edwards led Valpo in scoring for the second time this season and the sixth in his career. Both of Edwards’ 20-point efforts this season have come in games in which he came off the bench.
- Taylor (17) and King (16) both joined Edwards in double figures. Edwards scored in double figures for the team-high 12th time this season, while King reached double figure for the seventh time in his eight games with the Beacons. Taylor’s double-figure effort was the 90th of his career and his ninth this season.
- Ruedinger finished with a season-high eight points and drilled a pair of 3s as the true freshman made his second straight start.
- Taylor has scored 15+ points six times this season including four times in his last six games.
- Kithier led the team in rebounding for the 10th time in the 15 games he’s played this season. His nine boards lifted his total to 19 in two games since returning from being sidelined by COVID-19 health and safety protocols. He has squeezed six rebounds or more in eight consecutive contests.
- Kithier handed out four assists – all in the first half – to finish one shy of equaling a career watermark. He also achieved a career-high with three blocked shots.
- Edwards also had a big day on the boards, pulling down a season-high seven rebounds. He surpassed his previous season best of six on Nov. 13 vs. UIC and finished one shy of his career high, which was achieved twice last season.
- In addition to already being without one starter due to an injury (Anderson), Valpo had to overcome foul trouble for several key players. Three of the five starters finished with four fouls or more including Kithier, who fouled out with 17 seconds left in regulation.
- Valpo’s setback came to a Loyola team that was narrowly outside the Top 25 in this week’s AP and USA Today Coaches’ poll. The Ramblers have two losses this season, both to teams currently ranked in the Top 10 nationally. Loyola’s victory extended its home court winning streak to 30 games and its MVC home court winning streak to 23. The Ramblers haven’t lost a home conference game since February 2019 and haven’t incurred any home defeat since December 2019.
- Valpo played its third overtime game of the season, slipping to 1-2 in such contests. This marked the team’s first double OT affair since a 91-85 win over Bradley on Jan. 28 of last season. It was the team’s first double OT loss since December 2016 vs. Santa Clara and the program’s first road double OT game since beating Western Illinois 94-92 on Feb. 14, 1994.
- This marked the fifth time in the last six matchups between Valpo and Loyola that the game has either been decided by three points or fewer, or gone to overtime, or both. Valpo’s last three trips to Gentile Arena have all resulted in losses, but two came by two points and this one needed double overtime to determine a victor.
- Of Valpo’s nine losses this season, five have either come by four points or fewer or overtime or both. Two of Valpo’s four games in the calendar year of 2022 have gone beyond the regulation 40 minutes.
- Valpo held Loyola to 42.1 percent shooting, the second-lowest clip for the Ramblers this season. Michigan State was the only team to hold them to a lower shooting mark.
- Loyola finished the game with eight made 3s, but they went just 3-of-20 from distance in the regulation 40 minutes including 0-of-10 in the second half before heating up to the tune of 5-of-6 in OT.
- This marked the fourth time this season that Valpo has shot at a higher percentage than the opponent and lost. The Beacons converted at a 53.7 percent clip, their highest in MVC play and second-highest against a D-I opponent this season.
- The Beacons won the rebounding battle for the second straight game, outdoing the Ramblers on the glass by eight. Prior to the last two games, Valpo had won the rebounding battle just twice in its first 13 D-I contests.
- Valpo did match a season high with 19 turnovers, while the hosts committed only nine over the 50 minutes.
- Valpo has played three of its first five conference games on the road and those three contests have come against the teams picked to finish in the top three in the preseason poll.
Valpo (8-9, 1-4) will return home on Saturday to host Missouri State in a nationally-televised game on ESPNU. Please note that the start time has been changed from the original schedule to accommodate national TV. The game will tip at 4 p.m. For ticket information, visit valpoatheltics.com/tickets.