The margin between the joy of victory and the agony of defeat was razor thin yet again on Wednesday night at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
In a season filled with cliffhangers and in an all-time series that has seen its fair share of games come down to the wire, it was no surprise when the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team once again pushed first-place Loyola to the brink on Wednesday night at the Athletics-Recreation Center. But it was the visiting Ramblers who scored the game’s final basket with 57 seconds remaining in a 71-69 victory over the Beacons, a game that featured nine ties and 11 lead changes.
How It Happened
- When the contest tipped off, freshman Preston Ruedinger (Oshkosh, Wis. / Lourdes Academy) provided an instant spark as he came up with a steal and a layup to start the scoring in the game’s first 10 seconds. Valpo led early until a 6-6 tie, then Sheldon Edwards (West Palm Beach, Fla. / Palm Beach Lakes [TLAP Sports Academy]) hit a go-ahead 3 with 14:23 on the clock.
- Ruedinger got in on the 3-point act a minute later, flipping a 10-9 deficit into a 12-10 lead. The two teams went back and forth for several minutes leading into a traditional 3-point play by Ben Krikke (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada / Jasper Place) at the half’s midway mark.
- Ruedinger added a 3-point play of his own to put the Beacons back in front 23-20, and the teams continued to trade leads until a 9-0 run by Valpo leading up to the 3:31 mark. That stretch featured four points by Kithier and five by Edwards to help the hosts build up a 32-24 lead.
- The Ramblers responded with a triple, but Krikke scored the next four points to give Valpo its largest lead of the game at 36-27. Braden Norris hit a 3 in the closing seconds of the half to trim the deficit to six at 36-30.
- Kithier and Krikke each had baskets early in the second half, and Valpo was up 40-32 with 18:45 to play. Loyola scored the next five, but Valpo used a trey by Kevion Taylor (Milwaukee, Wis. / Whitnall [Winona State]) and an old-fashioned 3-point play by Kithier to maintain a slight lead until the 13:58 mark.
- That’s when Loyola charged in front at 50-49 and later added to the lead on a Tate Hall 3-ball. Neither team could get separation from the other, as Edwards scored the game’s next five points to allow the hosts to climb back on top.
- Edwards hit another big shot at the 9:53 mark as his 3 made it 61-57 Valpo, but the Ramblers scored the next six. Edwards tied the game at 65 with a layup on a Kithier assist at the 7:06 mark, then Valpo got back to even when Kithier made the front end of a one-and-one with 2:34 to go to make it 69-all.
- The only points over the final 2:34 came on a layup by Chris Knight with 57 seconds remaining. Valpo chose to play it out on Loyola’s final offensive possession and the Beacons got the defensive stop they were looking for, but Valpo’s attempt to win the game with a buzzer-beating 3 was off the mark and the Ramblers escaped with the triumph.
Inside the Game
- Edwards tied a career high with 23 points, matching his mark set on Nov. 24 of this season vs. Tulane in Nassau, The Bahamas. He equaled a career high for made field goals that he set in the first matchup with Loyola on Jan. 11 in Chicago with eight. In addition, Edwards matched a career high in made 3s with five, a mark initially set in the aforementioned game against the Green Wave in Nassau.
- Six of the last seven matchups between Valpo and Loyola have been decided by three points or fewer or gone to overtime, including Wednesday’s game.
- Half of Valpo’s 24 games against Division-I opponents this season have been decided by four points or fewer or needed overtime.
- Edwards was joined in double figures by Krikke (15) and Kithier (11). Krikke reached double figures for the seventh straight game and 17th time overall this season.
- Krikke squeezed a team-high six rebounds, the eighth time in his last 10 games that he has accrued five or more.
- Ruedinger tied his season/career high with eight points, equaling a mark that came during the first matchup with the Ramblers back on Jan. 11 in Rogers Park. The rookie point guard also dished out four assists on Wednesday, his third four-assist game this season, equaling a personal best.
- Valpo shot 53.1 percent from the floor to Loyola’s 50.9 percent. This marks the fifth time this season that Valpo lost despite shooting at a higher clip than the opponent. The Beacons held the Ramblers to just 6-of-19 (31.6 percent) from 3-point territory.
- This marked the 10th Valpo game this season where the team trailing at halftime went on to win the game. Valpo has six wins when trailing at halftime and four losses when leading at the break.
- Loyola, known for its stellar defense, has allowed the opponent to shoot above 50 percent just four times this season. Half of those have come against Valpo as the Beacons shot 53.7 percent last month at Loyola and 53.1 percent on Wednesday night. Loyola entered the game ranked 22nd nationally in scoring defense this season.
- Valpo has made a habit of making it tough on the Ramblers as the first matchup of the season between the two teams went to overtime. This effort came against a Loyola team that secured its 20th win of the season on Wednesday, the program’s fifth straight 20-win season, the longest such stretch in Loyola lore. The Ramblers entered the evening ranked fourth in the latest mid-major top 25 and received votes in the latest USA Today Coaches’ Poll.
Postgame Press Conference
Click here to view postgame press conference.
Valpo (11-15, 4-10 MVC) will begin a stretch of three games in five days on Saturday at Evansville in a contest that tips off at 1 p.m. Please note that the start time is different from the one originally listed. The game will air on ESPN3 as part of the conference-selected package in addition to airing on 95.1 FM Valparaiso, ValpoAthletics.com and the TuneIn Radio app.