Boring was a positive quality for the closing minutes of Saturday’s game at the Ford Center in Evansville.
The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team gave fans a rare break from the late-game drama they’ve come to expect in a year filled with close contests by using a pair of first-half runs to build up a large lead that they would not relinquish in a 72-56 victory over the host Purple Aces. The dramatic victories were fun, but few were complaining after Valpo rolled to its second victory at Evansville since 1969.
How It Happened
- Valpo scored the first four points of the game, but Evansville bounced back to take its first lead at 9-8 with 13:08 left in the first half. The Beacons quickly regained the advantage as Kobe King (La Crosse, Wis. / La Crosse Central [Wisconsin]) and Sheldon Edwards (West Palm Beach, Fla. / Palm Beach Lakes [TLAP Sports Academy]) canned triples on consecutive possessions to make it 14-9.
- Edwards was fouled shooting a 3 at the 11:24 mark and knocked down all three free throws, and later Preston Ruedinger (Oshkosh, Wis. / Lourdes Academy) drilled a 3 to up Valpo’s lead to seven at 21-14 with 9:52 left in the half. The Beacon cushion was four after a 3-point play by Shamar Givance with 8:17 on the clock, but Valpo followed with a key 9-0 run to expand the gap to 13.
- The Beacons put together another nine-point burst to widen a 10-point lead to 19 by the 2:34 mark. Eron Gordon (Indianapolis, Ind. / Cathedral [Seton Hall]) came up huge during that stretch, accounting for seven of the nine points during that run. Valpo led 39-23 at halftime.
- Evansville whittled the lead to 10 by the midway point in the second half as Noah Frederking nailed a 3 on one end of the court before Kevion Taylor (Milwaukee, Wis. / Whitnall [Winona State]) responded with a trey on the other end that was assisted by Ben Krikke (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada / Jasper).
- Evansville’s Emmette Page buried a 3 with 7:29 on the clock to pull the Aces to within single digits at 53-44, but Valpo scored the next five points.
- The Aces made one more run to cut the lead back to 10 with 1:43 remaining, but Valpo continued to have a response to each Evansville burst. The Beacons scored the game’s final six points, including a steal and a dunk by King with 44 seconds remaining that provided the final exclamation mark.
Inside the Game
- King finished with a team-high 21 points, bouncing back from his season-low two points on Wednesday vs. Loyola. He knocked down nine of his 13 field-goal attempts and went 5-of-7 shooting in the first half for 12 points. This marked King’s second-highest scoring output of the season behind a 24-point showing on Feb. 5 vs. Indiana State.
- Edwards enjoyed his first collegiate double-double with 11 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. He surpassed his previous career high of eight, which had been achieved twice, most recently March 5 of last season. His previous season high was seven rebounds on Jan. 11 at Loyola.
- Edwards reached double figures in scoring for the fifth consecutive game.
- Taylor shot at an efficient 6-of-8 clip, turning in 16 points and four rebounds. The 75 percent shooting clip was his highest of the season.
- Krikke was the fourth Beacon in double figures, turning in a balanced stat line of 12 points, six rebounds and five assists. He reached double figures for the eighth consecutive game. The five assists tied his career high previously achieved on Jan. 26 of this season vs. Bradley. Krikke has now gobbled up exactly six rebounds in three straight outings and has five or more in six of his last seven.
- Gordon turned in nine points and four boards while shooting at a 6-of-8 clip. That marked his second-highest scoring output of the season and highest since 13 vs. Illinois State on Jan. 2.
- Valpo shot at a 60 percent clip (27-of-45), the team’s highest shooting percentage against a Division-I opponent since shooting 60 percent (33-of-55) on Dec. 12, 2018 vs. UC Riverside.
- The Beacons outrebounded the Purple Aces 34-19 including a 5-2 advantage on the offensive glass. That snapped a six-game streak of being outrebounded and the +15 was the team’s best rebounding margin against a Division-I opponent this season.
- Valpo limited Evansville to 25 percent from 3-point range (6-of-24). That marked Valpo’s best 3-point defense in conference play this season and best in any game since holding Eastern Michigan to 1-of-11 (9.1 percent) on Dec. 20.
- Valpo forward Emil Freese-Vilien (Copenhagen, Denmark / Falkonergardens Gymnasium) played in his third game of the season and first since Nov. 13 vs. UIC. He returned after being sidelined by a non-COVID illness.
- This marked just the second time Valpo has won at Evansville since 1969. The previous road victory against the Aces was an overtime triumph on Jan. 4, 2020.
- The 16-point win marked Valpo’s most lopsided victory since Dec. 22 vs. William & Mary, an 88-66 victory. It was also the program’s largest margin of victory in a head-to-head matchup with Evansville since Jan. 10, 1987 (W 80-58) and the largest in a game at Evansville since Dec. 8, 1943 (66-34).
- The victory came despite playing unexpectedly shorthanded. Thomas Kithier (back) was scratched 10 minutes prior to tipoff and Preston Ruedinger left with an ankle injury.
Valpo (12-15, 5-10 MVC) and Evansville will face off again on Monday night at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The game will feature a 7 p.m. tip and will air on ESPN+. For ticket information, visit valpoathletics.com/tickets. The game was originally scheduled for earlier this month but was postponed due to a snowstorm.