The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team led wire-to-wire on Saturday afternoon at the Athletics-Recreation Center, handling every Southern push with poise as the Jaguars trimmed what was a 15-point first-half deficit to as few as one on several occasions, but each time the Beacons had the answer to stay ahead. The hosts knocked down their free throws in the final minute to pull away for a 71-59 victory in the last nonconference game prior to Wednesday’s start of Missouri Valley Conference action.
How It Happened
- Valpo raced out to a 7-0 lead as Cooper Schwieger (Overland Park, Kan. / Blue Valley Southwest / Link Year]) had the game’s first two baskets followed by a Jerome Palm (Almere, Netherlands / Echnaton [Hillsborough CC]) bucket as the Beacons accounted for all of the game’s scoring in the first three minutes.
- Southern didn’t notch its first made field goal of the game until a 3-pointer with 15:05 on the clock to slice the Valpo lead to three, but the Beacons answered as Isaiah Stafford (Bolingbrook, Ill. / Crispus Attucks [John A. Logan / Southern Indiana]) dialed one up from downtown. The teams continued to trade 3s as the Jaguars hit another before Sherman Weatherspoon IV (Bowie, Md. / Bethesda Chevy-Chase [Golden State Prep]) got in on the act at the 13:41 to make it 13-7.
- The Valpo lead extended to nine when Jaxon Edwards (Indianapolis, Ind. / Cathedral [Murray State]) hit a triple midway through the half, then Schwieger had two buckets that were sandwiched around a Darius DeAveiro (Kanata, Ottawa, Canada / Orangeville Prep) basket to stretch the lead all the way to 15 at 24-9 with 5:29 left in the half thanks to a 9-0 run.
- The guests had fought back to within single figures by the break at 31-24. The Jaguars made two of their final three 2-point tries of the half after missing their first 13 attempts inside the arc. They counteracted their inability to knock down short-range shots with 5-of-10 from 3-point territory in the opening half.
- A 5-0 burst early in the second half helped Southern whittle what had been a 15-point deficit with 5:29 left in the opening half all the way down to one at 37-36 with 15:28 to go in the second half.
- Valpo managed to stay in front, eventually boosting the lead back to eight on a second-chance basket by Stafford with 9:48 remaining.
- The lead shrunk back down to one at a precarious 56-55 with 2:58 on the clock. Schwieger hit a 3 to double the lead to six with just under two minutes to go, then Weatherspoon made a huge triple to up the lead to seven with just under a minute remaining.
- The Beacons hit seven out of eight free throws in the final minute to build the final margin up to 12.
Inside the Game
- Stafford and Schwieger had 17 points apiece to share game-high honors while also serving as the team’s top two rebounders. Stafford squeezed nine caroms to pace the Beacons in that area followed by Schwieger with seven and Weatherspoon with six.
- Schwieger’s 17 points outdid his previous season best of 13, which came last time out on Nov. 21 vs. Western Illinois. He has tallied 12 points or more in three straight games and has scored at least eight points in each of his six contests.
- Stafford tied a season-high with seven made free throws and got to the stripe regularly with a season-high 11 attempts.
- Stafford’s nine rebounds represented a career high, including his games while playing at Southern Indiana. This marked the second straight contest he set a personal best on the boards after pulling down seven against Western Illinois.
- Weatherspoon had personal bests in both points (eight) and rebounds (six). He had three rebounds total over his first five games and none over his previous three games before collecting six on Saturday.
- DeAveiro tallied eight points and handed out a team-high five assists. After scoring seven points total over the first four games, he has scored 19 over his last two contests. This was the fourth time in six games that he has dished out five assists or more.
- At 4-2, Valpo owns its best record through six games since 2019-20, a year where the team eventually played in the MVC title game.
- This marked Valpo’s most lopsided victory against a Division-I opponent since Jan. 28, 2023, an 81-69 victory over Evansville.
Postgame Press Conference
Click here for postgame press conference.
The Beacons (4-2) will open Missouri Valley Conference play on Wednesday as Drake comes to town for a 7 p.m. tip at the Athletics-Recreation Center. For ticket information, visit valpoathletics.com/tickets.