The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team showed grit and fight throughout the second half on Wednesday night at Central Michigan, whittling what had been a 22-point deficit all the way down to three with nine seconds to go in an eventual 71-67 loss to the host Chippewas in Mount Pleasant, Mich. Isaiah Stafford (Bolingbrook, Ill. / Crispus Attucks [John A. Logan / Southern Indiana]) poured in a team-high 23 points, while Sherman Weatherspoon IV (Bowie, Md. / Bethesda Chevy-Chase [Golden State Prep]) provided a bench boost with a career-best 13.
How It Happened
- Valpo played from behind early as Central Michigan ran off the first nine points of the game, a run that was capped by a Brian Taylor triple with 17:21 on the clock. The lead reached 10 at 12-2 with 15:42 on the first-half clock.
- Stafford scored back-to-back baskets including a 3 with 15:00 minutes to go in the first half to cut into the deficit.
- Weatherspoon came off the bench to provide a big-time lift with back-to-back 3s, the second of which cut the lead to one at 14-13 with 11:27 remaining. The Beacons again got to within one on a Stafford splash from beyond the arc to make it 17-16 on a shot set up by a Darius DeAveiro (Kanata, Ottawa, Canada / Orangeville Prep) steal.
- The Chippewas used a 9-0 run to bolster the lead back to 12 with 2:30 to go in the half. Valpo went into the locker room trailing 37-22.
- The start of the second half saw Central Michigan outscore Valpo 11-4 to build its largest lead of the game at 48-26 with 17:17 on the clock.
- The lead was still 22 midway through the second half, and Valpo trailed by 19 as late as the 8:15 mark. That’s when the Beacons rattled off eight straight points including a great stretch by Ola Ajiboye (Chicago, Ill. / Evanston Township [Central Michigan / Bosco Institute]), who recorded two buckets, a steal and an offensive rebound in short order to help make it 62-51 with 6:19 left in the game.
- Another 7-0 spurt sliced the lead to seven with Kaspar Sepp (Tartu, Estonia / Fairmont Academy) notching two baskets that were sandwiched around a 3 by Jaxon Edwards (Indianapolis, Ind. / Cathedral [Murray State]). The CMU lead slipped to 65-58 with 3:51 to go.
- Edwards nailed another big 3 with 1:23 left to make it 69-63, then DeAveiro drained a triple despite being fouled and completed the four-point play to make it 70-67 with nine seconds to go. Central Michigan missed the first free throw with seven seconds left, but the second was good to extend the lead to two possessions and Valpo’s last-second shot was off the mark.
Inside the Game
- Weatherspoon’s 13 points marked the highest output of his young collegiate career, surpassing his previous best of eight on Nov. 25 vs. Southern. He did so on an efficient 5-of-8 shooting and 3-of-4 from 3-point territory.
- Stafford notched his third straight game with 20 points or more and his fifth overall in nine games this season. This was his second highest scoring output of the season behind his 30 at Illinois.
- DeAveiro dished out seven assists, tying his season high set on Nov. 21 vs. Western Illinois. This marked his fifth straight game with five or more.
- Sepp contributed six points on 3-of-5 shooting to go along with a team-high 12 rebounds. He played a season-high 22 minutes while becoming the third different Beacon with a double-figure rebounding effort this year, joining Jerome Palm (twice) and Jaxon Edwards.
- Walk-on Anthony Sciarroni (Columbus, Ohio / St. Francis DeSales [Alderson Broaddus at Findlay]) logged eight minutes, his first action this season in a Division-I game outside of playing the final 1:24 at Illinois. His run came in part due to the absence of Jahari Williamson, who was sidelined by an illness.
- Edwards contributed eight points, six rebounds and three blocked shots.
- Ajiboye, who was returning to his old stomping grounds after playing at Central Michigan last season, had five points and seven rebounds.
- Freshman Cooper Schwieger (Overland Park, Kan. / Blue Valley Southwest [Link Year]), who entered the game as Valpo’s second leading scorer, was limited to four points and only 20 minutes due to foul trouble.
- In the first half, Valpo was outrebounded 27-14 including a 12-2 differential on the offensive glass. In the second half, Valpo flipped that to a 22-17 rebounding edge including a 10-6 advantage on the offensive glass.
- Valpo uncharacteristically committed 11 first-half turnovers before making only three after halftime.
- Valpo did not attempt a free throw in the first half before going 10-of-12 at the line after the break. The Chippewas struggled to hit free throws, going 8-of-18 (47.1 percent).
The Beacons (4-5, 0-2 MVC) will have their final game before final exams on Saturday at 11 a.m. CT at Virginia Tech. The game will be televised nationally on The CW.