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Crusaders Come Up Just Short In MVC Tournament Opener

 

Making its first appearance at Arch Madness, the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team battled back from a 14-point second-half deficit to make it a one-possession game with less than two minutes to play, but could not get over the hump, as the Crusaders fell in the first-round State Farm MVC Tournament matchup to Missouri State by an 83-79 final.

 

How It Happened

–          Missouri State scored 11 of the first 15 points in the first five minutes, but 3-pointers from sophomores Bakari Evelyn (Detroit, Mich./Hillcrest Academy/Southfield Christian [Nebraska]) and Markus Golder (Portland, Ore./Clackamas [North Idaho]) kept the Bears from pushing the lead past seven points in the early going.

–          The Bears again led by seven points with 10:37 to play before the Crusaders put together a quick 7-1 spurt over a span of 72 seconds to cut the Missouri State lead to 23-22. Senior Max Joseph (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) finished twice at the rim, while fellow senior Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) knocked down a 3-pointer to cap the brief run.

–          Two 3-pointers from sophomore Micah Bradford (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) kept Valpo within 34-30 with 2:47 to play, but the Bears scored five points over their next two possessions.

–          The Crusaders would head into halftime trailing 39-33 as Evelyn connected on a runner in the final seconds of the first half.

–          A big swing came within seconds of the start of the second half, as after forcing a Missouri State miss and grabbing the rebound, Valpo was deemed to have committed a flagrant foul as the ball was being advanced up the court. The ensuing free throws were both made by the Bears, who followed with a 3-pointer to push their lead into double figures for the first time.

–          Missouri State pushed its advantage to a peak of 14 points at 52-38 with 15:11 to play, and again would match that lead a couple minutes later.

–          The Bears’ advantage was 59-46 nearing the midway point of the second half before Walker scored six points in just over one minute to bring the Crusaders within 60-53 with 9:23 to play. Missouri State responded with baskets on its next three possessions to again go up by 13 points, 66-53 with 7:49 to go.

–          Evelyn came down and hit a 3-pointer to stop the Bears’ momentum, and after a missed front end of a 1-and-1, Walker converted a layup to make it an eight-point game.

–          The Bears would push their lead back to 72-61with 5:19 to go, but again Evelyn connected on a big 3-pointer to make it an eight-point game, and after an empty Missouri State possession, Walker was fouled while grabbing the rebound and hit two free throws to cut the deficit to 72-66 with 4:23 to play.

–          Missouri State’s Jarrid Rhodes hit a 3-pointer which looked to slow Valpo’s momentum, but Golder came down and hit a triple of his own to bring the Crusaders within 75-69.

–          Valpo forced three consecutive empty possessions by the Bears – two turnovers and a missed shot – and after failing to convert on either of the first two opportunities, Bradford found sophomore Jaume Sorolla (Tortosa, Spain/Sunrise Christian [Kan.] Academy) for an old-fashioned 3-point play to make it a three-point game with 1:46 to play.

–          Sorolla came up with a blocked shot on the defensive end, giving Valpo a shot to tie the game, and the Crusaders actually had three attempts at a tying triple, but could get none of them to fall.

–          The Bears hit all eight of their free throw attempts in the final minute, and while a 3-pointer from Walker with six seconds to go cut MSU’s lead to 81-79, Ryan Kreklow stepped up for the Bears and connected on his pair of free throws with 3.3 seconds remaining to ice the game.

 

Inside the Game

–          Valpo lost on Thursday despite committing just six turnovers, a season-low in the category by four – its previous low came at UNI, where the Crusaders committed 10 turnovers.

–          The Crusaders connected on 10-of-18 of their 3-point attempts, their fifth game of the year with at least 10 3-pointers and matching their second-best 3-point percentage of the year (55.6%).

–          After having just three points at halftime, Walker exploded for 22 second-half points to finish with a game-high 25 points – just one off his career high.

–          Evelyn and Golder added 13 points apiece as well, with Evelyn adding a team-high six rebounds. Golder, who needed just five field goal attempts for his 13 points, closed the year scoring in double figures in eight consecutive games off the bench.

–          Bradford chipped in eight points and a team-high five assists off the bench, leading the way as Valpo handed out 16 assists on its 25 baskets.

–          Valpo suffered its worst deficit on the boards of the season, as the Crusaders were out-rebounded 45-29 by Missouri State (18-14). Valpo had outrebounded its opposition in each of the final five games of the regular season.

–          The Bears grabbed 18 offensive rebounds and turned them into 18 second-chance points.

–          MSU’s Alize Johnson led the way, finishing with 22 points, 19 rebounds and six assists.

–          The loss was the third for Valpo against Missouri State in their first season as MVC foes after the Crusaders had won four consecutive non-conference matchups against the Bears this decade.

–          Valpo dropped its conference tournament opener for the third consecutive year.

 

Inside the Careers

–          Should Valpo not participate in postseason play, Thursday’s game marked the end of the four-year careers of Walker and Joseph.

–          Walker moved into 14th place on Valpo’s career scoring chart on Thursday and has scored 1,405 career points to go with 529 rebounds and 196 assists.

–          He also ranks eighth in program history with 342 career free throws made, and is tied for eighth all-time with 150 steals.

–          Joseph surpassed the 500-point mark for his career on Thursday and ended the night with 501 points, 279 rebounds, 172 assists and 95 steals.

–          The duo has been part of 97 victories over the last four years.