Positively Promoting the Student Athlete Since 1992

The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team overcame an 11-point second-half deficit and led in the closing seconds Saturday afternoon in Muncie, Ind., but Ball State’s Tayler Persons connected on a deep 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds to play and the Crusaders’ last effort was off the mark as they fell to the Cardinals by a 71-70 final.
How It Happened
Ball State opened the second half by outscoring the Crusaders 21-8 over the opening 5:11, turning a two-point halftime deficit into a 50-39 lead for the Cardinals with 14:49 to play.
A 3-pointer from redshirt sophomore Markus Golder (Portland, Ore./ Clackamas [North Idaho]) stopped the Cardinals’ run and sparked a spurt of Valpo’s own. The Crusaders outscored Ball State 25-7 over the next eight-plus minutes.
Redshirt sophomore Derrik Smits (Zionsville, Ind./Zionsville) led the way during the run with eight points, while redshirt sophomore Bakari Evelyn (Detroit, Mich./Hillcrest Academy/Southfield Christian [Nebraska]) had seven during the stretch – including a runner in the lane to cap the spurt and give Valpo a 64-57 lead with 6:37 to play.
The Crusaders would come up empty on their next four trips, allowing Ball State to move back to within one at 64-63. Senior Max Joseph (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) hit Smits for a layup to stop the momentum with 3:38 to play, and Smits split a pair of free throws after grabbing a rebound on the defensive end to push the lead back to 67-63 with three minutes to go.
Persons would score the next five on successive trips for Ball State to give the Cardinals the lead at 68-67 with two minutes to go. The teams traded empty possessions before Joseph was fouled on a putback attempt and calmly drained both freebies to give Valpo a 69-68 lead with 57 seconds remaining.
After forcing a turnover, the Crusaders ran the shot clock down before a miss and a foul on the rebound gave Ball State a chance to tie or take the lead with a 1-and-1. But the Cardinals missed the front end, and sophomore John Kiser (Noblesville, Ind./Noblesville) split a pair of free throws after being fouled with 15.4 seconds to play to push the lead to 70-68.
Valpo would fall victim to a buzzer-beater, however, as Persons stepped into a deep triple that went through with 3.3 seconds to play. The Crusaders had one more shot and got a solid look from Evelyn on the left wing, but it wouldn’t full as Valpo fell to its second straight defeat.
The play of redshirt junior Joe Burton (Porter, Texas/Atascocita [Oklahoma State]) lifted Valpo early, as he scored 11 points over the game’s first nine minutes before picking up his second foul.
Valpo led for a majority of the opening half, and when Ball State gained the lead at 25-24 with 1:56 to play in the period, the Crusaders scored seven of the next eight points – kicked off by a triple from freshman Mileek McMillan (Merrillville, Ind./Merrillville). But the lead would be just 31-29 at the break, as Ball State’s Jeremie Tyler hit a 3-pointer on the Cardinals’ final possession of the half.
Inside the Game
The loss was Valpo’s first in the last two seasons when leading at the half (previously 26-0).
It also was the first time the Crusaders have dropped back-to-back games during the regular season since the final two games of the 2013-14 regular season.
Valpo was playing without its leader in scoring, rebounding and steals in senior Tevonn Walker, who missed the game due to illness.
Burton led the Crusaders with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including four 3-pointers, to pace the team for the second straight game.
Evelyn finished up with 14 points, five rebounds and six assists.
Smits came up just two points shy of his career high with 12 points and set a new career best with six free throws made while also pulling down six rebounds.
Golder, who made his first career start for Valpo, recorded eight points and seven rebounds.
Joseph provided a lift off the bench, playing 32 minutes while pulling down a career-high 11 rebounds – four of which came on the offensive end. He also scored eight points and handed out three assists.
Valpo connected on nine 3-pointers (9-for-22), its highest total since hitting 10 triples in the win over Southeastern Louisiana.
Led by the effort of Joseph on the glass, the Crusaders out-rebounded Ball State – which owned a +14 edge on the boards in its win at Notre Dame earlier this week – by a 39-33 margin.
The Cardinals shot just 33.3% in the first half (9-of-27), but raised that mark to 54.5% (18-of-33) in the second half to overcome the halftime deficit. Persons scored 15 of his game-high 23 points in the second half.
The last four meetings in the series between Valpo and Ball State over the last four seasons – all of which have been won by the home team – have been decided by a total of 13 points.
Next Up
Valpo (8-2) gets its second crack at a Big Ten opponent in a week’s time on Thursday evening when the Crusaders make the short trip to Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill. to face Northwestern. Tip is slated for 7 p.m., and the game can be seen live on the Big Ten Network and heard live on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso). Links for all the live coverage will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.