Road Remains Unkind As Crusaders Fall At Illinois State
The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team struggled with its shooting through Saturday night’s Missouri Valley Conference at Illinois State, falling to the Redbirds by a 76-65 final. For the second time in three games, sophomore Derrik Smits (Zionsville, Ind./Zionsville) set a new career best, finishing Saturday’s game with 17 points.
How It Happened
– Smits scored a pair of early baskets before the first media timeout to keep Illinois State from pulling away early after the Redbirds scored the first five points of the game.
– Following a 3-pointer by Illinois State’s Keyshawn Evans with 13 minutes to play in the first half – a shot which gave the Redbirds a 14-8 lead – the Crusaders and Redbirds would trade offensive blows over the next four minutes. Each team scored 10 points over that stretch as the Valpo deficit kept flip-flopping between four and six points.
– Trailing 24-18 with nine minutes to play in the first half, the Crusaders would hold Illinois State scoreless for more than five minutes, as the Redbirds missed nine consecutive shots during the span. But Valpo was unable to take advantage offensively, scoring just two points during the same time frame, as it went 1-for-7 from the floor and committed three turnovers.
– Smits’ baseline jumper during that stretch was Valpo’s only field goal for a stretch of over nine minutes, and Illinois State took advantage late in the first half with a 10-1 run – including three baskets from Phil Fayne – to extend its lead to double figures.
– Sophomore Bakari Evelyn (Detroit, Mich./Hillcrest Academy/Southfield Christian [Nebraska]) drove for a layup in the waning seconds of the first half to bring the Crusaders within 34-23 at the break.
– Valpo looked to make headway into the Redbirds’ advantage early in the second half, as a pair of baskets from Smits helped pull the Crusaders within 38-29 with 17:32 to play. But Valpo went scoreless for the next three minutes as Illinois State scored the next seven points.
– Illinois State led by as many as 19 points in the second half, and the Crusaders were unable to get any closer than 10 points down the stretch.
Inside the Game
– Valpo shot just 37.7% from the floor (23-of-61) for the game and finished the night just 3-for-19 from 3-point range.
– The Crusaders missed their first 14 3-point attempts of the game before Evelyn connected from long range with 2:05 to play.
– Evelyn finished with a team-best 20 points and added four assists and a game-high four steals.
– Just six days after matching his career high of 14 points, Smits set a new career best on Saturday. The sophomore closed the night with 17 points, going 7-of-13 from the field and 3-of-4 from the foul line.
– Smits has now scored eight or more points in eight of Valpo’s last nine games.
– Senior Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) joined the aforementioned duo in double figures with 16 points, including an 8-of-9 performance from the foul line.
– Walker will enter next Wednesday’s game just three points away from moving into 17th place in Valpo history in career scoring.
– Sophomore John Kiser (Noblesville, Ind./Noblesville) paced the Crusaders with seven rebounds off the bench, but Valpo found itself out-rebounded by the Redbirds by a 44-29 margin – matching the team’s worst performance on the glass in MVC play.
– Fayne was nearly perfect from the field to lead Illinois State (11-11, 5-5 MVC), as he finished 11-of-12 for 24 points and also grabbed a game-high nine rebounds. Evans and Milik Yarbrough added 17 points apiece, the latter registering eight rebounds and seven assists as well.
– The Redbirds struggled from the 3-point line as well, going just 4-of-23 from distance, but finished the game 24-for-35 inside the arc.
Valpo (11-12, 2-8 MVC) returns home to the ARC on Wednesday night as it hosts Indiana State. Tip is set for 7 p.m., and all the action can be seen live on The Valley on ESPN3 and heard live on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso). Links for all the live coverage will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.