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Valpo Pulls Away From Indiana State For Win in Arch Madness Opener

The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team earned its first win in program history at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, turning a nine-point deficit with six minutes to play in the first half into a seven-point halftime lead en route to a 77-55 victory over Indiana State Thursday night in St. Louis. With the win, ninth-seeded Valpo advances to face top-seeded Loyola on Friday at noon.

How It Happened
– Valpo led for most of the opening 10 minutes of the game, extending its advantage to as many as five points in the early going.
– A driving layup from freshman Daniel Sackey (Winnipeg, Man./Thornlea) put Valpo ahead 14-11 with 9:53 to play in the opening half, but Indiana State went on a 13-1 run over the next 3:45 – scoring on six consecutive possessions – to take a 24-15 lead.
– Valpo would limit the Sycamores to just five points over the final six minutes of the half, putting together a 21-5 run to end the half and take a seven-point lead into halftime. The run included a stretch of 11 consecutive points over a span of 2:16, which featured a perfect 6-of-6 performance from the foul line by junior Markus Golder (Portland, Ore./Clackamas [North Idaho]) and turned a five-point deficit into a six-point lead.
– It looked like the advantage would be at best five points at the break, as Indiana State had the ball with just a two-second difference between the shot and game clocks. But freshman Javon Freeman (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) came up with a strip steal in the final seconds of the half and went coast-to-coast for the layup right before the horn to make it a 36-29 lead at the break.
– Valpo’s defense led the way to start the second half, as the Crusaders surrendered just two field goals to Indiana State in the opening eight minutes of the half. Valpo scored just 10 points over that stretch as well, but it was enough to extend the lead out to 12 points.
– Valpo’s lead was still 12 at 48-36 with 11:06 to play in the game following a pair of Sackey free throws, but the Sycamores scored three points on each of their next two trips to quickly cut Valpo’s advantage to six points with 10:14 to play.
– The teams traded baskets, with ISU making it a 50-44 game with 9:18 remaining on a Jordan Barnes basket. But the crucial next two minutes were all Valpo.
– Valpo scored on four straight trips, including back-to-back driving jumpers from junior Bakari Evelyn (Detroit, Mich./Hillcrest Academy/Southfield Christian [Nebraska]), while Indiana State turned the ball over twice and missed a shot in that stretch. The Crusaders came out the other side leading 58-44 with 7:23 to play, and the Sycamores would get no closer than 12 points the rest of the way.

Inside the Game
– Thursday’s win was the first for Valpo in tournament action as an MVC member, making its second appearance at Arch Madness.
– It was the first conference tournament win for Valpo since the 2015 Horizon League championship game against Green Bay.
– Thursday’s victory was also the program’s first neutral-court win in a conference tournament since the 2011Horizon League quarterfinal against Detroit, and was its first win as a lower seed in a conference tournament since the 2008 HL quarterfinal against Wright State.
– Valpo was led Thursday by the play of Golder, who scored 18 points – including a perfect 8-for-8 mark from the foul line – and pulled down six rebounds. Golder tied his career high with the 18-point effort.
– Freeman finished just behind Golder with 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting and added seven rebounds. He has now scored 355 points on the year, fifth-most in a single season by a Valpo freshman and just six points behind Bryce Drew’s 1994-95 campaign for fourth.
– Freeman also tallied a game-high three steals on Thursday, pushing his Valpo freshman record to 59, third-most overall in a season in program history and within four of the program’s single-season record.
– Evelyn added 13 points, hitting four of his seven efforts from inside the arc, while junior Derrik Smits (Zionsville, Ind./Zionsville) chipped in nine points and seven rebounds off the bench.
– Valpo’s defense limited Indiana State to just 36.2% shooting on Thursday, including just a 6-of-25 mark from 3-point range. After scoring better than 1.1 points per possession in both regular season meetings with Valpo, the Sycamores scored just .79 points per possession Thursday evening.
– After committing 35 turnovers against ISU in the two regular season matchups, Valpo tied its season low with seven turnovers on Thursday. The Crusaders out-scored the Sycamores 15-7 off turnovers after Indiana State held a 51-16 advantage in the category in the regular season games.

Next Up
Valpo (15-17) faces a quick turnaround, as it will take on top-seeded Loyola at noon in the first of four quarterfinals at Arch Madness on Friday. The game can be seen live on the MVC TV Network, including in the Valpo area on NBC Sports Chicago+, and online on ESPN+ outside the MVC viewing area.