Valpo Pushes Big Ten Foe Purdue to the Brink in Narrow Road Defeat
Breakout performances by senior Nick Robinson (Chicago, Ill. / Kenwood [Saint Joseph’s]) and freshman Jacob Ognacevic (Sheboygan, Wis. / Sheboygan Area Lutheran) helped the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team give host Purdue all it could handle on Friday night at Mackey Arena, but the Boilermakers made enough plays late to rally from an 11-point halftime deficit to prevail 68-61. Valpo’s best performance of the season to date saw Matt Lottich’s team lead Matt Painter’s squad as late as the game’s final eight minutes.
How It Happened
- Valpo set a positive tone from the outset with an early 12-0 run that put the Brown and Gold up 12-3 when Ognacevic nailed his second straight triple at the 15:02 mark of the opening half.
- Purdue clawed back with 11 straight points to take a 14-12 lead, but Goodnews Kpegeol (St. Paul, Minn. / North [Southwest Mississippi CC / Kansas State]) knocked down a 3-ball with 8:57 left until halftime to put Valpo back in front. A pair of jump shots by Donovan Clay (Alton, Ill. / Alton) widened the lead to six.
- With 5:17 left in the opening half, Ognacevic converted his third 3 of the game. The freshman helped Valpo create a nine-point edge, matching its largest cushion to that point.
- The Boilermakers (3-1) got the lead down to four at 27-23 with 2:49 on the clock, but Valpo finished the half with eight straight points. Robinson thrived during that stretch on both ends of the court. He scored the final four points of the half.
- Through 20 minutes, Valpo owned a 55 percent shooting clip (11-of-20) and had knocked down six of its 12 3-point tries. Conversely, Purdue shot 24 percent and made just one of its 11 triple tries. Valpo did turn it over 13 times and commit 15 fouls in the first half.
- The foul trouble became a growing concern early in the second half. Clay picked up two fouls in the first four minutes and had three for the game, while Ognacevic registered his fourth at the 16:02 mark. Eventually, Mileek McMillan (Merrillville, Ind. / Merrillville) and Clay fouled out, while Ognacevic and Kpegeol had four apiece.
- Purdue’s Sasha Stefanovic and Isaiah Thompson both came to life after the intermission, posting 16 and 13 second-half points, respectively. They accounted for 29 of the team’s 45 second-half points and played a key role in the comeback.
- A pair of Zach Edey free throws with 6:48 on the clock gave Purdue its first lead of the second half, and a quick 10-0 run by the hosts turned a 53-50 Valpo edge into a 60-53 Purdue advantage with 4:12 remaining.
- Robinson made a big-time 3 with 2:17 to go to slice a six-point deficit in half, and an Eron Gordon (Indianapolis, Ind. / Cathedral [Seton Hall]) basket with 1:06 on the clock again cut the Purdue lead to three. However, Thompson went 4-for-4 at the charity line in the final minute to ice the victory for the Boilermakers.
Inside the Game
- Valpo had its sights set on its first win against the Boilermakers (not counting a forfeit victory) since Dec. 22, 1965 and its first Big Ten victory since Dec. 28, 2004 vs. Penn State. In addition, the Brown & Gold were attempting to become the first current Missouri Valley Conference program to win at Purdue since Larry Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores in 1978.
- Stefanovic hit four of his nine 3-point attempts, but Valpo held the remainder of the team to 2-for-14 (14.3%) from beyond the arc. Purdue entered the night eighth nationally in 3-point percentage.
- Steven Helm (Valparaiso, Ind. / Valparaiso [Carroll]) made his long-awaited Valpo debut and provided a positive lift that wasn’t necessarily reflected in the box score. That boost was quantified in the plus/minus column, where he finished at +12.
- Robinson finished with a team-high 15 points, his highest output since turning in 15 on Dec. 30, 2019 vs. Loyola. It was four shy of his career high set on Nov. 12, 2019 at SIUE. The fifth-year senior led the team in scoring for the first time in a Valpo uniform. He also squeezed six rebounds to share the team lead with Clay.
- Ognacevic made four 3s in just 14 minutes of action to account for his 12 points. He knocked down four of his five 3-point attempts.
- Kpegeol contributed nine points and three rebounds in his 37 minutes. He had under eight minutes of action total over the first two games of the season before receiving significantly more run on Friday.
- Clay finished in double figures for the third time in as many games this season, closing the evening with 10 points and six boards.
Valpo (0-3) will open up the home portion of the season at the Athletics-Recreation Center on Sunday at 1 p.m. against Judson University. The game will broadcast on ESPN3 and 95.1 FM Valparaiso WVUR with links to live coverage available on ValpoAthletics.com.