Clay’s Big Day Not Enough as Halftime Deficit Proves Too Large at Central Michigan
The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team played well in the second half, but a 14-point halftime deficit proved to be too much to overcome as host Central Michigan held on for an 84-79 win on Saturday afternoon in Mount Pleasant, Mich. Sophomore Donovan Clay (Alton, Ill. / Alton) had his best game of the season and one of his most productive days in a Valpo uniform, posting 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting to go along with five rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal.
How It Happened
- Valpo jumped out to a quick 8-1 lead behind a pair of early buckets by Clay. After a missed layup by the Chippewas created a fastbreak the other way and Ben Krikke (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada / Jasper Place) laid it in on a Clay assist, Valpo owned a 12-4 lead with 14:36 left in the first half.
- Daniel Sackey (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada / Thornlea) picked up his second foul with 8:57 left in the first half, and sat out the remainder of the half. Central Michigan took advantage of the Valpo point guard’s absence during that stretch.
- Valpo got stuck on 14 points for nearly four minutes, allowing Central Michigan to flip an eight-point deficit into a five-point lead. When Travon Broadway Jr. drained a triple with 7:50 on the first-half clock, it expanded the lead to nine, and suddenly the cushion reached double figures at 30-19 thanks to a Meikkel Murray bucket with 6:30 to go.
- The lead fluctuated between seven and 11 until Devontae Lane drained 3s on consecutive possessions to widen the margin to 12. Lane added a 1-and-1 with 19 seconds to go, converting both ends to enlarge the gap to 14 at 44-30. Lane scored 14 first-half points, eight of which came in the final two minutes.
- Valpo went just 2-of-10 from 3 in the first half, while Central Michigan knocked down seven of its eight 3-point efforts with Lane going 4-for-4 from long range.
- After a Broadway free throw gave Central Michigan its largest lead of the game 26 seconds into the second half at 45-30, Valpo scored 10 of the game’s next 12 points to whittle the deficit to seven with 17:27 to go. Eron Gordon (Indianapolis, Ind. / Cathedral [Seton Hall]) drained a pair of critical 3s to provide a needed lift during that spurt.
- After an 0-for-4 first half from 3-point territory, sharp-shooting freshman Connor Barrett (Chicago, Ill. / Loyola Academy) drained his first trey of the day to cut the lead to five at 50-45 with 15:45 to go. However, the next six points belonged to Central Michigan and the lead shot back up to 11.
- Both teams entered the bonus with considerable time on the clock, and the game’s late stages were free-throw filled. After three straight makes by Ben Krikke (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada / Jasper Place), Valpo had the deficit down to five again with 6:17 to go.
- Barrett buried his second 3 of the afternoon with 5:41 on the clock to pull Valpo to within three at 67-64. A driving layup by Sackey cut the deficit to one, and then another Sackey basket again shrank the lead to one with 4:53 remaining.
- Five straight Central Michigan (2-3) points followed to boost the lead back to six. After a Clay basket, Valpo had a 3-point look that was off the mark with three minutes remaining, and still chased by four in the final minute. One last gasp featured a pair of 3-point efforts sandwiched around a Krikke offensive rebound, but both shots were off the mark as Valpo couldn’t bite into a four-point deficit with 11 seconds to go.
- A late 3 by Jacob Ognacevic (Sheboygan, Wis. / Sheboygan Area Lutheran) cut it back down to one possession with seven seconds to go, but Broadway made both free-throws with 4.1 on the clock to ice the victory for the hosts.
Inside the Game
- Clay’s 20 points represented a season high and were two shy of his career best established on Feb. 25 of last season vs. Missouri State. The Valpo sophomore has now reached the 20-point threshold on three occasions in his career, with the other coming on Dec. 30, 2019 vs. Loyola (21).
- Barrett scored 14 points, cracking double figures for the second time in the last three games. His effort was highlighted at the foul line, where he went 6-for-6.
- Krikke was the third Valpo player – all freshmen or sophomores – in double figures as he accrued a dozen points. The Valpo forward also squeezed a team-high six rebounds, drew five fouls and blocked three shots. He has now reached double figures in four of the season’s first six games.
- Valpo’s free-throw shooting was a bright spot, as the team went 20-of-24 (83.3 percent) at the stripe. The 20 made free throws were the team’s most in a game since making 22 in the conference semifinal win over Missouri State last year, and the 83.3 percent was the highest clip in a game where Valpo had at least 10 attempts since going 18-of-20 on Jan. 11, 2020 vs. Drake.
- Valpo outscored Central Michigan 49-40 in the second half, forcing nine turnovers and limiting the Chippewas to 2-of-7 from 3 in the final 20 minutes. Nearly half (18) of Central Michigan’s second-half points came at the free-throw line.
- Lane finished with 27 to lead all scorers, while Broadway accrued 21. Lane surpassed Vanderbilt’s Scotty Pippen Jr. (25) for the most points scored by a Valpo opponent this season. It was the highest individual scoring output against the Brown & Gold since Loyola’s Keith Clemons had 28 in the MCL Tournament matchup last March.
Valpo (2-4) was slated to take on Eastern Michigan on Wednesday night, but that game has been postponed until the 2021-22 season. Valpo is working on finalizing a home game against a replacement opponent for this coming week. Check back to ValpoAthletics.com for the latest schedule information.