The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team fell 71-58 in a tough road challenge against an Indiana State team that had dropped just one home game all season on Saturday afternoon at the Hulman Center in Terre Haute. Playing without leading scorer Javon Freeman-Liberty for the second straight game, Valpo received double-figure efforts from Daniel Sackey (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada / Thornlea), Donovan Clay (Alton, Ill. / Alton) and Ryan Fazekas (Chesterton, Ind. / Marquette Catholic [Providence]).
How It Happened
• Valpo dropped behind 7-2 and 11-5 in the game’s early stages, and by the time Cooper Neese hit a 3 with 10:05 to go in the opening half, it was 18-9 Sycamores.
• After Ben Krikke (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada / Jasper Place) splashed Valpo’s first trifecta of the game at the 8:46 mark to cut the lead to six, Indiana State responded with seven straight points to widen the gap to 13.
• Indiana State’s Christian Williams capped a 10-point half by converting a 3 with 1:20 to go, opening the lead to 16. Valpo scored the last six points of the half on 3s by Sackey and Mileek McMillan (Merrillville, Ind. / Merrillville) to slice the deficit to 10.
• Indiana State (18-11, 11-7 MVC) scored the first six points of the second half, but Valpo cut it back to 11 on a trey by Sackey with 15:49 to play. Indiana State responded with seven straight points to make it 55-37 with 13:03 to go.
• Valpo made one last push with its own seven-point run from the 9:22 mark to the 6:52 mark, causing Greg Lansing to take timeout. Fazekas hit a 3 to spur the run, then McMillan and Krikke followed with baskets.
• The hosts weathered the storm, boosting the lead all the way back up to 17 before holding on for the 13-point win.
Inside the Game
• Valpo contained Indiana State’s top two scorers in Tyreke Key and Jordan Barnes to a combined 14 points, well below their averages, but Christian Williams went off for 20 on 7-of-11 shooting. Neese contributed 10 off the bench.
• Sackey had a team-high five assists while sharing the team lead with 11 points. Kiser had a team-high six rebounds while handing out four assists.
• Clay had 11 points and five boards, his fourth time leading the team or sharing the team lead this season. He has finished in double figures 16 times during his rookie campaign.
• Sackey has hit double figures in back-to-back games after eight straight in single figures. He had scored six total points in a six-game span, but has come through with outputs of 14 and 11 with increased playing time in Freeman-Liberty’s absence. He also swiped both Valpo steals in the game.
• Fazekas’ 11 points marked his fourth straight double-figure outing.
• Valpo finished at .500 or better in Missouri Valley Conference play for the first time since joining the league. The team’s nine Valley wins represented a two-win improvement from seven a year ago.
Valpo (16-15, 9-9) will open the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament next week in St. Louis. The tournament bracket will be announced by the conference office later Saturday after all games have wrapped up.