The calendar may say August, but the madness of March came early on Tuesday night in Ottawa, Quebec, Canada.
As a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Daniel Sackey (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada / Thornlea) swished through the net, the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team erupted in celebration after an entertaining 83-80 overtime victory over Carleton. The sophomore’s shot lifted Valpo to victory in his home country, beating a Carleton team that is coming off its 14th U Sports national championship. The game-ending play checked in at No. 9 on SportsCenter’s “Top 10 Plays” on the 9 p.m. CT edition on Tuesday night on ESPN.
Javon Freeman-Liberty (Chicago, Ill. / Whitney Young) led four Valpo players in double figures with 23 points, while Nick Robinson (Chicago, Ill. / Kenwood [Saint Joseph’s]) contributed an efficient 14 on 5-of-7 shooting (4-of-5 from 3) and Sackey and Eron Gordon (Indianapolis, Ind. / Cathedral [Seton Hall]) accrued 13 points apiece. Robinson, Donovan Clay (Alton, Ill. / Alton) and John Kiser (Noblesville, Ind. / Noblesville) shared the team lead in rebounds with eight each, while Freeman-Liberty handed out four assists.
Albeit in a summer international exhibition, Sackey’s shot was the latest in a long line of Valpo buzzer-beaters, continuing a special association between the program and the sport’s signature moment. The shot was set up by a frenetic sequence that saw Valpo steal a baseline inbounds pass and miss a foul-line jumper before again jarring the ball free for a second straight backcourt steal. This time the ball bounced perfectly into the hands of Sackey, who drained an off-balance triple from beyond the top of the key as the horn sounded.
Valpo jumped out to an 18-14 lead through 10 minutes before a strong second quarter propelled the team to a 37-28 halftime edge. Freeman-Liberty had already entered double figures by the break as he led all scorers with 11. The Valpo advantage was 61-57 going to the fourth, but the Ravens came back to tie it at 71 by the end of regulation.
Valpo made 14 3-pointers in the game and held a 54-48 edge on the glass. The victory came over a program that defeated Valpo 77-59 four years ago during the team’s 2015 trip north of the border. That 2015-2016 squad went on to finish 30-7 and reach the championship game of the NIT at Madison Square Garden.
The win over the Canadian powerhouse allowed Valpo to improve its Foreign Tour record to 3-0 entering the final game of the trip, which will occur on Wednesday at 6 p.m. CT at the University of Quebec in Montreal.