Fans received their first look at the 2019-2020 Valparaiso University men’s basketball team on Saturday evening at the Athletics-Recreation Center. They went home pleased with what they saw after Valpo showcased speed and athleticism on the way to an 85-65 triumph over Cedarville in exhibition play. Javon Freeman-Liberty (Chicago, Ill. / Whitney Young) boasted 21 points to lead all scorers.
How It Happened
- Valpo jumped out to a 10-point edge over the first three minutes of the contest. Ryan Fazekas (Chesterton, Ind. / Marquette Catholic [Providence]) buried his second triple of the game with 16:54 left in the first half to open up the team’s first double-figure advantage of the evening at 14-4.
- The Yellow Jackets cut a 13-point lead all the way down to three by compiling a 10-0 run. Donovan Clay (Alton, Ill. / Alton) knocked in a jumper to stem the tide and expand the lead back to five with 10:16 to go in the half.
- The Clay basket initiated a 10-0 run by the hosts that featured fast-break dunks by senior John Kiser (Noblesville, Ind. / Noblesville) and Freeman-Liberty, electrifying the audience.
- Another fast-break dunk by Freeman-Liberty and another triple by Fazekas were among the highlights of the remainder of the half. Eron Gordon (Indianapolis, Ind. / Cathedral [Seton Hall]) also made his way on to the score sheet by converting a topside 3-pointer with just over a minute remaining before halftime. That helped Valpo take a 46-32 lead into the locker room.
- After a quick basket by Cedarville coming out of the intermission, the next seven points belonged to Valpo, including an old-fashioned 3-point play by Daniel Sackey (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada / Thornlea) that made it 53-34 with 16:41 remaining.
- Nick Robinson (Chicago, Ill. / Kenwood [Saint Joseph’s]) added on a 3-point play of his own with 13:01 to go to up the lead to 63-40. The 23-point cushion was Valpo’s largest of the contest.
- Cedarville made a few late runs in an effort to get back in the game, cutting the deficit to as few as 13, but the Yellow Jackets could get no closer.
- Freshman Sigurd Lorange (Trondheim, Norway / Metis Videregaende Skole) scored seven of his 10 points in the final two minutes to help the Brown & Gold close out the triumph.
Inside the Game
- Freeman-Liberty led the way with his 21 points coming on 7-of-10 shooting and 6-of-6 at the free-throw line. Fazekas nailed a trio of triples to finish with 11 points, while Lorange joined the double-figure scoring column with 10.
- Clay was the team’s top rebounder in his first collegiate contest on U.S. soil, finishing with seven boards. Robinson handed out five assists to lead Valpo in that area.
- All 12 Valpo players who were available and in uniform on Saturday saw action.
- Valpo went 17-of-18 at the free-throw line, a 94.4 percent clip. The team forced 21 Cedarville turnovers and outscored the Yellow Jackets 19-6 in points off turnovers.
- Valpo went to work in transition with regularity on Saturday, outscoring Cedarville 23-0 on fast breaks, several of which were capped by dunks.
Thoughts from Head Coach Matt Lottich
“I was pleased with the overall effort. There are some things we have to work on; there’s no doubt about it. This is probably the earliest we’ve ever had an exhibition game. We were young at times, but the effort was always there. One of the things I really enjoy about this group is that I don’t ever have to coach effort, enthusiasm or competitiveness. It’s just a given. We played well enough tonight to beat a really good team that is going to win a lot of games. I was proud of the effort.”
“Javon got up and down the floor today. Ryan took a lot of shots that he’s supposed to shoot. There were stretches where we were scoring in bunches and getting a lot of stops, so I was really pleased. We’re going to build off it.”
“Emil is getting better every practice. Siggy can score at this level. It was nice to see him be aggressive and put the ball in the basket. Like any new guys, it’s good to see when they have success. I love the energy on the bench. Donovan is gifted athletically and played well. It’s going to be important for us to continue to get these young guys acclimated to what we do and to playing college basketball.”
“Our backcourt is trying to make opponents uncomfortable. We’ve got guys who can put special pressure on the ball, and we’re going to try to utilize it.”
Valpo will play one closed scrimmage between now and the start of the regular season, which begins on Tuesday, Nov. 5 as Toledo makes its way to the Athletics-Recreation Center. The game against the Rockets will tip at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN3 and 95.1 FM Valparaiso, WVUR. Links to live coverage will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.