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Foreign Tour Off to Winning Start for Valpo Basketball

By: Valparaiso University Last Updated: August 13, 2019

A double-digit deficit with less than five minutes remaining disappeared in the blink of an eye after a late surge by the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team on Sunday afternoon.

Valpo battled from down 90-80 with 4:56 to play to top Concordia University 94-90 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada thanks to a game-closing 14-0 run. The win was Valpo’s second in a 24-hour span after the team topped McGill 84-78 to open the four-game Montreal journey on Saturday.

The game against Concordia saw Valpo jump out to a 21-11 lead at the 4:55 mark of the first quarter after an 8-0 run that featured 3-pointers by redshirt junior Eron Gordon (Indianapolis, Ind. / Cathedral [Seton Hall]) and sophomore Javon Freeman-Liberty (Chicago, Ill. / Whitney Young) sandwiched around a jumper by freshman Ben Krikke (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada / Jasper Place).  

The Stingers scored 12 of the next 16 points to make it 25-23 and Valpo held a four-point edge at 27-23 through one quarter. Concordia grabbed the lead by the midway mark of the second and used a 10-0 run to put Valpo in a 39-32 hole with 5:24 to play in the first half. A strong finish to the half helped the Brown & Gold cut the deficit to two at 52-50 through 20 minutes.

Concordia had its way in the third, outscoring its guests from south of the border 25-15 to take a commanding 77-65 lead to the fourth. But Valpo picked the right time for its best segment of Sunday’s game, using the game-ending run to secure a come-from-behind victory. Much of the comeback came in a quick burst, as a basket by freshman Donovan Clay (Alton, Ill. / Alton) tied the game at 90 with 2:55 to play after Valpo had trailed 90-80 at the 4:56 mark.

Freeman-Liberty knocked down a go-ahead basket with 1:32 left of fourth-quarter time, putting Valpo up 92-90, the team’s first lead of the second half. The game-ending run was fueled by the scoring of Clay and Freeman-Liberty, who combined for 10 of the run’s first 12 points. Gordon cashed in on a pair of free throws with 11 seconds remaining to put the finishing touches on the triumph. The Valpo defense held the Stingers to 0-for-6 shooting and forced five turnovers over the final 4:56 of the contest.

Freeman-Liberty led the way with 27 points (10-of-13 FG) and five assists on Sunday, while sophomore Daniel Sackey (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada / Thornlea) came off the bench to score 21 points and pull down a team-high seven rebounds. Junior Mileek McMillan (Merrillville, Ind. / Merrillville) contributed 14 points on 4-of-4 from beyond the arc, while Clay was the fourth Valpo player in double figures with 11.  

The Canada swing opened with Saturday’s six-point win over McGill. For the first of two straight days, Valpo overcame a second-half deficit, this time after trailing 40-31 at halftime. Sackey converted a layup to snap a 46-all tie with 4:07 left in the third quarter, giving Valpo its first lead since 5:51 remained in the opening half. Valpo outscored McGill 30-14 in the third to take a 61-54 edge into the final 10 minutes.

McGill tied the game at 65 with 7:08 to go in the fourth, but Gordon responded by scoring the game’s next seven points. A fast-break layup by Sackey extended the Valpo run to nine, and the visitors led for the game’s duration.

In Saturday’s game, Freeman-Liberty led the team with 17 points and was joined in double figures by Sackey (16), Gordon (11) and redshirt junior Nick Robinson (10). Clay chipped in nine points and paced the team with six boards.

Valpo will be back in action on Tuesday at 6 p.m. CT at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada for the third of four games on the Foreign Tour.