Missed shots equal missed opportunity for Valpo
MBB: Beacons end season by missing 20 of 24 3-pointers
ST. LOUIS - Wayne Gretzky, and pretty much every inspirational meme ever created, has a famous saying about missing 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.
The Valparaiso men’s basketball team challenged that sentiment on Friday night, proving there are plenty of taken shots that can also turn into misses.
The Beacons shot just 36.1 percent from the floor and an abysmal 16.7 percent from the 3-point line as a season of missed opportunities came to an end following a series of missed shots in a 67-58 loss to Missouri State.
The loss is Valpo’s third to Missouri State in five years at Arch Madness, and the second consecutive season that the Beacons have lost to the Bears in the quarterfinals.
“It looked like we were playing our second game in two days,” Valparaiso coach Matt Lottich said. “We got good looks at threes and they were just short all night. We have to put ourselves in a position where we aren’t playing the game that first day.”
Valparaiso missed its first eight 3-point attempts before Sheldon Edwards hit a perimeter shot with 2:40 left in the first half. The sophomore guard sandwiched another 3-pointer around a miss and then Kevion Taylor missed his third 3-pointer of the half shortly before the buzzer. The Beacons went into the locker room down 35-28, which was a far cry from last season’s 18-point halftime deficit in the quarterfinals, but still frustrating given the amount of open 3-pointers Valpo missed.
Taylor and Edwards each missed three triples in the first half along with Preston Ruedinger. The freshman walk-on was so confident in his shooting in Thursday night’s win against Evansville, but on Friday, all three of his shots in the first half looked off from the moment they left his hand.
The shooting woes continued in the second half as the Beacons once again shot 2-of-12 from the perimeter to finish a combined 4-of-24 on the night. Taylor finally knocked down his first 3-pointer at Arch Madness with 19:03 left in the game and he would add another less than four minutes later, but Valpo would then go the final 15:28 without hitting a shot from beyond the arc.
“We guarded well, I thought we rebounded well and I thought we executed well,” Lottich said. “We just missed shots.”
Missouri State scored four quick points to start the second half and pushed the lead to double digits at 39-28 with 19:18 remaining. The Beacons (14-18) cut the deficit down to four points less than five minutes later before a key play in the game unfolded. Missouri State reserve guard Jaylen Minnett missed a 3-pointer that led to an offensive rebound by Gaige Prim. The All-Valley big man went up strong and had his shot blocked by Ben Krikke. Prim once again grabbed the offensive rebound and dropped in a hook shot while Krikke was whistled for his fourth foul.
The Bears used the play to jumpstart a run which quickly pushed the lead back to double digits. Valpo cut it to 50-43, but in the blink of an eye Missouri State doubled the lead as Isiaih Mosley began to find his rhythm. The dynamic scorer was bottled up in the first half and forced into some difficult looks before erupting for 11 of his 18 points in the second half.
“They did a good job of getting (Mosley) in space and letting him go,” Lottich said. “We knew that he was going to hit some shots. He hit a stepback in the first half. I looked at the guys and said ‘that’s on me.’ That’s the shot we’re going to give to him. Those are the shots he’s going to have to hit to beat us.”
Lottich designed a game plan around making life difficult for Mosley and Prim. What the Beacons didn’t account for was a dominant first half performance from former Valparaiso forward Donovan Clay. Clay, who was limited to seven points against Valpo in two regular-season meetings, scored all 17 of his points in the first half. After one of his 3-pointers he turned and stared directly at Valpo’s bench. After another basket inside, he did his best Giannis mean mug impersonation to the camera.
“It’s all love for Valpo,” Clay said. “There’s no (hard) feelings. I know I had to come out and play hard. I just made shots.”
Clay later added on battling against Krikke, his former classmate: “He’s a friend, but when it comes to basketball, it’s no friends.”
Despite Mosley’s ability to hit shots in the second half, and Valparaiso’s inability to hit the broad side of a barn for the entire game, the Beacons used an 8-0 run to slice the deficit to 64-58 with under three minutes remaining. The Bears started taking bad shots and executing sloppy possessions, but Valpo couldn’t take advantage.
Prim missed a jumper, but Edwards gave the ball right back on a turnover. Clay missed an inside jumper, only for Kobe King to get his shot blocked at the rim seconds later. Krikke pulled down the offensive rebound, but missed the 5-footer. Lu’cye Patterson scored an old fashioned 3-point play to push the advantage back to nine and the Beacons continued to shoot themselves in the foot as Edwards committed Valpo’s 10th turnover of the game with a bad pass. Valparaiso ultimately went the last 3:12 without scoring a basket, a reminder of plenty of similar scoring lapses from earlier in the season.
“We were within five and had the ball with two minutes to go,” Lottich said. “They were getting a little tight, and then we turned it over. We struggled in those moments all year. That’s going to be a big emphasis in the offseason in trying to close out games.”
Thomas Kithier led the Beacons with 17 points and seven rebounds while Sheldon Edwards had his third career double double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Kevion Taylor scored 13 points in his final collegiate game while Eron Gordon had two points, one rebound and one assist in 12 minutes of action in his final game in a Valparaiso uniform.
“These are not easy moments,” Lottich said. “When your seasons ended and you put a lot of work into it, there’s a lot of emotion. I am proud of the way these guys stayed with it. There was never any negativity or times I dreaded coming to work. These guys gave me everything they had consistently all year. I’m proud of them for that. I thought we got better all year. The shots just didn’t fall for us tonight.”
There’s plenty more to come from St. Louis as this weekend I’ll begin to take a look at what went wrong for Valparaiso this season and what the future may look like. Each offseason brings plenty of questions and this one is no different. Some of those questions have already been asked and some may not have answers for days, weeks or months.
Saturday is going to be a great day of basketball. Northern Iowa vs. Loyola and Missouri State vs. Drake. These are by far the top four teams in the league and any one of them are capable of winning a game in the NCAA tournament. The next three games at Arch Madness are going to be intense.
With game coverage in the rearview mirror for the Valparaiso men’s basketball team this year, a reminder that all of the offseason stories will be for paid subscribers only. For the low cost of $5/month or $49.99/year, you’ll get all the news that is fit to print as Valparaiso enters an intriguing offseason.
Again, I’ll be back later this weekend with more content from St. Louis. Make sure you subscribe.
(Photos provided by Missouri Valley Conference)