Rough day on the hardwood for Valparaiso
Men's and women's basketball teams drop Valley games on Saturday
Whoever said “Defense wins championships” has obviously never watched the Missouri State men’s basketball team take the court.
The Bears gave Valparaiso a taste of one of the best offenses in the country on Saturday afternoon as Missouri State shot over 50 percent from the floor, shot even better from the 3-point line and missed just one free throw in an 84-66 win over the Beacons in Springfield, Mo.
Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year frontrunner Isiaih Mosley scored 22 points on 11 shots while Ja’Monta Black, Gaige Prim and Jaylen Minnett all scored 15 points.
“That’s as talented an offensive team that I’ve ever coached against,” Valparaiso coach Matt Lottich said. “I put them up there with the (2016-17) Kentucky team that we played. When that team is making shots, they are extremely tough to beat.”
The Beacons didn’t do themselves any favors. Valparaiso held its own in the first half, trailing 41-36 going into the break before the Bears erupted to start the second half. Missouri State quickly pushed the lead to double figures by hitting the first five field goals of the second half. When Minnett hit a 3-pointer with 13:13 remaining to give the Bears a 59-44 lead, it looked like the lights had gone out on the Beacons.
As quickly as Missouri State ripped off a big run, as did Valparaiso. The Beacons scored eight straight points to cut the deficit to 59-52 with 11:03 remaining. Then the bottom fell out for Valpo. Between Eron Gordon scoring off a layup with 11:36 on the clock and Joe Hedstrom scoring a garbage time basket with 1:31 remaining, the Beacons went more than 10 minutes with only one other field goal, a Preston Ruedinger 3-pointer that hit every part of the rim before falling it.
By the time the dust settled, Valparaiso put forth its lowest amount of field goals (19) this season and its lowest shooting percentage (34.5 percent) of the year. The last time Valpo had numbers this bad? Last season’s loss to the same Missouri State in the Arch Madness quarterfinals.
The Beacons missed nine straight shots at one point, including one possession where they missed four shots within 17 seconds. Valpo came back and missed two more shots on the next possession.
“There was a stretch in there where it went from (59-52) to an 18-point game quick,” Lottich said. “We missed a ton of shots in that stretch. That’s the only time I was upset with how we were playing. We have to get good shots on the offensive end and for the most part we took good shots, shots that we can make, except during that stretch. We took bad shots and they scored after every single of them.”
If fans are expecting Lottich to eviscerate the entire offensive execution, it’s not going to happen. Valparaiso had 63 possessions in the game and the Beacons came away with 66 points. Anyone will tell you that scoring more than a point per possession is good enough to win you a basketball game, so long as you guard. Missouri State’s vaunted offense finished the night with 1.333 points per possession and much of that started with Mosley.
The Valley’s leading scorer has torched Valpo in four straight games and Lottich decided to try a different approach with the talented junior this time around. Ruedinger and Darius DeAveiro faceguarded Mosley and they did everything possible to stay in front of him and limit his shots. It worked to a degree.
“We did some things that are uncharacteristic to how we normally play,” Lottich said. “We limited him to 11 shots, but he made eight of them. He scores as effortlessly as anyone I’ve seen in this league. He’s a pro.”
With Valpo spending so much effort on shutting down Mosley, Black got hot and knocked down three 3-pointers in rapid order. Minnett snapped out of a recent slump as well and both players finished with five 3-pointers on the day. The only player the Beacons seemingly had luck shutting down was Donovan Clay. The former Valpo player missed all three of his shots, but he did add 11 rebounds and five assists.
Ben Krikke scored 16 of his 20 points in the first half to lead the Beacons (11-14, 4-9) while Kobe King and Sheldon Edwards each scored 11 points. King and Kevion Taylor each shot 2-11 from the floor and Taylor to failed to knock down a 3-pointer for just the second time this season.
Valparaiso did have a great deal of success from the free throw line as the Beacons shot at a 92.6 percent clip (25-27). The 25 made free throws were the most in a game that ended in regulation against a Division I team since Valpo hit 28 against UNC-Wilmington on Nov. 25, 2017.
With Ruedinger and DeAveiro both picking up two fouls in the first half, Lottich went with a lineup that featured Edwards running the point for the final 2:54 before halftime. The Beacons scored nine points during that stretch and Lottich made the move to start Edwards at the beginning of the second half. The lineup wasn’t as efficient at that point, but Lottich said after the game that he’d definitely be looking at the tape to see if there are opportunities to move Edwards around the floor.
Valparaiso, Illinois State and Indiana State are all tied at 4-9. The Beacons swept the Sycamores this season while splitting with the Redbirds. Indiana State rallied to steal a victory over Illinois State on Saturday and the two will meet in the regular-season finale on Feb. 26.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m shortchanging the Valparaiso women’s basketball team by simply including them in “Beacon Bits” today, but I did my coverage for this game on Twitter today (@NWIOren). The Beacons put forth a valiant effort at the Athletics-Recreation Center before falling 85-80 to league-leading Illinois State. Carie Weinman, the subject of Saturday morning’s feature at The Victory Bell, led Valpo with 22 points on 10 shots. Grace White had 19 points and eight rebounds while Leah Earnest delivered 10 points and six rebounds. JuJu Redmond led the Redbirds with 37 points and she made all 11 of her free throws.
Caitlin Morrison (elbow) missed the game due to injury, but she’s not expected to be out long term. Earnest won the opening tipoff in Morrison’s place. Needing to replace nearly 20 minutes of court time, Valparaiso coach Mary Evans called on Lauren Gunn and the sophomore delivered. Gunn had four points and four rebounds in 15 minutes and threw the entire kitchen sink at Redmond defensively down the stretch in the fourth quarter while the Beacons were charging back into the game.
This is going to wrap up the first full week of coverage at The Victory Bell. Between covering four games, writing 10 stories and working nearly around the clock to spread the word of the site, I’m taking tomorrow off. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to those who have subscribed. For those that have made a financial contribution to the site, I can’t thank you enough. See you next week.