Following this weekend’s pattern of upsets, Valparaiso University clinched its spot in the Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball tournament championship game, beating Missouri State University 89-82 Saturday night. The Crusaders are the first No. 7 seed to ever make it to the finals.
The teams were back and forth throughout the first half, but Missouri State’s last lead of the game came with 3:01 left before halftime — the Crusaders held a narrow 40-38 lead at the break. The Bears managed to tie the score early in the second half, but they were never able to surpass Valparaiso.
Sophomore guard Javon Freeman-Liberty led the Crusaders with 29 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Senior guard John Kiser was the next-highest scorer with 17 points.
Missouri State senior guard Keandre Cook led the Bears with 26 points.
The Saturday night game was the highest scoring contest in this year’s tournament. Previously, no team had reached 80 points in a game, a mark both Valparaiso and Missouri State eclipsed in the semifinal.
Valparaiso will be the first team in the history of Arch Madness — as the tournament is nicknamed — to play all four days.
Valparaiso is set to play No. 4-seeded Bradley University in the championship game Sunday at 1 p.m. The game will be broadcast on CBS.