In a neck-and-neck second half game Thursday night, No. 7-seeded Valparaiso University slipped past University of Evansville 58-55, advancing to the quarterfinals against No. 2-seeded Loyola Friday night.
After Valparaiso took a small lead into halftime, momentum changed with 11:39 left in the game — Evansville took the lead from Valparaiso 40-39. The lead didn’t last more than 29 seconds as the Crusaders pulled through. The two teams see-sawed until the Crusaders took the lead for the remaining 5:56.
Despite several opportunities to tie, senior guard K.J. Riley cost the Purple Aces their chance at their first victory over an MVC school this season, missing a free throw that would’ve tied the game and send it into overtime. Evansville hasn’t won a game since its bout against Murray State University Dec. 21.
“We didn’t play great,” said Valparaiso head coach Matt Lottich. “We’re going to have to play better to win tomorrow, but we played well enough and tough enough to get a win, and we’ll take it.”
First-year guard Donovan Clay led Valparaiso with 16 points and seven rebounds. First-year forward Ben Krikke also tallied double digits with his own 10 points.
The second game of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament determined which team Loyola would face in its first game of the event, better known as Arch Madness.
“We’ve done a lot of scouting work on Loyola already,” Lottich said. “We’re going to meet and put together our scout, put together our game plan and share it with the guys in the morning and tip it up and play.”
Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. Friday and will be broadcast on ESPN+.