#7 seed Valparaiso (14-17) (79) vs. #10 seed Evansville (6-24) (59)
Valparaiso is the newest of the current Valley members and has a 4-4 tourney record in eight previous meets coming into tonight. The Beacons joined the league in 2018 and reached the tourney finals in 2020, losing to Bradley in the title game.
Valpo this year was all alone in seventh place in the regular season standings and was 13-17 overall. The Beacons enjoyed 34-19 and 42-23 rebounds bulges in sweeping the two regular season meetings with Evansville.
The Purple Aces finished 10th in the league, winning only two of 18 MVC starts. The Aces were 6-23 for the regular season.
The Aces are 9-27 in the league tournament after having joined the Valley in 1985. The Aces lost their first game in the tourney four years in a row and have reached the title game twice, losing in 1999 to Creighton and in 2016 to UNI.
First Half Highlights
Valpo freshman guard Preston Ruedinger set the tone for the first half as he connected on three straight three-point field goal tries and three straight free throws for a dozen points in the first 5:20 minutes of the half as Valparaiso built a 16-7 lead. Ruedinger, operating with a 2.2 scoring average for the season, didn’t score again the rest of the game. The quick spurt led to a consistent half battle between the two teams as the Valpo lead stayed between 9 and 14 points throughout the initial period on the way to a 43-32 intermission lead. Valpo hit 60 percent from the field in the first half and canned 7-of-11 from three-point range. After the early nine-point deficit, Evansville could only get as close as nine once the rest of the way as they pulled within 33-24. Noah Frederking scored 10 points to lead Evansville in the first half. Evansville shot 44 percent from the floor in the first half. It was the fourth time this season Valpo scored 40 or more in the first half.
Second Half Highlights
The Purple Aces roared back after intermission as Evan Kuhlman nailed a trey in between two Evansville two-pointers and the Valpo lead was quickly slashed to four at 43-39. Valpo came back just as quickly with six straight points to move its advantage back lnto double digits at 49-39. From there, the game took a pace much as the first half with Valpo keeping its comfortable advantage. Evansville got to within seven points at 53-46 and 57-50 but the Beacons kept the threes coming as Kobe King and Sheldon Edwards connected from long range and Valparaiso had its biggest margin of the night at 16 at 73-57 with 3:14 left in the game. From there, Valpo squeezed its margin by four more points to 20 and the final score of 79-59 was the Beacons’ biggest lead of the game. Kobe King and Edwards had 18 points each for Valpo and Blake Sisley scored 13 for Evansville. Edwards, who had 12 and 11 rebounds in the first two meetings with Evansville, led tonight’s game on the boards with seven. This was the sixth time this season Valpo has had 10 or more threes but the first time in the past 12 games. It marked the sixth year in a row the No. 7 seed has advanced to the quarterfinals. Evansville still leads the all-time series vs. Valpo 72-23.