Freshmen Thrive in Home Debut as Valpo Bests Judson
Freshmen Jacob Ognacevic (Sheboygan, Wis. / Sheboygan Area Lutheran) and Connor Barrett (Chicago, Ill. / Loyola Academy) finished as the top two scorers and combined for 37 points in their first collegiate home game on Sunday afternoon. The duo helped the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team down Judson 85-45 at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Fellow rookie Sheldon Edwards (West Palm Beach, Fla. / Palm Beach Lakes [TLAP Sports Academy]) also reached double figures on a day where the freshman class carried the bulk of the scoring load as the Brown & Gold entered the win column for the first time this season.
How It Happened
- Valpo got off to a slow start, as Judson owned a 16-12 lead with 11:50 remaining in the first half. The hosts roared back with the next 10 points, a run that culminated with a fast-break layup by Donovan Clay (Alton, Ill. / Alton) at the 7:41 mark to put Valpo up 22-16.
- The Eagles closed to within three, but a seven-point spurt capped by a Nick Robinson (Chicago, Ill. / Kenwood [Saint Joseph’s]) triple made it 29-19 with 4:36 to go in the half.
- Barrett caught fire just before halftime, draining three 3s in the final three minutes. His lift helped Valpo to a 39-23 advantage at the intermission.
- Eron Gordon (Indianapolis, Ind. / Cathedral [Seton Hall]) and Ognacevic got in on the 3-point act as both connected from distance in the first six minutes of the second half, helping Valpo open up a 50-33 lead.
- Barrett hit another 3 with 11:51 remaining to expand the lead all the way to 21 at 56-35, then it was Ognacevic’s turn to shine midway through the second half. The Wisconsin native buried a three on one possession, then went strong to the rim for a dazzling dunk with 8:41 remaining to widen the lead to 24.
- All three freshmen continued to make big contributions for the remainder of the second half, with Ognacevic finishing with 16 points in the second half alone. Edwards had eight points after halftime, and Barrett drained two more 3s to finish with five.
Inside the Game
- Four Valpo players finished in double figures, with sophomore Ben Krikke (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada / Jasper Place) joining the rookie trio with 10. He did so on 5-of-9 shooting.
- Barrett’s five 3s helped him to a personal-best 17 points. He and Ognacevic also led the team in rebounding with six apiece.
- Ognacevic finished with 20 on 7-of-11 shooting and a pair of steals. All three freshmen achieved season highs in scoring, as Edwards finished with 10.
- Valpo held Judson to 34.6 percent shooting and just 21.1 percent (4-of-19) from 3-point distance. It was the first time Valpo held an opponent under 50 points since the 55-38 win over Southern Illinois on Feb. 12 of last season.
- Barrett became the first Valpo player to make five 3s in a game since Ryan Fazekas did it on March 6 vs. Loyola in last year’s MVC Tournament. In addition, he became the first Valpo freshman to sink five 3s in a contest since Alec Peters on Feb. 22, 2014 vs. Youngstown State.
- Valpo won its home opener for the 16th consecutive season. In 14 of those 16 victories, Valpo has prevailed by double figures.
- Ognacevic became the second Valpo player with seven made field goals in a game this season, matching Mileek McMillan’s output from the game against Vanderbilt.
- This marks the second straight year Valpo had a game where three freshmen reached double figures, as Ben Krikke (18), Donovan Clay (16) and Sigurd Lorange (11) did so last season vs. Trinity Christian. Before that, the team hadn’t featured three rookies in double figures in a single game since Nov. 30, 2013, when Alec Peters (13), Clay Yeo (11) and Lexus Williams (11) all surpassed the 10-point threshold vs. Cincinnati Christian.
- Nick Robinson (Chicago, Ill. / Kenwood [Saint Joseph’s]) chipped in nine points off the bench, while Steven Helm (Valparaiso, Ind. / Valparaiso [Carroll]) dished out a team-high five assists in his home debut. Helm scored three points, the first of his career at the Division-I level and his first in a Valpo uniform.
- Tyler Fricke (Arlington Heights, Ill. / Buffalo Grove) made his collegiate debut and converted a pair of free throws for his first collegiate points.
- The Dec. 6 home opener was Valpo’s latest since 1977, a 94-87 double-overtime win over Carthage.
- Valpo has won each of its last four home games dating back to last season. All four wins have come by 12 points or more.
- Valpo has won six straight nonconference home games dating back to Dec. 17, 2018 vs. Ball State.
- Freshmen accounted for 49 points, 57.6 percent of the team’s scoring, in Sunday’s win.
Valpo (1-3) will play a second consecutive home game on Wednesday at 6 p.m. against SIUE. The contest will be broadcast on ESPN3 and on WVUR 95.1 FM Valparaiso and the TuneIn app. Links to live coverage will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.