This game was a physical struggle as clearly shown when neither team could score in the first three minutes when a strong drive by Langston Morris-Walker got him two free throws which he split for the first points of the game. Both sides were getting into each other, which goes against the current NCAA push to get more handchecking fouls to increase offense. These refs were letting them play though.
A huge part of the OSU defense early on was the long arm of Drew Eubanks. He had at least three blocks in the first ten minutes and altered several more at the rim. Valpo was getting too much penetration though and it was starting to confuse the Beaver defenders on their assignments. They also used sharp perimeter passing to open the Beaver defense for three consecutive threes to open up a 15-8 lead on the Beavers.
Some nice plays kept the Beavers in it, Stephen Thompson Jr. on the break for an and 1 after a great outlet pass from Eubanks and a nice alley-oop to Payton but the Crusaders kept the pressure on and the Beavers never could get their offense in gear. Few driving lanes were open and they were also closing down on the passing lanes. This led to very few easy baskets and lots of hard attempts through contact. Valpo rode that through a couple of OSU runs to grow the lead to 9 points at the half 34-25.
When both teams came back out of the locker rooms it was even more of the same though. The Crusaders were cutting a swath through the Beaver defense with smart drives and some inside out play to really move the Beaver defenders, running the lead out to 15. The full team play of Valpo seemed to befuddle the Beavers and even shots they should have made around the basket wouldn't fall.
To their credit the Beavers kept fighting they punched the lead back down to 11 with 11:00 left on the clock which forced a Valpo time-out. It was not enough however as the Beavers cold not string together stops or rebounds. There were some possessions where the Beavers allowed several offensive rebounds in the late stages of the game. In the end Valpo was the smarter and stronger team, although they had some late game blunders themselves. With some late OSU hustle they brought the score back to
No one should question the effort by the Beavers as they were hustling and trying but they looked lost. The freshmen looked the most out of it in this game. Tres Tinkle had several occasions where he was unable to finish through contact and was getting banged around. Eubanks also had a rough game when he was being targeted instead of being allowed to help from the weakside. Gligorije Rakocevic came in and had some success in his individual matchups but was unable to give the same rim protection that Eubanks offered.
If the score had gone the other way Gary Payton II would have been the hero. He maybe pressed too much, but on a night when most of his teammates seemed shellshocked he was rearing to go. His game consisted primarily of putbacks and hard drives, but he was the only one that was able to get his own offense going when the team was sputtering.
In the end the Beavers lost to a team that massively outplayed them. There is a lot of growing up to do still, coach Tinkle has his work cut out for him, but hopefully this game shows the young players what they need to work towards.