Facing a gauntlet of games in quantity over the opening week unlike any team in the nation, and even unlike any NBA team in the same week’s time span, the Valparaiso men’s basketball team closed with an easy win over Trinity Christian at the ARC Thursday night, downing the Trolls by an 89-42 final.
The win moved Valpo to 5-0 just seven days into the 2015-16 campaign, a mark matched by no other Division I team and a stretch of seven days that saw no NBA team play more than four games in the same stretch. The 5-0 start is the Crusaders’ first since the 1998-99 team opened with five consecutive wins en route to its fifth straight Mid-Con title.
Valpo returned to its usual starting five on Thursday, including the return of senior Darien Walker (Chicago, Ill./Simeon [John A. Logan/Arizona Western]) to the lineup following an ankle injury. Walker looked better than ever on Thursday, scoring a game-high 20 points – just one off his career high – and tying for team-high honors with 10 rebounds for his second career double-double.
Three other starters finished in double figures despite playing limited minutes as well. Senior Vashil Fernandez (Kingston, Jamaica/Princeton Day [Md.] Academy) went 5-of-6 from the floor for 11 points and also pulled down 10 rebounds for his fourth career double-double. Sophomore Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) and junior Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington) each finished with 10 points despite playing just 15 and 18 minutes, respectively.
The bench got into the act as well, with sophomores Lexus Williams (Chicago, Ill./Marist) and Max Joseph (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) scoring nine points each. In all, Valpo shot 54.8% from the floor on Thursday and out-scored the Trolls in the paint, 54-14, and in points off the bench, 33-10.
Trinity Christian, an NAIA school which was playing the game as an exhibition, attempted to stay within striking distance early, hitting four 3-pointers in the first 10 minutes as the score was 27-16 a quarter of the way through the game. But Valpo would go on a 14-1 run over the next six minutes to push the lead above 20 points, and the halftime lead would be 48-27. The Crusaders scored 11 straight to open the second half to put the game away, and even the final group of Williams, Joseph, Darien Walker, Nick Davidson (Munster, Ind./Andrean) and Chandler Levingston Simon (Vernon Hills, Ill./Stevenson [UMKC]) out-scored the Trolls 22-7 over the final 10 minutes.
The Trolls were led by 17 points from Jordan Perry, while Caleb Jonkman hit three 3-pointers in a 10-point effort. Ryan Tubbs handed out a game-best six assists off the bench.
Valparaiso (5-0) gets a brief chance to breathe before facing a top-25 test on Sunday, as the Crusaders fly out to Eugene, Ore. to take on #25/RV Oregon. The game can be seen live on the Pac-12 Networks, and as always, heard live on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso). Links for the live coverage will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.