The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team matched its program record for consecutive home wins at the ARC on Saturday afternoon with its 20th straight home victory as the Crusaders opened Horizon League play with a 75-47 win over UIC.
The Crusaders have not lost at the ARC since Dec. 6, 2014 and won their 20th consecutive home game with Saturday’s win over the Flames, matching the mark set over the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons. Out of the 20 straight home wins, 12 of them have come by double figures, while Saturday’s win was the ninth by at least 20 points during that stretch.
It was a balanced offensive effort and trademark standout defense which got the job done for Valpo on Saturday afternoon. Senior Keith Carter (Maywood, Ill./Proviso East [Saint Louis]) led the Crusaders in the scoring column for the first time this year, going 5-of-8 from the field and hitting three 3-pointers in a 15-point effort, while also adding four assists and three steals.
Junior Shane Hammink (Millingen aan de Rijn, Netherlands/Oakley College [LSU]) scored in double figures for the second straight game, scoring 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting off the bench. Junior Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington) finished with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting while pulling down nine rebounds as well. Senior Darien Walker (Chicago, Ill./Simeon [John A. Logan/Arizona Western]) rounded out the quartet of Crusaders in double figures with 11 points, while sophomore David Skara (Zadar, Croatia/Ekonomska Skola Zadar) made his first start of the year and added nine points.
Meanwhile, the Valpo defense – which ended non-league play ranked among the top-10 in the nation in scoring defense and third in the country in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency – was stellar as can be to open league play, limiting UIC to just 47 points on 30.5% shooting from the field. No Flames player scored in double figures as senior Vashil Fernandez (Kingston, Jamaica/Princeton Day [Md.] Academy) anchored the defense with six blocked shots and a season-best 13 rebounds.
The Crusaders never trailed on Saturday, but used a mid-first half run to pull away from the Flames. The Valpo advantage was 16-10 at the halfway mark of the opening period before the Crusaders limited UIC to just two points over a span of eight minutes. The resulting run was a 16-2 spurt with five different Valpo players scoring, led by five points from Hammink, as the Crusaders pushed their lead to 20 points late in the first half. The halftime advantage would be 37-20 for the Crusaders.
Skara hit a 3-pointer on Valpo’s opening possession of the second half as the Crusaders scored five straight points out of the gate. UIC would get no closer than 17 points the rest of the way, and Valpo would put away the Flames with a spurt of 10 points in four offensive possessions late in the second half, including 3-pointers by Carter and junior Jubril Adekoya (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew).
Valpo finished the game shooting 46.3% from the field and was 8-of-17 from downtown, its fourth straight game hitting at least 40% from deep. The Crusaders also out-rebounded UIC (2-10, 0-1 Horizon) by a 43-34 margin, paced by the efforts of Fernandez and Peters on the glass. The Flames received a team-high eight points from Lance Whitaker.
Valparaiso (11-3, 1-0 Horizon) heads on the road for the Michigan swing of Horizon League play next weekend, starting with a Friday night showdown with Oakland in Rochester, Mich. Tipoff is slated for 6 p.m. CT and the game can be seen live on ESPN2. As always, all the action can be heard live on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) as well, with links for the live video, audio and stats available via ValpoAthletics.com.