Valparaiso (3-0, 0-0 Horizon)
Game #4 - Thursday, Nov. 17 - 8 p.m. CT
at #4/4 Oregon (1-1, 0-0 Pac-12)
Matthew Knight Arena (12,364) - Eugene, Ore.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team hits the road for the first time this season, traveling to take on a top-five Oregon squad Thursday night in Eugene. The matchup with the Ducks starts a stretch where the Crusaders will play five of their next seven games away from home.
Last Time Out: Behind career-high scoring performances from senior Shane Hammink and junior Max Joseph, Valpo improved to 3-0 just four days into the 2016-17 season with a 78-58 victory over Coppin State at the ARC Monday night. Hammink led all players with 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field, while Joseph broke his career high for the second time in the season’s first three games, going 6-of-7 for 15 points.
Following the Crusaders: TV – Pac-12 Network – Rich Burk (PxP) and Matt Muehlebach (Analyst)
Radio – Valpo Sports Network [WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso); WVLP (103.1 FM, Valparaiso)] - Todd Ickow (PxP) and Aaron Leavitt (Analyst)
Links for the video, audio and live stats will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Matt Lottich: Matt Lottich is in his first season at the helm of the Valparaiso University men’s basketball program in 2016-17 after being named the 22nd head coach in program history on April 7. Lottich previously served as an assistant coach for the last three seasons, helping Valpo earn 78 victories - including a school-record 30 last season - and a pair of Horizon League regular season titles.
Series Notes: Thursday night’s game is the second meeting all-time between Valpo and Oregon, and also the second in less than a calendar year, as the two programs met in Eugene last season as well on Nov. 22. In that matchup, the Crusaders led at halftime and still were ahead with six minutes to play before a six-minute scoring drought gave Oregon control en route to a 73-67 final. Tevonn Walker led four Valpo players in double figures with 14 points, while Dillon Brooks paced the Ducks with 26 points.
...and the @HorizonLeague
- Valpo was picked to win the Horizon League in preseason polling, earning 35 of the 39 first-place votes.
- The Crusaders have not finished worse than their preseason projection in the last six years.
- Senior Alec Peters was named the league’s Preseason Player of the Year, Valpo’s first league preseason player of the year since Lubos Barton (2001-02, Mid-Con).
- Senior Shane Hammink joined Peters as a preseason All-League choice, earning a spot on the Second Team.
...looking back at last year
- The 2015-16 Crusader squad won a school-record 30 games, finishing the year 30-7.
- Valpo claimed the Horizon League regular season title by going 16-2 in league play, winning the league by three games.
- The Crusaders were the first Horizon League team to win the league title by at least three games since 2009-10.
- The regular season title was Valpo’s fourth in a five-year span, a feat accomplished only by Butler and Xavier previously within the league.
- Valpo set new Horizon League records in league-only play for scoring margin, rebounds, rebounding average and rebound margin.
- The Crusaders received an automatic bid into the NIT and were awarded a 1 seed as one of the First Four Out of the NCAA Tournament.
- Valpo defeated Texas Southern, Florida State and Saint Mary’s at the ARC to advance to the semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
- The Crusaders beat BYU in a thriller at MSG before falling in the championship game of the NIT to George Washington.
- Vashil Fernandez led the nation in blocked shots, was named National Defensive Player of the Year and repeated as Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year.
- Alec Peters was an AP Honorable Mention All-American and earned a spot on the All-Horizon League First Team for a second straight year.
- Bryce Drew repeated as Horizon League Coach of the Year.
... notes from Coppin State
- After facing a 16-point first-half deficit in the previous game, Valpo scored just 24 seconds into the game against the Eagles and never trailed.
- Valpo got new career-best scoring efforts from Shane Hammink (23 points) and Max Joseph (15 points).
- The Crusaders continued to struggle shooting the ball, but continued their excellent free throw shooting, hitting 17-of-21 (81%) from the foul line.
- Valpo limited Coppin State to just 29.8% shooting from the field and 3-of-20 shooting from behind the 3-point line.
...notes from Trinity Christian
- Lexus Williams tied a program single-game record with seven steals, last accomplished in 1999 by Milo Stovall and also accomplished by Bryce Drew.
- Alec Peters came up three points shy of his career high, finishing with 36 points - his seventh career 30+ point effort.
- Peters also matched his career high with 15 rebounds, while Shane Hammink picked up his first double-double and set a career best with 10 boards.
- Valpo scored 50 of its 89 points in the paint, as the Crusaders struggled from outside - hitting just 5-of-27 3-point attempts.
...notes from Southern Utah
- The Crusaders strugged shooting the ball versus SUU, but were stellar at the foul line, going 33-for-37 - the 33 made free throws were the team’s most in a single game since hitting 36 at Detroit in January of 2014.
- Peters tied a career high by making 13 free throws, going 13-of-14 from the stripe.
- Max Joseph set a new career high with 13 points off the bench, leading the way as the Crusaders outscored the Thunderbirds, 22-0, in points from bench players.
- Valpo travels to Las Vegas next for the MGM Grand Main Event, facing Alabama on Monday and then either Saint Louis or BYU on Wednesday.
...on the road
- Valpo enters this season having posted a winning record in true road games three of the last four years, after having not done so the previous 10 seasons.
- Last year, the Crusaders posted a 12-4 record in true road games - including an 8-1 mark on the road in Horizon League play.
- This year’s team has just three true road games on the slate during non-league action.
- Oregon enters Thursday’s game at 1-1 on the year, most recently falling at Baylor by a 66-49 final on Tuesday afternoon.
- Through two games, Tyler Dorsey leads the Ducks in scoring, averaging 15 points per game.
- Dillon Brooks has not played this season yet for Oregon due to injury.
- The Ducks finished last season with a 31-7 overall record, including a 14-4 mark in Pac-12 action, and advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
Starting on a Winning Note
- Head coach Matt Lottich became the first Crusader coach in 36 years to open his head coaching tenure at Valpo with a win with the victory over SUU.
- Tom Smith was the last Valpo head coach to start his Crusader career with a win, winning three straight in six days at home to open the 1980-81 campaign.
- The Drews all faced tough competition in their head coaching debuts at Valpo: Homer at Butler, Scott at eventual national champion Syracuse, and Bryce at Arizona.
- With a win on Thursday, Lottich would become the first Valpo coach to begin his career 4-0 since the legendary Gene Bartow won his first five games in charge of the Crusaders in 1964-65.
- Valpo won each of its first three games of the season by double figures, a feat not accomplished by a Crusader squad in nearly 50 years.
- The last Valpo team to earn double-digit wins in the season’s first three games was the 1967-68 team, which earned wins over Saint Procopius (110-85), Hope (79-61) and Carthage (89-68).
Rallying for the Win
- The Crusaders faced a 16-point first-half deficit in their eventual win over Trinity Christian on Saturday.
- It was the first time Valpo overcame a double-digit deficit for a victory since being down 10 in the Horizon League title game versus Green Bay in March of 2015.
- It marked the Crusaders’ largest come-from-behind win since rallying from 22 points down in the second half at Detroit in January of 2013.
A Look at the Record Book
- Senior Alec Peters enters Thursday’s game against Oregon within striking distance of second place in program history for career scoring.
- Peters enters the game with 1,761 career points, just 19 away from Dan Oppland in third position and 24 shy of Tracy Gipson in the second spot.
- Lexus Williams matched the program’s single-game steals record with seven against Trinity Christian.
- Williams tied a record previously shared by Milo Stovall (Dec. 12, 1999 - Texas A&M-CC) and Bryce Drew (Dec. 7, 1996 - Milwaukee).
- Meanwhile, Peters attempted 29 shots versus the Trolls - the most by a Crusader in at least 22 years.
- Peters has continued his move up other Crusader career charts early in the season, most notably on the rebounding chart, where he has passed Kikas Gomes and Urule Igbavboa for sixth in Valpo history with 735 boards.
- He also now ranks sixth in career field goals made (598, just eight shy of Harry Bell in fifth position) and has moved into seventh in free throws made (330).
Quick Start to the Season
- Home fans had plenty of chances to catch the Crusaders early on this season, as Valpo opened the year with three home games in four days.
- Valpo earned wins in all three games and was one of just two teams in the nation to start the year 3-0 in the season’s first four days (Loyola).
- This is the second straight season Valpo has had a lot of games early on, as last year’s squad opened the year with five games in the first seven days - including a round trip to Rhode Island.
- Last year’s team was the first D-I team in the nation to reach four and five wins, as the Crusaders won all five in the opening stretch.
- The Crusaders welcome back eight letterwinners from last season’s 30-win squad, including a pair of starters in Alec Peters and Tevonn Walker.
- In all, Valpo returns 50% of its minutes played, 57.1% of its scoring and 47.5% of its rebounding from last year.
- Five players are entering their first season of eligibility for the Crusaders this year.
- 7’2” Derrik Smits will take the court for the first time after redshirting last season due to injury.
- 6’11” Spaniard Jaume Sorolla, who most recently helped the Spain U20 squad win the 2016 FIBA U20 European Championship, and guard Micah Bradford, ranked among the top-20 players in the state of Illinois, join Valpo as scholarship freshmen.
- The Crusaders also welcome a pair of walk-ons in senior Jason Karys - a three-year team manager - and freshman John Kiser.
High Praise Entering the Year
- Despite losing nearly half their scoring from last year’s squad, this year’s Crusader team is still receiving quite a bit of national love entering the year.
- Valpo has been a near-unanimous choice to win the Horizon League among national media projections.
- The Crusaders entered the season receiving votes in the USA Today Coaches poll.
- Valpo was ranked #51 on CBS Sports’ ranking of all Division I teams, and begins the season #69 in the Ken Pomeroy ratings.
- Matt Norlander of CBS Sports named Valpo one of his teams to watch as a potential March sleeper.
Peters Garners Accolades
- Coming off of a season in which he was named an Honorable Mention All-American, Alec Peters enters this season receiving a lot of notice as one of the nation’s top players.
- Peters was tabbed a Third Team preseason All-American by Blue Ribbon Magazine and NBC Sports, among others.
- Peters earned a spot on the watch list for the Naismith Trophy and the Wooden Award, both of which are awarded to the National Player of the Year.
- In rankings of the nation’s top players, Peters ranked #16 on CBS Sports’ list and #29 on NBC Sports’ list.
- Peters is on the Karl Malone Award watch list, awarded to the nation’s top power forward, and also appears on College Insider’s Lutle Olson Award (national Player of the Year) and Lou Henson Award (national mid-major Player of the Year) watch lists.
- Peters topped Mark Adams’ list of best players in leagues covered by the American Sports Network, and was named the #1 most complete player in the nation by Bleacher Report.
- Peters was tabbed the nation’s Best Shooter by a pair of Sports Illustrated college basketball writers in their season preview materials.
The International Flavor
- This year’s squad continues the international pipeline that Valpo has cultivated over the past two decades
- The Crusaders boast four international players on this year’s roster from three different countries.
- Represented are Canada (Joseph and Walker), the Netherlands (Hammink) and Spain (Sorolla).
- Over the past 20 years, the Crusaders have welcomed 32 international players from 19 different countries.
Crusaders Sign Pair During Early Signing Period
- Valpo has signed 6’7” forward Parker Hazen from Columbia City (Ind.) H.S. and 6’8” forward Mileek McMillan from Merrillville (Ind.) H.S. to NLIs during the early signing period.
- Hazen enters his senior year ranked #7 in his class in the state of Indiana according to ESPN.
- Hazen was an Indiana Junior All-Star following last season, as he averaged 15.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game in helping the Eagles to their second straight sectional title.
- McMillan averaged nearly seven rebounds per game as a junior for a Merrillville team which went 22-2.
- McMillan stood out at the Indiana Top 80 camp in early October, as he was named the camp’s Mr. Defender.
- Three members of this year’s Crusader roster boast fathers who played at the highest level of pro basketball - in the NBA.
- Most notably, Derrik Smits’ father, Rik, played 12 seasons with the Indiana Pacers and was an All-Star.
- Chandler Levingston Simon’s father, Cliff Levingston, was an 11-year NBA vet who won two titles with the Chicago Bulls.
- Shane Hammink’s father, Geert, was a 1993 first-round draft pick who played parts of three seasons in the NBA.