Valparaiso (3-1, 0-0 Horizon)
Game #5 - Monday, Nov. 21 - 11 p.m. CT
vs. Alabama (2-1, 0-0 SEC)
Game #6 - Wednesday, Nov. 23 - vs. BYU/Saint Louis
MGM Grand Garden Arena (17,157) - Las Vegas, Nev.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team takes part in the Men Who Speak Up Main Event in Las Vegas this week as part of the field’s Heavyweight bracket. The Crusaders will take on SEC foe Alabama Monday night before facing either BYU or Saint Louis on Wednesday.
Last Time Out: Shooting woes continued to plague the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team Thursday night in Eugene, Ore., and this time it resulted in the Crusaders’ first loss of the season, as Valpo fell by a 76-54 final at #4/4 Oregon. Late in the game, senior Alec Peters moved into a tie for second place in program history on the career scoring chart with 1,785 career points.
Following the Crusaders: Video – bdGlobal YouTube Channel Monday and if in consolation game Wednesday; ESPN2 if in championship Wednesday
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: Monday’s game against Alabama will be just the second meeting all-time between the two programs, as the Crimson Tide won the only previous matchup back in 1955. Valpo is 2-1 all-time against BYU, including a dramatic two-point victory last season in the semifinals of the NIT. The Crusaders also hold a winning record all-time versus Saint Louis at 5-4, but have not defeated the Billikens since 1982 - SLU won both ends of a home-and-home series between the two programs in 2012 and 2013.
...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 Oregon
- The Ducks were the Crusaders’ highest-ranked opponent (#4) since playing at #3 Ohio State in November of 2011.
- Valpo continued to struggle shooting the basketball, finishing the game 18-of-56 (32.1%) from the field and just 4-for-21 (19%) from 3-point range.
- A 3-pointer on the final offensive possession by Micah Bradford accounted for the Crusaders’ only bench points, as they were out-scored in that category 18-3.
- Valpo finished 14-of-14 at the foul line, the team’s most free throw makes without a miss in a single game going back to at least 1994.
- Alec Peters scored 24 points and moved into a tie for second place in program history in career scoring.
... 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.
- Following the conclusion of the Men Who Speak Up Main Event, the Crusaders return home for two games in three days.
- Valpo will host Ball State on Sunday, Nov. 27 and Rhode Island on Tuesday, Nov. 29.
...at neutral sites
- Valpo’s pair of games in Las Vegas mark the program’s only neutral-site contests until the 2017 Horizon League Championship.
- The Crusaders went 1-2 in neutral-site games last year, falling to Green Bay in the Horizon League semifinals and then splitting two games at Madison Square Garden in the NIT.
- Valpo is 3-1 all-time in Las Vegas - the Crusaders split two games in December of 2004 at Valley H.S. and won both contests at the Orleans Arena in November of 2010.
- The Crimson Tide is 2-1 to start the season, with wins over Coastal Carolina and Ball State and a loss to Dayton.
- It’s been a balanced offensive attack so far for Alabama, as six different players average between eight and 11 points per game.
- Last season, the Crimson Tide finished 18-15 and lost in the opening round of the NIT.
- The Cougars have opened the 2016-17 campaign 3-0, with home wins over Princeton, Coppin State and Coastal Carolina.
- Sophomore Eric Mika leads BYU with 21 points and 11.3 rebounds per game.
- Last season, the Cougars’ season ended at the hands of the Crusaders in the semifinals of the NIT with a 26-11 record.
- The Billikens arrive in Las Vegas with a 2-1 record, as they’ve lost to Ball State and beaten Southern Utah and Eastern Illinois.
- Davell Roby leads SLU, averaging 16.3 points per game, while Reggie Agbeko posts 16 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.
- Last season, the Billikens posted an 11-21 overall record.
Moving Up the Scoring Chart
- Senior Alec Peters leapfrogged from fourth position to a tie for the second spot on Valpo’s all-time scoring chart last time out at Oregon.
- The senior surpassed Dan Oppland for third place with the first of two free throws with 7:34 to play.
- Peters then matched Tracy Gipson at 1,785 career points for second position with his final basket – a 3-pointer with 2:03 remaining.
- Peters still has a ways to go to catch Bryce Drew for the top spot, as Drew scored 2,142 points over his four-year career.
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.
- 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
- 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 738 boards.
- He also moved into a tie for fifth in career field goals made with Harry Bell last time out (606) and has moved into seventh in free throws made (336).
- 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 in their first season of eligibility for the Crusaders this year.
- 7’2” Derrik Smits has taken the court this season 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 still received 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.