Valparaiso (5-1, 0-0 Horizon)
Game #7 - Sunday, Nov. 27 - 1:30 p.m.
Ball State (3-2, 0-0 MAC)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Fresh off of a championship win in Las Vegas, the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team returns home to the ARC for a Sunday afternoon matinee against Ball State - the first of two home games in a three-day span for Valpo. The Crusaders are looking to avenge their loss last season at the hands of the Cardinals.
Last Time Out: In a city known for hosting top-of-the-line title fights, Valpo and BYU teamed up to deliver a 12-round thriller of their own Wednesday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, and in the end, it was the Crusaders who landed the final blow to win the Heavyweight Division of the Men Who Speak Up Main Event in front of a national television audience by a final of 92-89. Alec Peters delivered a clutch basket in the final 15 seconds to secure the win, capping a 26-point, 12-rebound performance.
Following the Crusaders: Video – ESPN3 – Todd Ickow (PxP) and David Huseman (Analyst)
Radio – Valpo Sports Network [WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso); WVLP (103.1 FM, Valparaiso)]
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: Ball State holds a narrow 32-30 lead in the all-time series against the Crusaders, but in the last seven meetings over the past decade, Valpo has earned four victories against the Cardinals’ three. Last season, the two squads met in Muncie, with Ball State earning a 69-66 win over a Crusader team which was playing without a pair of injured players in Tevonn Walker and David Skara.
...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 BYU
- Wednesday night was the second time Valpo had met BYU in its last eight games, as the two squads faced off in the semifinals of last season’s NIT. Both games ended in the Crusaders’ favor by a combined five points.
- All five Valpo starters scored in double figures for the first time since the Crusaders’ home win over Oakland last season.
- Alec Peters was named Tournament MVP, scoring 26 points and grabbing 12 rebounds - he has now scored 20+ in each of the season’s first six games.
- Shane Hammink matched his career high set three games ago versus Coppin State, finishing with 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field.
- The Crusaders’ 3-point shooting continued to normalize, as Valpo hit 9-of-23 (39.1%) from beyond the arc. Valpo also hit at a 79.4% clip (27-of-34) from the charity stripe.
...notes from Alabama
- Valpo trailed for just 23 seconds in the second half, answering immediately the one time the Crimson Tide took the lead.
- The Crusaders held Alabama to just two points over a seven-minute stretch in the second half, turning a one-point deficit into an eight-point lead.
- Alec Peters finished with his second double-double of the season, leading all players with 24 points and pacing Valpo with 10 rebounds.
- Peters also was a perfect 7-for-7 from the foul line and is now 36-for-38 at the charity stripe through five games.
- Jubril Adekoya matched the best scoring output of his career against a Division I opponent, finishing with 16 points – including a 3-for-4 mark from 3-point range.
- Valpo enjoyed its best shooting night of the season from the 3-point line, going 7-of-18 (38.9%) as a team. The Crusaders limited Alabama to 41.1% shooting from the field and 28.6% shooting from 3-point range.
- The win was Valpo’s first over a current SEC team since taking down Mississippi State on a neutral court early in the 1999-2000 season.
- Valpo welcomes a top-25 Rhode Island squad to the ARC on Tuesday night.
- The Crusaders then have eight days in between games, before traveling to Lexington to take on #1 Kentucky on Wednesday, Dec. 7.
...at the ARC
- Valpo has 17 regular season home games scheduled at the ARC during the 2016-17 season and is already 3-0 at home this season.
- The Crusaders set a program record last year with 17 home victories, posting a 17-1 mark.
- Valpo has recorded a 35-2 record in home games since the start of the 2014-15 season.
- The Crusaders had a program-record 25-game home winning streak snapped Feb. 13 against Wright State, a streak which dated back to Dec. 2014.
- Over the last 21-plus years, the Crusaders own a 270-58 (.823) record on their home court at the ARC.
- The Cardinals have opened the season 3-2, including most recently wins in Las Vegas over Coppin State and Southern Utah.
- Ball State has also faced Alabama already this year as well, falling on the road to the Crimson Tide, 77-59.
- Taylor Persons (19.0 ppg, 3.6 apg) and Franko House (16.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg) lead the Cardinal offense.
Addition to the Trophy Case
- Valpo’s wins over Alabama and BYU gave the Crusaders the Heavyweight championship belt at the Men Who Speak Up Main Event.
- The title is the program’s fourth in-season championship in the last seven years.
- Valpo most recently earned the championship trophy in November 2014 at the Challenge in Music City.
- The Crusaders took home top honors in November 2010 at the Las Vegas Invitational and in December 2010 at the Lou Henson Award Tournament.
Peters’ Hot Start
- Six games into the season, Alec Peters has scored at least 20 points in all six games and is averaging 25.5 points/game - good for fifth nationally.
- Peters is also pulling down 9.3 rebounds/game and has recorded three double-doubles - he has recorded at least eight rebounds in five of Valpo’s six games.
- No college basketball player has averaged at least 25 points and nine rebounds per game for a full season since the 2007-08 campaign.
- Peters has moved into second place in program history in career scoring with 1,835 career points, just 307 away from Bryce Drew’s record of 2,142.
- Peters currently ranks fourth among all active players in career scoring, while his 111 consecutive games started is best among all D-I players.
Wins Over Power Conference Foes
- Valpo’s win over Alabama marked its third over a power conference opponent in the last two seasons.
- The Crusaders went on the road to beat Oregon State last season and then took down Florida State at the ARC in the second round of the NIT.
- Prior to last season’s win over Oregon State, Valpo had not defeated a team from the power-5 conferences since winning at Washington in the 2008 CBI.
- Nine out of Valpo’s last 12 victories over opponents out of the power-5 conferences have come on neutral courts.
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.
- Lottich is the second straight Valpo coach to begin his Crusader coaching career 5-1, as Bryce Drew did so as well to start off 2011-12 - the last previous coach to do so before Drew was Gene Bartow.
- 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).
- Already this season, the Crusaders have earned a pair of double-figure come-from-behind wins.
- Valpo trailed in the first half versus Trinity Christian by 16 points and BYU by 12 points.
- In the last two seasons, Valpo had only overcome a double-digit deficit on two occasions.
- The come-from-behind win over Trinity Christian was the Crusaders’ largest deficit overcome 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 now ranks fifth with 760 rebounds - passing Lubos Barton last time out.
- He has also moved into fifth place in career field goals made (620) and has moved into seventh in free throws made (354), while he is just three 3-pointers shy of matching Lubos Barton for third place in that category.
- 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 began 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.