In the midst of many victories at the ARC over the last 28 years, one thing has eluded the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team since beating Notre Dame in December of 1988: a home victory over a nationally-ranked opponent. But that changed Tuesday night at the ARC, as the Crusaders – behind 27 points and a game-sealing blocked shot by senior Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington) – took down #21/25 Rhode Island in front of a raucous home crowd by a 65-62 final.
The win also marked the Crusaders’ first victory overall against a nationally-ranked foe in their last 41 tries. The last Valpo win over a top-25 team came in the first round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament, when the Crusaders famously knocked off Ole Miss.
How It Happened
- Senior Jubril Adekoya (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) got Valpo off to a fast start Tuesday, scoring the Crusaders’ first seven points as Valpo led for the game’s first 11 minutes.
- Rhode Island took its first lead with 8:40 to play in the first half, but could not pull ahead by more than five points at 21-16 with 7:39 left in the half.
- Trailing 28-24 with 3:05 remaining in the opening period, the Crusaders scored seven of the half’s final nine points – including a pair of free throws by Peters with two seconds left on the clock which gave Valpo a 31-30 advantage at the break.
- Rhode Island took the lead briefly early in the second half, but back-to-back baskets from Peters returned the lead to the Crusaders for good.
- What was a one-score game for most of the first 10 minutes of the half got extended to Valpo’s largest advantage around the midway point thanks to holding the Rams scoreless for over three and a half minutes. Peters connected on four free throws in that stretch, while a fast-break 3-point play from Adekoya made it 50-42 Crusaders with 8:55 to play.
- The teams traded buckets over the next few minutes, as Rhode Island would actually score on seven straight trips down the court. But the Crusaders refused to let the Rams cut too far into the lead, as Peters scored on a pair of drives and a mid-range jumper – the last basket making it 62-56 Valpo with 1:44 remaining.
- A tip-in basket for Hassan Martin was followed by a Valpo turnover, but the Rams missed a 3-pointer on their ensuing possession and senior Shane Hammink (Millingen aan de Rijn, Netherlands/Oakley College [LSU]) connected on two free throws to push the lead back to 64-58 with 35 seconds to go.
- But Rhode Island scored four points in six seconds to make it just a two-point game, taking advantage of a Crusader turnover off the inbounds following a Jared Terrell basket and getting a tip-in from EC Matthews to make it 64-62 with 21 seconds to go.
- The Rams actually had the ball with a chance to tie with 16 seconds left, as Hassan Martin was fouled after grabbing a Crusader miss. Bur Martin would miss the front end of the one-and-one, and junior Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) came up with the clutch rebound.
- Adekoya was fouled with 10 seconds to play, but only split the two free throws, giving Rhode Island one final chance to tie. But the Rams’ only option on their final play was a last-second heave from Jarvis Garrett – one which was blocked by Peters to secure the big victory.
Inside the Game
- The Crusaders have now won 10 straight games at the ARC and 37 of their last 39 in the friendly confines.
- Rhode Island was the first nationally-ranked team to visit the ARC since Purdue in December of 2010 and the first ranked squad from outside the state of Indiana since Marquette in November of 2006.
- Valpo improved to 7-1 on the year with the win, matching the program’s best eight-game start since the 1944-45 team opened the year with 11 consecutive victories.
- Peters continued his early-season domination, scoring 27 points on 8-of-17 shooting from the field and 10-of-10 from the foul line while also leading the Crusaders with nine rebounds. The senior has scored at least 20 points in each of Valpo’s first eight games of the year.
- Peters was one of four Crusaders in double figures, joined by Adekoya, Hammink and Walker. Adekoya went 5-for-8 from the floor in a 13-point effort and also added four rebounds.
- Hammink was a perfect 6-of-6 from the foul line to finish with 10 points, while Walker needed just six field goal attempts (5-of-6) to close the night with 10 points and seven rebounds.
- The Crusaders went to the inside game as much as possible, taking just 10 3-point attempts on the night and just two in the second half.
- Valpo continued its strong early-season work at the foul line, going 18-of-21 (85.7%) as a team.
- The Crusaders won on Tuesday despite committing 17 turnovers. Rhode Island committed eight fewer turnovers, but Valpo was outscored in points off turnovers by just five points.
- Terrell led Rhode Island (5-2) with 21 points and made a trio of 3-pointers. Valpo limited Rhode Island to just 23.5% (4-of-17) shooting from behind the 3-point line.
Thoughts From Head Coach Matt Lottich
“As we reflect on the game, one of the things we always talk about is being resilient. Tonight, against an extremely good team that is going to win a lot of games, our guys continued to push the envelope. Continued to be aggressive, continued to fight for every loose ball. We played very tough. We want that to be an identity of our team, and I think it was tonight. The crowd gave us an extra boost. They were fantastic. I’m proud of the competitiveness and the effort from top to bottom.”
On beating a nationally ranked opponent: “It’s a big win for us. We’re very grateful that they came here. I’m thankful for them to do that. For us, we talk about the process and keep taking positive steps forward. It’s a great victory. We’re going to celebrate it, but we want to keep moving forward. We have some long-term goals, and every day we’re working toward those goals.”
On Peters’ ability to score in key moments: “We always talk about not shying away from the moment. It’s very evident that Alec wants the ball in those moments. He’s not afraid to take those shots, and we rely on him to take and make those shots. It takes a team effort to get him the ball in those spots, and then he makes the right reads.”
On being surrounded by student body on court after the game: “It’s incredible. This is what college athletics does. It brings the university together, the community together. We’re really proud to play here. It’s a privilege to be a member of the university and represent the university in a basketball game of this caliber tonight.”
The Crusaders (7-1) have over a week away from competition until making the trip to Lexington, Ky. to take on the nation’s top-ranked team in Kentucky. The game can be seen live on the SEC Network, and as always, heard live on the Valpo Sports Network (WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso; WVLP, 103.1 FM, Valparaiso). Links for the live video, audio and stats will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.