Valparaiso (7-1, 0-0 Horizon)
Game #9 - Wednesday, Dec. 7 - 7 p.m. CT
at #6/7 Kentucky (7-1, 0-0 SEC)
Rupp Arena (23,500) - Lexington, Ky.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Fresh off of its first victory over a nationally-ranked opponent in over 18 years, the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team faces another stern test Wednesday evening, as the Crusaders make the trip to Lexington, Ky. for the first time to face #6/7 Kentucky. The matchup is Valpo’s third with a top-25 team in the season’s first nine games.
Last Time Out: 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 – took down #21/25 Rhode Island in front of a raucous home crowd by a 65-62 final.
Following the Crusaders: TV – SEC Network – Tom Hart (PxP), Tony Delk (Analyst) and Tara Petrolino (Sidelines)
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: The only previous meeting between the Crusaders and the Wildcats came in the first round of the 2002 NCAA Tournament - an 83-68 Kentucky victory. Raitis Grafs paced Valpo with 21 points and eight rebounds in the losing effort, while the Wildcats were led by 21 points and six rebounds from Keith Bogans.
...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 Rhode Island
- 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.
- Alec 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.
- Peters was one of four Crusaders in double figures, joined by Jubril Adekoya, Shane Hammink and Tevonn Walker.
- 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 despite committing 17 turnovers. Rhode Island committed eight fewer turnovers, but Valpo was outscored in points off turnovers by just five points.
...notes from Ball State
- Valpo finished Sunday’s victory with 17 steals, forcing a total of 23 BSU turnovers. The 17 steals were just two off the program’s single-game record and are third-most in a single game in program history.
- Lexus Williams led the way with six steals, while Jubril Adekoya and Shane Hammink tallied four steals each.
- On the offensive side of the ball, Alec Peters led the way with 23 points – including his second consecutive 11-for-12 effort from the foul line.
- Hammink scored in double figures for the sixth time in seven games, finishing with 16 points, while Williams added 14 points and Tevonn Walker 11.
- The Crusaders continued to struggle shooting the 3-pointer at home this year, finishing just 4-for-17 from behind the arc, but also continued their tremendous early-season success at the foul line, going 21-of-25.
- Valpo scored 21 points off of the 23 Ball State turnovers, while the Cardinals scored just 10 points off of 14 Crusader turnovers.
- Valpo wraps up its brief two-game road trip with a visit to Missouri State Saturday night.
- The Crusaders will then take finals week off from competition before returning to the court at the ARC Dec. 17 versus in-state foe Indiana State.
...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 and is currently 0-1, having fallen earlier this year at Oregon.
- The Wildcats enter Wednesday’s game sixth nationally in the AP poll and seventh in the coaches poll, with an identical 7-1 record to Valpo.
- Kentucky suffered a rare home loss last time out, falling at Rupp Arena to UCLA, 97-92.
- Four Wildcats average in double figures, led by 19.9 points per game from Malik Monk. Bam Adebayo adds 12 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
Sitting at 7-1
- Last week’s win over Rhode Island moved the Crusaders to 7-1 this year, matching their best eight-game start since the 1944-45 squad won its first 11 games.
- Valpo last started 7-1 through eight games just two years ago, as the 2014-15 team won eight of its first nine games.
- The Crusaders have alrso recently been 7-1 through eight games in 2007-08 [started 10-1], 1998-99 [started 8-1] and 1996-97 [started 7-1].
Taking on Ranked Teams
- Valpo snapped a 40-game winless streak against nationally-ranked opposition last time out with the win over Rhode Island.
- The Crusaders had not taken down a top-25 opponent since their win over Ole Miss in the first round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament.
- Prior to last Tuesday’s win, Valpo had not earned a home win over a top-25 team since beating Notre Dame in December of 1988.
- Wednesday’s matchup with Kentucky is the Crusaders’ third meeting with a top-25 team in the season’s first nine games.
- Valpo has not faced three ranked opponents in non-league action since playing versus #6/4 North Carolina, #2/2 Michigan State and #5/5 Purdue in the first nine games of the 2009-10 campaign.
- Valpo actually opened Horizon League play in that stretch as well that season against #23/20 Butler, giving the Crusaders four early games versus ranked opposition.
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 first coach to start his Valpo career with a 7-1 record since Wilbur Allen started off the 1949-50 season by winning seven of the season’s first eight games.
Peters’ Hot Start
- Eight games into the season, Alec Peters has scored at least 20 points in all eight games and is averaging 25.4 points/game - good for second nationally.
- Peters is also pulling down 9.1 rebounds/game and has recorded three double-doubles - he has recorded at least eight rebounds in seven of Valpo’s eight 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 been named Horizon League Player of the Week each of the last two weeks, giving him seven career weekly honors from the league.
- Peters has moved into second place in program history and is now 17th in Horizon League history in career scoring with 1,885 career points.
- Peters currently ranks fifth among all active players in career scoring, while his 113 consecutive games started is best among all D-I players.
- For a full list of where Peters currently ranks in Horizon League and Valpo history, see the box on page four of the notes.
Glance at the Rankings
- Following the victory over Rhode Island, the Crusaders are receiving votes in both national top-25 polls this week.
- Valpo picked up seven points from four different voters this week in the AP poll and also received one point in the coaches poll.
- It marked Valpo’s first appearance in the others receiving votes this season in the AP poll, while the Crusaders had picked up two points in the preseason coaches poll.
- Last season saw Valpo reach program high-water marks in both polls on Jan. 18, when it received 30 points in the AP poll and 16 in the coaches poll.
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.
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.
- 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, Alec Peters attempted 29 shots versus the Trolls - the most by a Crusader in at least 22 years.
- The Crusaders’ 17 steals against Ball State as a team were third-most in a single game in program history, just two shy of the record of 19 (vs. Centenary, 12/10/88)
- Williams picked up six steals against the Cardinals, tied for fourth-most in a game by a single player.
- 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 entered the 2016-17 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.