The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team closed out the 2016 calendar year on a high note in opening Horizon League play with a road win Friday afternoon, taking down UIC in front of a national TV audience by a 70-59 final. The Crusaders were led by the efforts of junior Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College), who tallied 17 of his season-best 23 points in the second half.
How It Happened
- UIC led for much of the early stages of the lead, pulling out ahead by as many as five points (14-9, 12:57). But the Crusaders responded with a 10-0 run spanning the next four minutes to claim the lead for good.
- Valpo earned its largest lead of the first half at the horn for halftime, as freshman Derrik Smits (Zionsville, Ind./Zionsville) closed out a nine-point effort in the opening 20 minutes with a tip-in at the buzzer to give the Crusaders a 31-24 lead at intermission.
- With the lead cut to three points early in the second half, Walker scored five straight points for the Crusaders to push the advantage to 38-30 with 15:18 remaining.
- The Flames scored the next seven points in less than a minute’s time to close to within one point, but again Walker stepped up, connecting on 3-pointers on back-to-back Crusader possessions. In all, the junior scored 13 straight points for Valpo to help stave off UIC.
- The Flames cut their deficit to one possession just once the remainder of the game, as a Tarkus Ferguson layup with 8:35 to play made it a 47-44 ball game. But the Crusaders answered with a layup by senior Shane Hammink (Millingen aan de Rijn, Netherlands/Oakley College [LSU]) and two free throws from senior Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington) to extend the lead back to seven points.
- A 3-point play by UIC’s KJ Santos cut Valpo’s lead to 58-53 with 3:50 to go, but the Crusaders reeled off six straight points over the next 1:29 to ice the game, while the Flames failed to get a shot off in that same stretch.
Inside the Game
- Walker missed just one field goal attempt on Friday, finishing 8-of-9 from the floor and 5-of-5 from the foul line for his season-best 23 points – the second 20-point effort of his season. It was his first time pacing the Crusaders in the scoring column since dropping 24 in a win at Oakland last season on Jan. 8.
- Despite struggling from the floor, Peters finished with 18 points, thanks in large part to a 7-of-8 effort from the foul line. The senior also pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds for his fifth consecutive double-double.
- With his third rebound of the day, Peters moved into second place in program history in career rebounds. He now sits at 2,032 points and 849 rebounds for his career – just 110 points and 61 rebounds shy of the program’s records in both categories.
- Peters also moved into second in Valpo history in career field goals made (684, 12 shy of the record) and eighth place in Horizon League history in career scoring on Friday.
- Smits finished with a season-high 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting in his second career start. The freshman also pulled down a season-best six rebounds.
- Valpo out-rebounded UIC by a 41-28 margin – the fourth time this year the Crusaders have held a double-figure edge on the glass. 15 of the Crusaders’ boards came on the offensive end, leading to 20 second-chance points.
- The Crusaders, who entered the nation fifth in the nation in free throw percentage, continued their strong effort at the foul line this year. Valpo went 16-of-19 at the charity stripe, including 14-of-15 over the final 20 minutes.
- UIC (7-7, 0-1 Horizon) placed three players in double figures, led by 16 points from Tarkus Ferguson.
- With the win, Valpo closes out the 2016 calendar year with a 31-7 record, bookending the year with wins over UIC. Peters finishes 2016 with 809 points over the 38 games.
- Friday’s win was the Crusaders’ 16th consecutive victory over the Flames, including their eighth straight at the UIC Pavilion.
The Crusaders (11-3, 1-0 Horizon) will wait until next Friday to take the court again, as Valpo hosts Oakland at 8 p.m. on Jan. 6 in front of a national television audience on ESPN2. As always, the game can also be heard live on the Valpo Sports Network (WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso; WVLP, 103.1 FM, Valparaiso). Links for all the live coverage will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.