Fans of the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team could be forgiven Thursday night for feeling like watching the Crusaders is like living through the movie Groundhog Day, as Valpo handled Milwaukee by leading start to finish in a 71-53 victory in Milwaukee. The win was the Crusaders’ eighth straight – the program’s longest winning streak in nearly a decade – and also was Valpo’s fifth consecutive road victory, as well as the team’s sixth straight win at Milwaukee.
How It Happened
- Valpo claimed the lead on its first offensive possession of the game, as senior Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington) connected on a deep 3-pointer. Peters’ triple was one of three in the first four minutes for the Crusaders, who led 11-3 just 4:21 into the game.
- Valpo went cold, scoring just two points over the next six minutes and allowing Milwaukee to crawl within one point. Another Peters 3-pointer snapped the skid, and a 3-pointer from junior Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) and a bucket by freshman Derrik Smits (Zionsville, Ind./Zionsville) made it eight straight Valpo points as the Crusaders led 21-12.
- The Panthers responded with the next seven points to move to within 21-19 with 4:28 to play in the half, but Valpo answered with five straight points to close the half – capped by an old-fashioned 3-point play from junior Max Joseph (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) – to take a 26-19 lead into the break.
- The Crusaders held Milwaukee without a field goal for three separate stretches of over four minutes in the first half, including a span on both sides of halftime that ended up clocking in at 7:48 of game time.
- Senior Shane Hammink (Millingen aan de Rijn, Netherlands/Oakley College [LSU]) got Valpo going offensively to start the second half, scoring three early points and hitting Peters for a 3-pointer for a quick 6-0 spurt over the first 62 seconds of the period.
- The spurt started a 20-4 Valpo run over the opening nine minutes of the second half, as the Crusaders extended their lead out to 23 points. Over that nine-minute stretch, Valpo limited the Panthers to 2-of-11 shooting from the field and also forced three turnovers.
- Milwaukee had one last push, connecting on 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions to close to within 48-34 with 8:31 remaining. But freshman Micah Bradford (Bradley, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) scored five straight points for the Crusaders, as the Panthers would get no closer than 14 the rest of the way.
Inside the Game
- Valpo’s eight-game winning streak is the program’s longest since winning eight consecutive games Nov. 23-Dec. 15, 2007. The Crusaders have not won nine in a row since conference play in the 2001-02 season.
- The Crusaders have now won five straight true road games after dropping their first two of the season. Going back to the start of last season, Valpo is 12-1 in its last 13 Horizon League road contests.
- Six of the Crusaders’ last seven wins during the current winning streak have come by at least 11 points.
- Valpo has allowed 58 points or fewer in four of its last five games, including each of the last three contests. The Crusaders last surrendered 58 points or fewer in three straight Horizon League games Feb. 13-21, 2015 – when the shot clock was still 35 seconds.
- The victory was Valpo’s fourth of the year without trailing.
- Peters finished with a game-high 22 points, including his best effort of the year from the 3-point line, where he knocked down four of five attempts. The senior also was a perfect 8-of-8 from the foul line.
- Peters’ 22-point effort was his 18th game of the year scoring at least 20 points, matching Dan Oppland’s 2004-05 campaign for the most 20+ point games in a single season by a Valpo player since at least 1994-95.
- Bradford finished Thursday’s win with a career-best 14 points, going 5-of-8 from the floor – including a 3-of-4 mark from 3-point range. The freshman also pulled down five rebounds.
- Hammink rounded out the three Crusaders in double figures, finishing with 12 points and six rebounds in the winning effort.
- Sorolla chipped in nine points off the bench, hitting all three of his field goal attempts. He has now connected on each of his last eight shots from the floor, dating back to his last make against Wright State.
- Valpo connected on 9-of-19 3-point attempts, as its 47.4% clip from deep was the team’s best mark within Horizon League play this year. Over the last five games, the Crusaders have hit at a 38.1% clip from downtown after hitting just 30.4% from 3-point range in their first 18 games.
- The Crusaders continued their dominating effort on the boards, out-rebounding the Panthers 34-24 – their fifth double-figure advantage on the glass in the last seven games.
- Milwaukee (8-16, 4-7 Horizon) was led by 17 points from Cody Wichmann, but the senior went just 6-of-16 from the field. The Crusaders limited the Panthers to just 38.5% shooting from the field and just 28% from 3-point range.
The Crusaders (19-4, 9-1 Horizon) will take aim at their ninth straight win on Saturday afternoon, as they look to conclude the Wisconsin road swing with a sweep at Green Bay. Tipoff is slated for noon, and the game can be seen live on ESPN3, WatchESPN and the ESPN app. As always, the game can be heard on the Valpo Sports Network (WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso; WVLP, 103.1 FM, Valparaiso). Links for the live coverage will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.