A shorthanded Valparaiso University men’s basketball team saw its season come to an end Tuesday night in the first round of the 2017 NIT, as the seventh-seeded Crusaders fell at second-seeded Illinois, 82-57. The loss ends Valpo’s year with a 24-9 record, tying for the fifth-most wins in a single season in program history.
How It Happened
- Junior Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) knocked down a deep jumper on the Crusaders’ first possession to give Valpo a brief lead and would score the team’s first six points, but Illinois jumped out to a 16-6 advantage just over five minutes into the game.
- Valpo would hold the Illini scoreless for over three and a half minutes, but wasn’t able to take advantage on the offensive end, getting just a 3-pointer from junior Max Joseph (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) over that same stretch.
- Another deep jumper by Walker kept it a seven-point game at 20-13 just past the midway point of the half before Illinois put together a 15-5 spurt over the next five minutes to push its lead to 17 points.
- Back-to-back steals by junior Lexus Williams (Chicago, Ill./Marist) and feeds for fast-break layups to freshman John Kiser (Noblesville, Ind./Noblesville) cut the deficit to 13 points with 3:57 to play in the half and forced an Illinois timeout, but the Illini pushed their lead back up to 41-24 at halftime.
- The Crusaders limited Illinois to just two field goals over the first 10 minutes of the second half, but were never able to make a run, as a basket by freshman Derrik Smits (Zionsville, Ind./Zionsville) with 15:32 to play made it a 15-point game – the closest Valpo would get at any point in the second half.
Inside the Game
- The Crusaders were making their seventh straight postseason appearance (three of which have come in the NIT) and 16th in the last 22 years.
- With this year’s postseason appearance, it extends Valpo’s streak of sending every four-year class to at least one postseason game from the class of 1995 to the class of 2020 – this year’s current freshmen.
- Valpo was playing its fourth game without the services of All-American candidate and Horizon League Player of the Year Alec Peters.
- Walker matched his career high in the scoring column for the second straight game, finishing with a game-high 25 points. The junior went 9-of-14 from the field and 7-of-9 from the foul line, while also pacing the Crusaders with eight rebounds.
- Kiser also posted a career-high eight points for the second straight game, hitting 4-of-6 from the field.
- Joseph tallied nine points and five rebounds, both of which were second on the team behind Walker.
- The Crusaders shot just 36.8% from the field, including just 3-for-18 from 3-point range. They did close the season on a high note from the foul line, where they’ve excelled all year long, as they hit 80% from the stripe.
- Valpo came out on the wrong end of a 43-26 margin on the boards. Illinois (19-14) grabbed 13 offensive rebounds and converted them into 12 second-chance points.
Malcolm Hill led the Illini with 25 points, while Leron Black added 13 points and 12 rebounds.