Valparaiso (4-0, 0-0 MVC)
Game #5 - Tuesday, November 21 - 7 p.m.
Samford (1-3, 0-0 SoCon)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: With four big wins in as many games to open the season, the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team looks to improve to 5-0 on Tuesday night as the Crusaders host Samford at the ARC. The game is the second of four Valpo will play as part of the Savannah Invitational, as the team will fly down to Savannah, Ga. on Wednesday for the final two games of the event.
Last Time Out: The run came later than it did in any of the first three games of the year for Valpo, but it was an emphatic spurt, as the Crusaders outscored Southeastern Louisiana 41-12 over the game’s final 13 minutes to pull away for an 83-50 victory over the Lions Sunday afternoon at the ARC. Valpo limited Southeastern Louisiana to just one field goal over the final 11:30 of the game. Joe Burton led the Crusaders with 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting.
Following the Crusaders: Video - The Valley on ESPN3/WatchESPN/ESPN app - Todd Ickow (PxP) and David Huseman (Analyst)
Radio – WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) - Payton Ball (PxP) and Renee Turpa (Analyst)
Links for the live coverage will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Matt Lottich: Matt Lottich (28-9) continued the Valparaiso University men’s basketball program’s run of success in his first season as head coach of the Crusaders, and is poised to keep the program at a high level as he enters his second season in charge in 2017-2018. In his first season at the helm, Lottich guided Valpo to its fifth Horizon League regular season championship in the last six years as he led the Crusaders to 24 wins and an at-large berth into the NIT.
Series Notes: Tuesday is the third meeting all-time between Valpo and Samford, as each team has won one previous matchup. The last meeting came in December of 2002 at the ARC, an 87-79 victory in double overtime by the Crusaders. Raitis Grafs led Valpo with 28 points as he played 45 of 50 minutes, while Ali Berdiel finished with nine points and seven assists. Valpo went 18-of-22 from the foul line in the two extra periods.
- Valpo was selected to finish in sixth place in the MVC preseason poll, finishing just 12 points behind Southern Illinois for fifth place.
- The Crusaders have defeated MVC preseason favorite Missouri State in each of the last two seasons.
- Valpo has not finished worse in the final standings than its preseason projection in the last seven years.
- Senior Tevonn Walker represented the Crusaders among the preseason All-Conference honorees, earning Second Team accolades.
...looking back at last year
- The Crusaders are coming off of their third consecutive Horizon League regular season title and their fifth in the last six years, posting a 14-4 mark within league play and a 24-9 record overall.
- The regular season was highlighted by a win over #21 Rhode Island at the ARC - the program’s first win over a ranked opponent since 1998 - and wins in Las Vegas over Alabama and BYU to earn the MGM Grand Main Event title.
- Valpo earned an at-large bid into the Postseason NIT for the second time in program history, falling at Illinois in a first-round matchup. The NIT berth extended the Crusaders’ string of postseason appearances to seven straight seasons.
- Alec Peters was named an NABC Third Team All-American and an AP Honorable Mention All-American and claimed the Horizon League Player of the Year award.
- Peters closed out his career as the Crusaders’ all-time leading scorer and rebounder.
- Shane Hammink was a Second Team All-League selection, while Tevonn Walker was named to the league’s All-Defensive Team.
...notes from Southeastern Louisiana
- The combination of the Crusaders’ offense and defense over the final quarter of the game proved lethal. Valpo limited Southeastern Louisiana to just one field goal over the final 11:30 of the game, while on the offensive end, the Crusaders scored on 16 of their final 20 possessions.
- All 12 Crusaders played on Sunday, with 11 cracking the scoring column. 10 different players saw at least 13 minutes of action.
- Valpo scored 27 points on Sunday off of 21 turnovers by the Lions – the third straight game the Crusaders have forced at least 20 turnovers. Through four games, Valpo is forcing an average of 21 turnovers per game and has outscored its opposition off of turnovers, 110-26.
- Valpo limited Southeastern Louisiana to 17-for-52 (32.7%) shooting for the game, including a 1-for-15 performance from the 3-point line for a Lions squad which entered the game connecting at better than 40% from downtown this year.
...notes from SIUE
- The 94 points marks the Crusaders’ highest single-game output since putting 96 on UIC at the ARC last season.
- Valpo enjoyed advantages of 36-20 in points in the paint and 31-8 in points off turnovers on Wednesday night.
- For the second straight game, Tevonn Walker led the way offensively for the Crusaders, finishing with 22 points – including a 3-for-4 effort from the 3-point line. 18 of Walker’s 22 came before halftime to help stake Valpo to an 11-point lead at the break.
- The Crusaders continue the Savannah Invitational in Savannah, Ga., facing Kent State on Friday night and UNCW on Saturday evening.
- Valpo will then return home to the ARC next Tuesday to host Utah State as part of the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge.
...at the ARC
- Valpo has 14 regular season home games scheduled at the ARC this season and is 3-0 at home so far this season.
- The Crusaders posted a 15-2 record in 17 home games last season, one year after setting a program record with 17 home victories.
- Valpo has recorded a 50-4 record in home games since the start of the 2014-15 season.
- Over the last 22 years, the Crusaders own a 285-60 (.826) record on their home court at the ARC.
- The Bulldogs enter Tuesday night’s game at 1-3 overall this year, most recently coming off an 88-67 loss at Loyola.
- Samford went 20-16 last season and earned a berth in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, advancing to the second round.
- Through four games, Demetrius Denzel-Dyson is pacing the Bulldogs as he is averaging 12.8 ppg.
Looking For 5-0
- With a win on Tuesday, Valpo would start 5-0 for just the third time in the last 50 years and one win shy of the best start in that span.
- The 2015-16 team and the 1998-99 team both opened the year with wins in their first five games.
- This year’s team is one of just four in the last 50 seasons to start at least 4-0, as the 1986-87 squad started out with four consecutive wins.
- The last start of 6-0 or better came in 1966-67, as that year’s Crusader squad won its first seven games en route to an appearance in the NCAA College Division National Quarterfinal.
- In all, the Crusaders have now won at least their first four games 18 times in program history - highlighted by a 22-0 start to the 1923-24 campaign.
- With Sunday’s 33-point win over Southeastern Louisiana, the Crusaders have now won each of their first four games of the year by at least 25 points.
- It marks the first time in the 101-year history of the program that Valpo has won four straight games by 25+ points.
- The Crusaders last won three consecutive games by 25+ points in late January of 2016.
- Valpo won just one game by 25 or more points last season - with four such wins this year, the Crusaders have already matched or exceeded their number of 25+ point wins from 13 of the last 15 seasons.
- The 25-point win at SIUE on Wednesday marked Valpo’s largest known margin of victory in a road opener (dating back to the mid-1940s when sites are denoted within the all-time results).
Success in the MTEs
- With its win on Sunday over Southeastern Louisiana, Valpo extended its winning streak in multi-team events (MTEs) to 13 consecutive games, dating back to the 2013-14 season.
- The Crusaders have been undefeated in MTEs in each of the last three years, including winning the Heavyweight Division of the MGM Grand Main Event last year with wins over Alabama and BYU.
- Valpo went 4-0 in the Main Event last season, 4-0 in 2015-16 in the Beaver Showcase (including a win at Oregon State) and 3-0 in 2014-15 at the Challenge in Music City.
Turning Teams Over
- Valpo forced Southeastern Louisiana to commit 21 turnovers in Sunday’s victory - the third straight outing the Crusaders have forced at least 20 turnovers.
- It is the first time in at least a quarter century that the Crusaders have forced 20 or more turnovers in three consecutive games.
- Valpo scored 27 points off of the Lions’ turnovers. Through four games, the Crusaders are forcing an average of 21 turnovers per game and has outscored their opposition off of turnovers, 110-26.
Who’s a Starter, Who’s a Reserve?
- Through four games, the Crusaders have seen all 12 players get significant playing time.
- No player has played more than 24.8 minutes/game (Tevonn Walker), while all 12 players are averaging at least 10 minutes/game.
- In fact, the most minutes for a single player in one game so far this year came in the season opener versus North Park, when Markus Golder played 28 minutes off the bench.
- In each of the last two games, the starting five has played less than half the total minutes (96 at SIUE, 99 vs. Southeastern Louisiana).
Youth Shall Be Served
- With nine of the Crusaders’ 12 players this season being underclassmen, the freshmen and sophomores will undoubtedly combine for large percentages of the team’s output.
- Last time out, the underclassmen combined for 133 minutes played (66.5%), 56 points (67.5%) and 19 rebounds (65.5%).
- On the season, the group of nine underclassmen have accounted for 71.3% of the scoring, 75.7% of the rebounding and 71.9% of the minutes played.
Valpo in the Valley
- A new era begins this year for Valpo men’s basketball and the athletics department and University as a whole, as the 2017-18 year is Valpo’s first as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference.
- The Valley is renowned for its men’s basketball success on the national stage. Since the year 2000, The Valley has earned 33 bids to the NCAA Tournament – 18 automatic bids and 15 at-large berths – and has posted 27 tournament victories.
- Since 2010, 12 MVC programs in the NCAA Tournament have combined for 16 victories.
- The Crusaders are looking to carry over the success they’ve had in the past two-plus decades into The Valley.
- Over its last 13 years as a member of the Mid-Continent Conference (1994-2007), Valpo claimed nine regular season and eight tournament championships.
- Then, in a decade as a Horizon League member, the Crusaders won five regular season and two tournament titles.
- Six letterwinners return from last year’s 24-win squad, including one full-time starter in Tevonn Walker and a trio of part-time starters in Derrik Smits, Micah Bradford and Jaume Sorolla.
- In all, the Crusaders return 50.2% of minutes played, 46.3% of rebounding and 40.7% of scoring from last year’s team.
- Six players will take the floor for the first time for the Crusaders this year.
- A pair of high-major transfers are eligible after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer regulations. Joe Burton (Oklahoma State) has two seasons of eligibility remaining, while Bakari Evelyn (Nebraska) is entering his sophomore season of eligibility.
- A third transfer joins the Crusaders with three years remaining as well, as Markus Golder comes to Valpo from North Idaho College.
- The three transfers are joined by three true freshmen - Indiana H.S. products Mileek McMillan and Parker Hazen, and German import Marten Linssen.
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), Spain (Sorolla) and Germany (Linssen).
- Over the past 21 years, the Crusaders have welcomed 33 international players from 19 different countries.
Crusaders Sign Javon Freeman-Liberty
- One of the top prospects in the Class of 2018 in the state of Illinois, Javon Freeman-Liberty signed a National Letter of Intent during the early signing period and will join Valpo as a freshman for the 2018-19 season.
- Freeman-Liberty helped lead Whitney Young H.S. to the Illinois Class 4A state title last year as a junior, averaging 13.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.
- The 6’4” Chicago native is a consensus top-10 prospect in his class in Illinois and is ranked fifth overall in the state and 37th nationally among shooting guards by ESPN. He played his AAU basketball last summer for Meanstreets.
- Valpo is looking to continue its recent string of successful non-conference campaigns.
- The Crusaders have entered conference play with at least 10 victories under their belt in four of the last five years, including a 10-3 mark in pre-conference action each of the last two seasons.
- Valpo owns a 55-19 (.743) record in pre-league action over the last five seasons.