Valparaiso (5-0, 0-0 MVC)
Games #6-7 - Savannah Invitational
Friday, Nov. 24 - 6:30 p.m. CT - vs. Kent State (3-1, 0-0 MAC)
Saturday, Nov. 25 - 6:30 p.m. CT - vs. UNCW (2-1, 0-0 CAA)
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team looks for its best start in 50 years this weekend as it completes the Savannah Invitational with a pair of games in Savannah, Ga. The Crusaders will face Kent State on Friday night before taking on UNCW to conclude the invitational on Saturday.
Last Time Out: Valpo’s depth was on display again on Tuesday evening at the ARC, as the Crusaders paired two starters with three players off the bench during a big second-half run, pulling away from Samford for an 88-67 victory as part of the Savannah Invitational. The Crusaders outscored Samford 49-31 in the second half, including a 16-2 run at the 9:30 mark which extended a two-point lead to 16. Tevonn Walker scored a career-best 26 points in the win.
Following the Crusaders: Radio – WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) - Todd Ickow (PxP) and Aaron Leavitt (Analyst)
Links for the live coverage will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Matt Lottich: Matt Lottich (29-9) 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: Valpo is 1-2 all-time against Kent State, but won its last meeting, defeating the Golden Flashes on Nov. 18, 2012 in overtime, 88-83.
The Crusaders have faced off against UNCW just once in program history, earning a 77-69 victory at the ARC on Dec. 2, 2000 to kick off a four-game winning streak.
- 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 Samford
- Tevonn Walker led the way for the Crusaders on Tuesday, scoring a career-best 26 points and narrowly missing a double-double as he pulled down a game-best nine rebounds. The senior also set a new career high with five assists and tallied three steals as well.
- Led by Walker, Valpo completely dominated the Bulldogs on the boards, out-rebounding Samford by a 50-18 margin. In fact, the Crusaders had more offensive rebounds (20) than Samford did total rebounds.
- The Crusaders turned their 20 offensive rebounds into 22 second-chance points.
- Walker, Joe Burton, Max Joseph, Mileek McMillan and John Kiser were on the court for the critical 16-2 run - that lineup had not played a single second together in the season’s first four games.
...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.
- Valpo returns home to the ARC on Tuesday to host Utah State as part of the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge.
- The Crusaders will then take a nine-day break from competition before opening a stretch of six straight true road games on Thursday, Dec. 7 at Purdue
...at neutral sites
- Valpo’s pair of games in Savannah are the Crusaders’ only neutral-site games until heading to Saint Louis for Arch Madness in early March.
- Valpo posted a 2-1 record last year in neutral-site games, downing Alabama and BYU in Las Vegas before falling to Milwaukee in Detroit at the HL Championship.
- The Golden Flashes enter Friday night’s game at 3-1 on the year, most recently falling to Southeastern Louisiana on Tuesday, 70-66.
- Kent State posted a 22-14 record last season and won the MAC Tournament to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
- Through four games, Jaylin Walker leads Kent State, averaging 19.5 ppg on 52.8% shooting from the floor.
- The Seahawks arrive in Savannah with a 2-1 record, including most recently an 88-84 win over Campbell, and take on Loyola Friday before facing Valpo on Saturday.
- Last season saw UNCW go 29-6 en route to capturing the CAA regular season and tournament titles and narrowly missing a first-round upset of Virginia at the NCAA Tournament.
- Four UNCW players are averaging in double figures through three games, led by 19.7 points and 16.7 rebounds per game from Devontae Cacok.
Looking For 6-0 (And Maybe 7-0)
- Valpo enters the weekend at 5-0 on the year, matching the program’s best start in the last 50 years (2015-16, 1998-99).
- 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 Tuesday’s 21-point win over Samford, the Crusaders have now won each of their first five games of the year by at least 20 points.
- It marks the first time in the 101-year history of the program that Valpo has won five straight games, all by 20+ points.
- The closest such stretch to matching the current one in program history came during the 1965-66 season, when Valpo won six straight - the closest decision being a 19-point win over Hope.
- The Crusaders’ first four wins of the year all came by at least 25 points, the first four-game winning streak in program history where all four wins came by 25+ points.
- 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 last 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 Tuesday over Samford, Valpo extended its winning streak in multi-team events (MTEs) to 14 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.
Cleaning the Glass
- Valpo completely dominated Samford on the boards in Tuesday’s win, out-rebounding the Bulldogs 50-18.
- In fact, the Crusaders had more offensive rebounds in the win (20) than Samford had total boards.
- The 20 offensive rebounds marked the most in a single game by Valpo since grabbing 21 against Green Bay in March of 2016.
- The +32 margin on the boards was the Crusaders’ second-highest advantage in the last 30 years and their largest advantage against a Division I opponent.
Dominating the Fourth Quarter
- With their depth allowing them to go 11 or 12 deep in every game so far, the Crusaders have dominated the end stages of games.
- Through five games, Valpo has scored at least 30 points over the final 10 minutes of all five contests - a big reason why the Crusaders are averaging 87.2 ppg.
- In all, the Crusaders have out-scored their opponents over the final 10 minutes of games, 158-61 - including an astounding 67-22 advantage in the last two games.
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 have taken 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.
- Valpo owns a 56-19 (.747) record in pre-league action over the last five seasons.