Valparaiso (7-0, 0-0 MVC)
Game #8 - Tuesday, November 28 - 7 p.m.
Utah State (4-3, 0-0 MWC)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team takes aim at its eighth straight victory to open the season on Tuesday evening as the Crusaders host Utah State at the ARC. The matchup with the Aggies is part of the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge series - Valpo takes part for the first time this year after joining the MVC this past summer.
Last Time Out: Valpo claimed a share of the tournament title at the Savannah Invitational last weekend, earning wins over Kent State (77-67) and UNCW (79-70) in Savannah to close the event with a perfect 4-0 record. Bakari Evelyn was named co-MVP of the tournament after recording 13 points and six assists against Kent State and setting a new career best with 30 points to go with eight rebounds in the closing win over UNCW.
Following the Crusaders: Video - The Valley on ESPN3/WatchESPN/ESPN app - Todd Ickow (PxP) and David Huseman (Analyst)
Radio – WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) - Ben Ariano (PxP) and Danny Dalenberg (Analyst)
Links for the live coverage will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Matt Lottich: Matt Lottich (31-9) 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’s matchup is just the second meeting all-time between Valpo and Utah State, with the only prior showdown coming as part of the Big Island Invitational in Hilo, Hawaii on Nov. 25, 1995. The Crusaders came out with a 79-70 victory in that matchup, thanks in large part to shooting a sizzling 70.4% from the field in the first half - including a 6-for-7 clip from the 3-point line. Jamie Sykes led Valpo, going 7-of-8 from the field for 21 points, while Chris Ensminger chipped in 19 points and eight rebounds.
- 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 UNCW
- Valpo trailed by 10 points just past the midway point of the first half, the first time the Crusaders have been down double digits this season.
- The Crusaders were tied with the Seahawks at the half, 35-35 – the first time Valpo has been tied at halftime in its last 254 games. Valpo last was all square at half time on Feb. 8, 2010 with UIC, 31-31, in an eventual 83-82 Crusader win.
- Valpo earned the win despite recording just three assists on its 23 made baskets. The Crusaders’ three assists were their fewest in at least 28 years (the furthest back complete single-game records are available).
- Bakari Evelyn led the Crusaders with 30 points - Valpo’s first 30-point effort since Alec Peters scored 30 versus UIC on Jan. 22, 2017.
- Valpo attempted a total of 37 free throws in the win, as both Evelyn (11-12) and Tevonn Walker (10-12) reached double figures in scoring from the foul line alone.
...notes from Kent State
- Facing a one-point game in the final minute, the Crusaders still won by 10 points, their sixth straight win by double figures to open the season.
- Joe Burton hit the key 3-pointer with 29 seconds to play to push the Valpo lead to 71-67.
- After playing just nine minutes in the Crusaders’ previous three games, Marten Linssen came off the bench to record 12 points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes of action.
- The Crusaders forced 20 Kent State turnovers, which they turned into 25 points on the other end. The Golden Flashes were the fourth Valpo opponent of the year to commit at least 20 miscues.
- Following the Utah State game, Valpo will take a nine-day break from competition before opening a stretch of six straight road games at Purdue on Thursday, Dec. 7.
- The Crusaders will continue on from West Lafayette to Muncie as they play at Ball State two days later.
...at the ARC
- Valpo has 14 regular season home games scheduled at the ARC this season and is 4-0 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 51-4 record in home games since the start of the 2014-15 season.
- Since the start of the 1995-96 season, the Crusaders own a 286-60 (.827) record on their home court at the ARC.
- The Aggies enter Tuesday night’s game at 4-3 on the season, coming off a pair of neutral-site wins over Northeastern and New Hampshire.
- Last season, Utah State finished with a 15-17 overall record and posted a a 7-11 mark in the Mountain West Conference.
- Sam Merrill leads the Aggies to date, averaging 15 points per game and also dishing out 25 assists through USU’s first seven games.
Looking For 8-0
- Valpo enters Tuesday night’s game at 7-0 on the season, matching the third-best start in program history.
- The Crusaders previously won seven straight games to open the year in 1921-22, 1943-44 and 1966-67 - the last of which saw Valpo advance to the NCAA national quarterfinals.
- The only two starts in program history better than 7-0 both came from teams which boast renowned monikers.
- The World’s Tallest Team (1944-45) won 11 straight contests to open that season en route to a 21-3 record.
- The best start all-time by a Crusader squad came from the Victory Five (1923-24), which won its first 22 games of the year and finished the season 24-4.
The MWC/MVC Challenge
- In its first season as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference, Valpo will compete in the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge for the first time.
- This is the seventh season of the challenge series, as the original iteration lasted four years, while this is the third season of the challenge’s renewal.
- The MWC owns a 3-1-2 advantage in the series and has the 33-22 aggregate advantage in games.
- Valpo’s nine-point win over UNCW was the team’s first victory of the season which did not come by double figures.
- The Crusaders put together a six-game winning streak of 10+ points for the third time in the last four years.
- The 2014-15 squad posted a similar stretch in non-conference action, while the 2015-16 team won six straight league games by at least 10 points.
- The first five of the Crusaders’ wins this season all came by at least 20 points, the first time in program history that Valpo has won five straight by 20+ points.
- The closest such stretch to matching it 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.
- The 25-point win at SIUE 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
- Valpo claimed a share of the tournament title at the Savannah Invitational, extending a run of dominance in multi-team events.
- With the wins in Savannah over Kent State and UNCW, Valpo extended its winning streak in MTEs to 16 consecutive games, dating back to the 2013-14 season.
- The Crusaders have been undefeated in MTEs in each of the last four 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.
Leading Indiana and Among the Nation’s Best
- Since the start of the 2014-15 season, Valpo has been one of the nation’s standard bearers in terms of victories on the court.
- The Crusaders have amassed 89 wins since the beginning of the 2014-15 campaign, one clear of Notre Dame for top honors in the state of Indiana among D-I programs.
- As of the end of play Sunday, Valpo ranked tenth nationally over the same time span in terms of victories.
- See page 4 of the game notes for charts detailing the nation’s leaders in wins since the start of the 2014-15 season and the breakdown of Indiana schools over the same span.
Distributing the Minutes
- The Crusaders have utilized their entire active roster this season, going 12-deep in numerous games.
- Valpo does not have a single player among the top-20 in the MVC rankings in minutes played per game - Tevonn Walker leads the Crusaders, averaging 26.1 minutes/game.
- Only three times through the first seven games of the year has any Crusader played as much as 30 minutes in a single game - Walker once and Evelyn in both games in Savannah.
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 58-19 (.753) record in pre-league action over the last five seasons.