#rv/-- Valparaiso (8-0, 0-0 MVC)
Game #9 - Thursday, December 7 - 5:30 p.m. CT
at #21/21 Purdue (8-2, 2-0 Big Ten)
Mackey Arena (14,804) - West Lafayette, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team puts its perfect record on the line Thursday evening as the Crusaders face their toughest test to date this season, traveling down to West Lafayette to take on a nationally-ranked Purdue squad. Valpo is looking to extend its undefeated start to the season, which already ranks third-best in program history.
Last Time Out: Valpo became just the second team in the nation to start this season 8-0 as the Crusaders took down Utah State at the ARC last Tuesday evening, 72-65. The victory opened the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge with a win for The Valley in the Crusaders’ first appearance in the challenge series. Tevonn Walker paced Valpo with 25 points and nine rebounds.
Following the Crusaders: Video - Fox Sports 1 (online via Fox Sports Go) - Kevin Kugler (PxP) and Jim Jackson (Analyst)
Radio – WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) - Todd Ickow (PxP) and David Huseman (Analyst)
Links for the live coverage will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Matt Lottich: Matt Lottich (32-9) 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: The Crusaders are 2-14 all-time versus Purdue (including a December 1995 game which was later forfeited to Valpo) and are looking for their first win on the court in West Lafayette. The last meeting between the two programs, who are separated by just 90 minutes, came at the ARC in December of 2010 - a 76-58 Purdue victory. Valpo is aiming for its first win over a Big Ten team since a win in Tempe, Ariz. over Penn State in December of 2004.
- 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 Utah State
- Valpo helped the Missouri Valley Conference get off to a 2-1 start on the first day of the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge, a series which would end in a 5-5 tie.
- Tevonn Walker led the Crusaders’ effort against the Aggies with 25 points and nine rebounds, narrowly missing a double-double.
- While the Crusaders struggled from the perimeter in the win, hitting just 2-of-13 from downtown, they made up for it with a large advantage in the paint, ending the night with a 42-18 edge in close over the Aggies.
- Valpo has been one of the nation’s best teams this year in terms of opponent’s 3-point percentage, and that continued again in the victory, as Utah State was just 9-for-33 from behind the arc.
...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.
- Valpo continues on from West Lafayette to Muncie as they play at Ball State on Saturday afternoon.
- The Crusaders’ stretch of six consecutive road games continues next Thursday at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill. as Valpo faces Northwestern.
...on the road
- Valpo has finished above .500 in true road games in four of the last five seasons, including a 7-6 mark in such games last year.
- Prior to this stretch, the Crusaders had not finished above .500 on the road in the previous 10 years.
- Valpo won its only previous true road game this season, taking down SIUE in mid-November. The matchup with Purdue is the first of five straight true road games to close out the non-conference slate.
- The Boilermakers enter Thursday night’s game ranked 21st nationally in both polls, as they are currently 8-2 overall and 2-0 in Big Ten play.
- Purdue comes into Thursday’s matchup with four straight victories under its belt, taking down Arizona, Louisville, Maryland and Northwestern.
- Four Purdue players are averaging at least 13.5 ppg, led by Carsen Edwards, who scores 16.3 ppg. Isaac Haas adds 15.7 ppg on 62.7% shooting.
Looking For 9-0
- Valpo enters Thursday night’s game at 8-0 on the season, already having set the third-best start in program history.
- The only two starts in program history better than 8-0 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.
- With their win over Utah State last Tuesday, Valpo was the second team in the nation to reach 8-0, behind only Duke.
- As of the end of play Monday, the Crusaders were one of just 13 programs in the nation still undefeated and one of just six out of that group with eight wins under their belts.
- With its win over Utah State, Valpo secured a perfect record in the month of November, finishing the month 8-0.
- It marked just the second perfect month for the Crusaders over the last 70 years (minimum three games played).
- The only other month where Valpo posted an undefeated mark came in February of 1998, as the Crusaders went 7-0 - a streak which eventually extended to a total of 13 straight wins as Valpo advanced to the Sweet 16.
A Glance at the Rankings
- The Crusaders received five points, thanks to votes from three different voters, in the Dec. 4 iteration of the AP top-25 poll.
- Valpo has now received votes at least once in five of the last six seasons in the AP poll.
- The most recent Mid-Major top-25 poll (courtesy of CollegeInsider.com) features the Crusaders at #5.
Taking On Ranked Foes
- Thursday’s matchup with Purdue is likely the Crusaders’ lone top-25 opponent of this season’s non-conference slate.
- Last season, Valpo topped Rhode Island - also at the time ranked #21 in the AP poll - at the ARC as part of non-conference play.
- The win over the Rams marked the Crusaders’ first victory against a nationally-ranked foe since beating Ole Miss in the first round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament - snapping a streak of 40 straight losses versus top-25 teams.
- Valpo faced a trio of top-25 opponents last year in non-conference action, as it traveled for matchups against top-10 Oregon and Kentucky squads in addition to the home game against Rhode Island.
Getting It Done With Defense
- Valpo’s strength early on this year has been its performance on the defensive end of the court.
- The Crusaders are currently ranked second in the nation (as of the end of play Monday) in field goal percentage defense (34.3%), trailing only Michigan State.
- Valpo is ranked 43rd nationally in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive rating metric, while all six of the Crusaders’ Division I opponents have had one of their three worst games in terms of offensive efficiency so far.
- Through eight games, Samford is the only Valpo opponent to average better than 0.92 points per possession.
- The Crusaders have succeeded defensively not just by holding their opponents to low field goal percentages, but also by forcing turnovers - their turnover rate of 22.4% on the defensive end ranks 47th nationally.
The Long, Winding Road
- Thursday’s game at Purdue kicks off a stretch of six straight true road games for Valpo.
- The Crusaders will also face Ball State, Northwestern, Santa Clara, UC Riverside and Indiana State before returning home to the ARC.
- It marks Valpo’s first stretch of six consecutive true road games since the 1963-64 season, where the Crusaders took on Notre Dame, Indiana State, Washington (Mo.), Buffalo, Syracuse and Butler in succession from Dec. 12-Jan. 4.
- Valpo’s nine-point win over UNCW on Nov. 25 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).
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 90 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 Monday, 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.
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 59-19 (.756) record in pre-league action over the last five seasons.