Valparaiso (8-2, 0-0 MVC)
Game #11 - Thursday, December 14 - 7 p.m.
at Northwestern (6-4, 1-1 Big Ten)
Allstate Arena (16,500) - Rosemont, Ill.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: A second shot within a week’s span at a Big Ten opponent awaits the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team on Thursday evening, as the Crusaders make the short trip to Allstate Arena to face Northwestern for the first time in 38 years.
Last Time Out: Valpo overcame an 11-point second-half deficit and led in the closing seconds Saturday afternoon in Muncie, Ind., but Ball State’s Tayler Persons connected on a deep 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds to play and the Crusaders’ last effort was off the mark as they fell to the Cardinals by a 71-70 final. Joe Burton led the Crusaders with 17 points, pacing the team for the second straight game.
Following the Crusaders: Television - Big Ten Network - Dave Revsine (PxP) and Jon Crispin (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 (32-11) 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: Thursday marks the 11th meeting all-time between Valpo and Northwestern, with the Wildcats holding an 8-2 advantage in the series. All 10 previous meetings came between 1967 and 1979. Northwestern earned wins in the last six meetings, including an 80-65 victory in Evanston on Dec. 8, 1979.
- 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 Ball State
- Valpo was playing without its leader in scoring, rebounding and steals in senior Tevonn Walker, who missed the game due to illness.
- Joe Burton led the Crusaders with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including four 3-pointers, to pace the team for the second straight game.
- Derrik Smits came up just two points shy of his career high with 12 points and set a new career best with six free throws made.
- Valpo connected on nine 3-pointers (9-for-22), its highest total since hitting 10 triples in the win over Southeastern Louisiana.
- Led by the effort of Max Joseph (11 boards) on the glass, the Crusaders out-rebounded Ball State – which owned a +14 edge on the boards in its win at Notre Dame earlier in the week – by a 39-33 margin.
...notes from Purdue
- Valpo was within 15-12 with eight minutes to go in the first half before Purdue went on a half-ending 21-4 run.
- The Crusaders were limited to just 33.3% shooting from the floor and were just 3-of-16 from the 3-point line while committing 18 turnovers.
- Valpo just missed holding the advantage on the glass over the Boilermakers, as Purdue ended the night with a slight 40-38 edge in rebounds. Jaume Sorolla paced all players with 10 rebounds – a season best and just two off his career high.
- The loss was the first of the season for the Crusaders, who were one of the final nine unbeaten teams in Division I basketball this year.
- The Crusaders’ stretch of six consecutive road games continues with a two-game road trip to California before Christmas.
- Valpo will take on Santa Clara Monday night in a return game from the Broncos’ visit to the ARC last season before playing at UC Riverside on Wednesday.
...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 currently sits at 1-2 in true road games following Saturday’s loss, with three more road contests remaining prior to the start of conference play.
- The Wildcats enter Thursday’s game at 6-4 overall on the year following a 96-31 win over Chicago State on Monday, and are currently 1-1 in Big Ten play.
- Northwestern is playing its home games this year at Allstate Arena while Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston is being renovated.
- Four players are averaging in double figures for the Wildcats, led by Scottie Lindsey, who is averaging 15.8 points per game.
Rebounding From Ls
- Valpo’s back-to-back losses last week to Purdue and Ball State were a rarity.
- You have to go back to the final two games of the 2013-14 regular season (2/25 at Wright State, 3/1 vs. Cleveland State) to find the last time the Crusaders lost consecutive games in regular season action.
- Valpo is looking to avoid a three-game losing streak on Thursday when it takes on Northwestern.
- The Crusaders have dropped three straight regular season games just once in the last eight seasons - Nov. 13-20, 2013 (at Illinois, at Ohio, at Evansville).
A Rare Type of Loss
- Saturday’s loss to Ball State was a rarity for the Crusaders in a number of other ways as well.
- It was Valpo’s first loss under Coach Lottich when leading at the half (previously 26-0) - the last loss when the Crusaders led at halftime came on Jan. 22, 2016 at Wright State.
- It marked Valpo’s first loss by one point since falling 51-50 at Green Bay on Jan. 23, 2015.
- It was also the Crusaders’ first loss on a last-second shot since a tip-in in the final seconds from Biggie Minnis gave Wright State a 61-59 win over Valpo on Feb. 13, 2016.
Returning to Rosemont
- Valpo returns to Allstate Arena on Thursday for the first time in nearly a quarter-century.
- The Crusaders’ only previous appearance on the court in Rosemont came as part of the 1994 Mid-Continent Conference Tournament.
- That March, Valpo earned a 74-62 victory over Eastern Illinois before falling 84-79 to UIC.
Hitting the Glass
- Despite being without their leading rebounder in Tevonn Walker at Ball State, the Crusaders out-rebounded the Cardinals 39-33, led by Max Joseph’s 11 rebounds.
- Valpo currently ranks 20th nationally in rebound margin (+9.0) despite having no player average more than 4.8 rebounds per game.
- The Crusaders’ effort on the glass this year was highlighted by a 50-18 advantage on the boards in the win over Samford - the program’s largest edge on the glass against a Division I opponent in at least 30 years.
- The loss to Purdue capped the Crusaders’ open to the 2017-18 season as the third best in program history.
- Valpo ended up 8-0 to start this season - 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 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.
The Long, Winding Road
- Last Thursday’s game at Purdue kicked 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 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, tied with Notre Dame for top honors in the state of Indiana among D-I programs.
- As of the end of play Monday, Valpo was tied for 10th 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 59-21 (.738) record in pre-league action over the last five seasons.