Valparaiso (9-3, 0-0 MVC)
Game #13 - Wednesday, December 20 - 9 p.m. CT
at UC Riverside (3-7, 0-0 Big West)
SRC Arena (3,168) - Riverside, Calif.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: The Valparaiso University basketball team looks to close out the non-conference slate on a winning note on Wednesday night, as the Crusaders continue their two-game California swing with a matchup against UC Riverside. A win would give Valpo three wins in six true road games in the non-conference schedule.
Last Time Out: A strong all-around team effort was the recipe for Valpo to get back to its winning ways on Monday evening, as the Crusaders led nearly the entire way in a 76-68 victory at Santa Clara. Valpo led by as many as 17 points in the second half, and held off the Broncos as they closed as close as three points with eight minutes to go. Three Crusaders scored in double figures in the winning effort.
Following the Crusaders: Video - BigWest.TV
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 (33-12) 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: Wednesday will be the first meeting on the hardwood between the Crusaders and the Highlanders. Valpo is a combined 5-1 against current members of the Big West Conference, with its most recent meeting against a Big West opponent coming on Dec. 22, 2000 at the ARC - a 65-52 victory over Cal State Fullerton.
- 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 Santa Clara
- Santa Clara would get no closer than eight points over the final four minutes.
- The win snapped the Crusaders’ three-game losing streak - the program’s first in regular season play since November of 2013.
- The Crusaders finished the game shooting 56.3% from the floor and were 9-of-18 from 3-point range – the second time this year Valpo has hit at 50% from downtown while making at least nine triples.
- Valpo also matched a season high with 21 assists after averaging just 8.2 assists per game over the last five contests.
- Valpo, which entered the game holding a +7.7 advantage on the glass for the year, reached that mark on Monday with a 33-25 edge on the boards.
...notes from Northwestern
- Thursday’s defeat marks the first time Valpo has lost three straight regular season games since November of 2013.
- Valpo hit 7-of-17 3-pointers (41.2%) on the offensive end, but was just 8-for-22 inside the arc and 13-of-23 from the foul line.
- The Crusaders also committed 21 turnovers which Northwestern turned into 30 points.
- Northwestern finished the night hitting 12-for-22 from behind the 3-point line against a Valpo team which entered the game among the top-10 teams nationally in defensive 3-point percentage.
- Following Christmas, Valpo will open its first season of MVC play next Wednesday, Dec. 28 at Indiana State.
- The Crusaders then finally return home for the first time since Nov. 28 when they host Missouri State on New Year’s Eve.
...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 2-3 in true road games following Monday’s win.
- With a victory Wednesday, Valpo would earn consecutive non-conference true road wins on the same trip for the first time since Dec. 20-22, 1997 at UMKC and at Belmont.
- The Highlanders enter Wednesday’s game at 3-7 overall on the year and fell at Montana last time out, 77-61.
- UC Riverside is 2-2 at home last year and won in its last game on its home court, taking down Air Force, 67-48.
- Four of UC Riverside’s five starters have started all 10 games and all four average at least 8.6 points per game, led by 11.6 points per game from sophomore guard Dikymbe Martin.
Offense Back on Track
- Valpo’s offense was operating at its early-season efficiency in Monday’s win at Santa Clara.
- The Crusaders posted a 115.5 offensive efficiency in the victory against the Broncos, its highest mark since the Samford win.
- Valpo’s effective field goal percentage of 65.6% was its highest percentage as a team since posting a 70.2% eFG% in a win over Murray State on Nov. 29, 2014.
- Valpo matched its season high with 21 assists on 27 baskets, as four different players handed out four assists apiece.
- Wednessday closes the non-conference campaign for Valpo, which has enjoyed continued success prior to the start of league play.
- The Crusaders have entered conference play with at least 10 victories under their belt in four of the last five years, and with a win on Wednesday, would reach the mark for the fifth time in six seasons.
- Valpo owns a 60-22 (.732) record in pre-league action over the last six seasons.
Going Going, Back Back, to Cali Cali
- This pair of games for the Crusaders are the program’s first appearances in California since the 2011-12 season.
- That year, as a road team in the Bracketbusters series, Valpo drew Loyola Marymount - the Crusaders fell 61-53 in that game on Feb. 17, playing without the services of All-League post player Kevin Van Wijk.
- This will mark the third straight year Valpo has played at least two games in the Pacific time zone. The Crusaders played at Oregon and at Oregon State in November of 2015, and last year, played at Oregon before meeting Alabama and BYU in Las Vegas.
- 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
- Valpo’s game at Purdue on December 7 kicked off a stretch of six consecutive road games.
- The Crusaders also have already faced Ball State and Northwestern, and will play at 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 91 wins since the beginning of the 2014-15 campaign, one win clear of 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.