Valparaiso (9-4, 0-0 MVC)
Game #14 - Thursday, December 28 - 6 p.m. CT
at Indiana State (5-7, 0-0 MVC)
Hulman Center (10,200) - Terre Haute, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team returns to action and kicks off a new era on Thursday evening, as the Crusaders compete in their first-ever Missouri Valley Conference game. Indiana State plays the foil Thursday night in Terre Haute, as Valpo faces off against one of the most common opponents in program history and concludes a stretch of six straight true road games.
Last Time Out: Valpo struggled shooting the ball last Wednesday evening at UC Riverside, falling behind early and never recovering in a 73-60 loss to close out the non-conference slate. The Crusaders were just 1-for-16 from 3-point range in the first half and trailed by 18 at the half. Max Joseph led the way for Valpo, matching his career-best output with 15 points.
Following the Crusaders: TV - MVC TV Network (Valpo viewing area - NBC Sports Chicago; other networks - FOX Sports Midwest, FOX Sports Indiana, FOX Sports Kansas City) - John Rooney (PxP) and David Kaplan (Analyst)
Video Streaming - Within FOX Sports Midwest distribution area - FOX Sports GO; outside regional footprint [IL, IN, IA, KS, MO, NE] - ESPN3
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 (33-13) 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 fourth-most common opponent in Valpo men’s basketball history, Indiana State holds a 50-31 advantage in the all-time series. In six meetings this century, however, the Crusaders own a 5-1 record, including wins in each of the last two seasons. Last year saw Valpo take down the Sycamores in non-conference action at the ARC, 89-71, behind 29 points and 15 rebounds from Alec Peters.
- 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 UC Riverside
- With both Tevonn Walker and Joe Burton not in uniform, Valpo was down nearly 30% of its scoring from the season’s first 12 games against the Highlanders.
- The Crusaders finished the game just 4-for-32 from the 3-point line, after going just 1-of-16 in the first half, and shot just 33.3% from the field overall.
- Valpo trailed by as many as 21 points in the first half and was down 18 at halftime. The Crusaders pulled to within 11 points late in the second half.
- Max Joseph tied his career high with 15 points to lead the Crusaders, while Bakari Evelyn finished with 13 points.
- Derrik Smits paced Valpo on the boards with seven rebounds as the Crusaders out-rebounded the Highlanders, 39-31.
- Valpo tallied 13 steals as a team on Wednesday, the second time this year it has reached double figures in steals in back-to-back contests.
...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.
- The Crusaders 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 2-4 in true road games following last Wednesday’s loss at UC Riverside.
- The Crusaders will be looking to turn their record in road games around against a group of MVC teams which combined to go 48-7 (excluding Valpo) in home games in non-conference play.
- The Sycamores enter MVC play with a 5-7 overall record and have dropped their last two games.
- Indiana State does own a 4-2 record at home this year, with its lone win away from the Hulman Center coming on opening night in a 21-point win at Indiana.
- Three ISU players average in double figures, led by 17.1 ppg from Jordan Barnes, who is connecting at a 49% clip from 3-point range.
The Best and the Worst Of It
- Valpo’s numbers in wins versus its performance in losses showcase striking differences.
- Most notably, in wins, the Crusaders are outscoring opponents, 82.2-60.9, while in losses, they have been outscored, 77.0-57.5.
- Valpo hits at a .496 clip from the floor and averages 14.7 assists/game in wins, versus a .372 field goal percentage and 9.5 apg in losses.
- The Crusaders win the turnover battle by +2.9 turnovers/game in wins and lose it by -7.2 turnovers/game in losses.
- In its wins, Valpo has made 180 total free throws against just 198 total free throw attempts for its opponents, while in losses, Valpo’s opponents have made 74 free throws against just 72 total attempts for the Crusaders.
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 (2007-2017), the Crusaders won five regular season and two tournament titles.
Among the Nation’s Best
- The Crusaders currently rank among the top-30 nationally in a number of statistical categories.
- Valpo has found success drawing fouls this year, as it ranks 16th in free throw attempts (325) and 21st in free throws made (227).
- The defense has been stout for the most part, ranking 22nd in field goal pct. defense (38.2%) and 27th in 3-point pct. defense (.296).
- The Crusaders have been strong on the boards as well, owning a rebounding margin of +7.8, good for 30th in the nation.
- Perhaps most notable about Valpo’s success on the boards is that it’s a total team effort on the glass, as no player is even averaging five rebounds per game.
We Are Young
- The Crusaders feature nine underclassmen on their roster.
- The active squad boasts two seniors, one junior, six sophomores and three freshmen.
- In its last game at UC Riverside, Valpo resembled a power-conference roster built on one-and-dones, as the Crusaders suited up just one upperclassman - senior Max Joseph - among their 10 active players.
- Valpo ranks 273rd nationally in Ken Pomeroy’s experience metric, which weights the experience of each player based on minutes played - the Crusaders’ ranking is the lowest in The Valley.
The Long, Winding Road
- Valpo’s game at Purdue on December 7 kicked off a stretch of six consecutive road games which concludes Thursday at Indiana State.
- It marked 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.
- Last Wednessday closed the non-conference campaign for Valpo, which has enjoyed continued success prior to the start of league play.
- The Crusaders ended non-conference play with nine wins, missing out on double-figure victories in non-conference action for just the second time in the last six years.
- Valpo owns a 60-23 (.723) record in pre-league action over the last six seasons.
- 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.
- 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 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).
Multitude of Wins
- 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 behind Notre Dame for top honors in the state of Indiana among D-I programs.
- As of the end of play Tuesday, Valpo was tied for 13th 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.
- 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.