Valparaiso (9-5, 0-1 MVC)
Game #15 - Sunday, December 31 - 3 p.m.
Missouri State (11-3, 1-0 MVC)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: For the first time in over a month, the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team takes the floor on its home court, as the Crusaders host Missouri State Sunday afternoon in its final game of the 2017 calendar year. Valpo puts its 13-game home winning streak on the line against the preseason conference favorite.
Last Time Out: Valpo roared back from a double-digit first-half deficit Thursday night in its first Missouri Valley Conference game at Indiana State to take a halftime lead, and then tied the game again after falling behind by nine in the second half, but were unable to regain the lead as the Sycamores went on to defeat the Crusaders, 73-64. Tevonn Walker returned to the lineup after missing four games, tying for team-high honors with Bakari Evelyn (career-best five 3-pointers) as the duo scored 19 points apiece.
Following the Crusaders: Video - ESPN3 (Also available on television in Missouri on the MSU TV Network)
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 (33-14) 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: Missouri State holds a 14-7 advantage in the all-time series with Valpo, but the Crusaders have won all four meetings in the last seven seasons - the first meetings in the series since 1990. Valpo has won two in Springfield and two at the ARC in that stretch, most recently an 84-81 victory in Springfield in December of 2016. Alec Peters connected on three free throws with 5.6 seconds remaining for the winning margin in that game, capping a 27-point, 11-rebound performance. The two teams had a memorable meeting in a BracketBusters encounter at the ARC in February of 2011, a game the Crusaders won 80-67 with Dick Vitale providing color commentary.
- 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 Indiana State
- Valpo trailed 16-4 10 minutes into the game before rallying to take a 3-point lead at the half.
- The Crusaders were then down nine with 12 minutes to go and came back to tie the game at the 9:36 mark before Indiana State scored the next seven to take the lead for good.
- The Crusaders renewed a conference rivalry Thursday, as the two schools were both members of the Indiana Conference in the middle of the last century. The last conference matchup between the two programs prior to Thursday came in 1968.
- Valpo had dropped its conference opener just twice in the last seven years (2012-13; 2014-15), both seasons it would go on to regular season titles.
- Tevonn Walker returned to the Valpo lineup Thursday after missing four games due to illness and tied for team-high honors with 19 points while also grabbing five rebounds.
- Bakari Evelyn was nearly perfect from the floor on Thursday night, finishing 7-of-8 overall and 5-of-6 from 3-point range to match Walker with 19 points. The sophomore set a new career high with his five 3-pointers.
...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, the second time this year it has reached double figures in steals in back-to-back contests.
- Valpo continues MVC play on Wednesday evening at Bradley.
- The Crusaders then return to the ARC to host Southern Illinois Saturday afternoon and follow with a home game against Drake on Wednesday, Jan. 10.
...at the ARC
- Valpo has 14 regular season home games scheduled at the ARC this season and is 5-0 at home so far this season.
- Valpo carries a 13-game homecourt winning streak into Sunday’s contest, tied for 10th nationally.
- 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 52-4 record in home games since the start of the 2014-15 season.
- Since the start of the 1995-96 season, the Crusaders own a 287-60 (.827) record on their home court at the ARC.
- The Bears enter Sunday’s game at 11-3 overall this year and have won nine of their last 10 games.
- Missouri State opened MVC play before Christmas with a 64-59 home win over Loyola.
- The Bears are led by MVC Preseason Player of the Year Alize Johnson, who averages 14.7 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.
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.
Another Familiar Foe
- While the MVC is a new conference for the Crusaders this year, they have familiarity with their first two conference opponents - both recently and in terms of past conference affiliation.
- Valpo and Missouri State have met four times in non-conference action over the last seven seasons, and were previously both members of the Mid-Continent Conference from 1982 until 1990.
- In their conference opener, the Crusaders took on an Indiana State team which it faced in non-conference play each of the last two years and with which it shared conference affiliation for 43 years (1925-1968).
To Turn It Over or Not To Turn It Over, That is the Question
- Valpo’s turnover rate on the offensive end has had a direct correlation with the team’s offensive efficiency and ultimate results this season.
- In their nine wins, the Crusaders’ worst turnover percentage was 22.9% (Trinity Christian) and their worst offensive efficiency was 97.7 (UNCW).
- In Valpo’s five losses, however, its turnover rate has been 24% or worse in all five games.
- In addition, the Crusaders have posted five of their six worst offensive efficiencies of the season in the five losses - Ball State (98.5) narrowly edging out the UNCW win.
- Last time out, Valpo scored just 64 points and had an offensive efficiency of just 90.2 despite posting an effective field goal percentage of 56.2%, due in large part to a season-worst 31% turnover rate (22 turnovers).
Among the Nation’s Best
- The Crusaders currently rank among the top-40 nationally in a number of statistical categories.
- Valpo has found success drawing fouls this year, as it ranks 18th in free throw attempts (342) and 27th in free throws made (237).
- The defense has been stout for the most part, ranking 30th in field goal pct. defense (39.0%).
- The Crusaders have been strong on the boards as well, owning a rebounding margin of +6.9, good for 40th 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 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 272nd 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 Comes to an End
- Valpo’s game at Purdue on December 7 kicked off a stretch of six consecutive road games which concluded on 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.
- 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 Friday, Valpo was tied for 14th 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.
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.