Valparaiso (9-6, 0-2 MVC)
Game #16 - Wednesday, January 3 - 7 p.m.
at Bradley (11-4, 1-1 MVC)
Carver Arena (11,433) - Peoria, Ill.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team looks to start the 2018 calendar year on the right foot Wednesday evening as the Crusaders continue Missouri Valley Conference play at Bradley. Wednesday marks Valpo’s seventh road game in its last eight contests.
Last Time Out: Valpo made its home debut in MVC play on Sunday afternoon at the ARC, but preseason favorite Missouri State spoiled the Crusaders’ home opener as the Bears sent Valpo to a 67-50 defeat. A 13-0 run late in the first half proved decisive as it pushed the Bears’ lead out to 15 points. Max Joseph paced the Crusaders in scoring for the second time in the last three games, ending the game with 13 points.
Following the Crusaders: Video - The Valley on 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 (33-15) 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: Despite being located just three hours apart, there is very little history between the Crusaders and Braves. The two programs have met just three times, all three of which came in a four-season stretch in the early 1980’s. Bradley won matchups in Peoria in December of 1980 and 1981, while Valpo won the most recent meeting, 73-55, at home in December of 1983.
- 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 Missouri State
- The game was tied at 11-all seven minutes in and Valpo trailed 17-15 with 9:59 to play in the half before Missouri State reeled off 13 straight points.
- The Bears led by as many as 27 points in the second half.
- Missouri State ended the Crusaders’ 13-game home winning streak, which dated back to January 6, 2017 and ranked 10th nationally for the longest active streak.
- Max Joseph paced the Crusaders in scoring for the second time in the last three games, ending the game with 13 points. He also grabbed five rebounds to lead Valpo as well.
- Valpo struggled shooting the ball, finishing just 34.8% from the floor (16-of-46) and hitting just 5-of-19 from 3-point range.
- The Crusaders limited Missouri State to 39% shooting (23-of-59), including just a 28.6% clip (8-of-28) from 3-point range. But the Bears went 13-of-15 from the foul line, committed just nine turnovers and turned 12 offensive rebounds into 12 second-chance points.
...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, 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.
- The Crusaders return to the ARC for a pair of games, hosting Southern Illinois Saturday afternoon and following with a home game against Drake on Wednesday, Jan. 10.
...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 2-5 in true road games following last Thursday’s loss at Indiana State.
- 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 Braves enter Wednesday night’s game at 11-4 on the year and have split their first two Valley games, falling at Drake by two points before beating UNI at home by 19.
- Bradley is a perfect 7-0 in Peoria so far this season, with five of the seven wins coming by double figures.
- Darrell Brown is the only Bradley player averaging in double figures, as he scores 14.3 ppg and hits at a 42.9% clip from 3-point range. But the Braves are limiting opponents to just 60.7 ppg on the season.
A Rare Start
- Valpo has lost consecutive games to start conference play for the first time this millennium.
- The last time the Crusaders were 0-2 in league action came in the 1999-2000 season, when they started Mid-Continent Conference play 0-3 with losses to Oral Roberts, UMKC and Southern Utah.
- That team would bounce back to finish 10-6 and in second place in the conference standings, and went on to capture the Mid-Con Tournament title.
Finding the Right Combination
- After using the same starting lineup for a seven-game stretch earlier this year, which included each of the team’s first six wins over Division I opponents, Valpo’s starting five has been in flux over the last few weeks.
- The Crusaders used their sixth different starting lineup in the last seven games on Sunday, including giving freshman Mileek McMillan his first career start.
- 10 of Valpo’s 12 players have now started at least once this season, with Micah Bradford and Marten Linssen the only Crusaders yet to start a game.
- Bakari Evelyn is the only Valpo player who has started every game this year.
Joseph Steps Up
- Given the opportunity for more playing time recently, senior guard Max Joseph has produced for the Crusaders.
- Over the last four games (two starts), Joseph has averaged 12.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.8 steals per game in 31 minutes of action.
- Joseph is also connecting at a 60.7% clip from the field over that stretch.
- The senior matched his career high in scoring at UC Riverside with 15 points and has scored 13 or more in each of Valpo’s last three games.
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.
- After opening MVC play with a pair of opponents they had both played recently and used to share conference affiliation with, the Crusaders have a pair of unfamiliar opponents on the docket this week.
- No member of either roster was alive when Valpo and Bradley last met on the hardwood in December of 1983.
- Then, on Saturday, the Crusaders will take on Southern Illinois for the first time since December of 1980.
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 six losses, however, its turnover rate has been 24% or worse in all six games.
- In addition, the Crusaders have posted six of their seven worst offensive efficiencies of the season in the six losses - Ball State (98.5) narrowly edging out UNCW.
- Against Indiana State, 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).
- Then, against Missouri State, the Crusaders struggled with their shooting (40.2% eFG%), resulting in their worst home offensive efficiency (78.3) since their loss to New Mexico in December of 2014.
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 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 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 Monday, Valpo was tied for 16th nationally over the same time span in terms of victories.
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.