Valparaiso (9-7, 0-3 MVC)
Game #17 - Saturday, January 6 - 3 p.m.
Southern Illinois (10-6, 2-1 MVC)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: The Valparaiso Unviersity men’s basketball team returns home for back-to-back games at the friendly confines of the ARC over the next week, starting with a Saturday afternoon matinee against Southern Illinois. The Crusaders and Salukis will be meeting for the first time in 37 seasons as Valpo looks for its first MVC win.
Last Time Out: For the second time in as many Missouri Valley Conference road games, Valpo erased a double-figure first-half deficit prior to halftime, but Bradley would claim the lead for good early in the second half as the Crusaders fell Wednesday night in Peoria, Ill. by an 80-71 final. Tevonn Walker led the way for Valpo with 25 points, just one off his career high, and moved into a tie for 20th place in program history in career scoring.
Following the Crusaders: TV - MVC TV Network (Valpo viewing area - NBC Sports Chicago; other networks - FOX Sports Midwest, FOX Sports Indiana Plus, Fox Sports Kansas City Plus) - John Rooney (PxP) and Rich Zvosec (Analyst)
Video Streaming - outside regional footprint [IL, IN, IA, KS, MO] - ESPN3
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 (33-16) 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: Saturday marks just the fifth meeting all-time between Valpo and SIU. The Salukis captured the last two meetings in 1979 and 1980, the latter a 60-59 thriller in Hilltop Gym on December 30, 1980. Valpo’s wins in the series came in 1956 and 1929.
- 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 Bradley
- Bradley connected on its first five shots from the floor over the opening four minutes, while the Crusaders went 0-for-4 over the same stretch as the Braves led 11-0 at the first media timeout.
- The Crusaders erased the lead in just eight minutes, taking a 20-19 lead with 7:45 to go in the half. The game was eventually tied at halftime.
- Bradley took the lead for good five minutes into the second half.
- Walker came up one point shy of his career high on Wednesday, finishing with a game-high 25 points – buoyed by a 10-for-10 performance from the foul line. Walker also paced the Crusaders with seven rebounds.
- The Crusaders suffered through their worst shooting performance of the year from the field, finishing 20-for-61 (32.8%). After going 6-for-14 from 3-point range in the first half, Valpo was just 2-for-8 in the second half.
- Valpo did finish at a 74.2% clip from the foul line (23-for-31), its best single-game performance since Nov. 25.
...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.
- Valpo concludes its two-game homestand on Wednesday evening as it hosts Drake at the ARC.
- The Crusaders then return to the road next Saturday, Jan. 13 at UNI, a game which will be broadcast live on ESPN2.
...at the ARC
- Valpo has 14 regular season home games scheduled at the ARC this season and is 5-1 at home so far this season.
- Missouri State snapped the Crusaders’ 13-game home winning streak last Sunday.
- 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 52-5 record in home games since the start of the 2014-15 season.
- Since the start of the 1995-96 season, the Crusaders own a 287-61 (.825) record on their home court at the ARC.
- The Salukis currently own a 10-6 overall record and are 2-1 in MVC play, most recently edging Evansville at home by two points on Wednesday.
- SIU won at UNI in its lone conference road game to date.
- Four Salukis average in double figures for an offense which posts 70.8 points per game, led by Armon Fletcher, who averages 12.9 ppg.
Cracking The Top-20
- With his final point last time out at Bradley, senior Tevonn Walker now has 1,195 career points - tying him for 20th in program history.
- Walker currently shares the 20th spot with Scott Anselm (1985-89) and is just one point behind Lance Barker (1991-95) in 19th position.
- Walker reached 1,195 career points in 108 games, while Anselm needed 113 games to reach the mark.
- After surpassing Barker, it will take Walker a couple more games to hit 18th place, as Darryl Ashby (1974-78) currently sits 18th with 1,247 career points.
- Looking ahead, with at least 16 games remaining, Walker is 313 points away from a potential spot in the top-10.
A Rare Start
- Valpo has lost three consecutive games to start conference play for the first time this millennium.
- The last time the Crusaders were 0-3 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 a seven-game span versus Missouri State, including giving freshman Mileek McMillan his first career start - the same lineup started at Bradley as well.
- 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.
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 271st 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.
- 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.
- The Crusaders will take on Southern Illinois on Saturday for the first time since December of 1980.
- Prior to Wednesday night, Valpo and Bradley last met on the hardwood in December of 1983.
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.
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, two wins behind Notre Dame for top honors in the state of Indiana among D-I programs.
- As of the end of play Thursday, Valpo was tied for 17th nationally over the same time span in terms of victories.
- 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).
- Valpo has had an entire team’s worth of talent from the past five years go on to professional basketball careers.
- Most notably, Alec Peters was selected by the Phoenix Suns with the 54th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and is currently on a two-way contract with Phoenix and the Northern Arizona Suns of the G-League.
- Peters is currently averaging 18.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game for the NAZ Suns.
- E. Victor Nickerson (2016) has also seen time in the G-League with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
- Ryan Broekhoff (2013) highlights the Crusaders’ international pros who have graduated in the last five years, as he currently stars for Lokomotiv in Russia’s VTB United League and the EuroCup.
- Shane Hammink (2017) is playing for Bilbao Basket of Liga ACB in Spain - the top division - while Jubril Adekoya (2017), Vashil Fernandez (2016) and Kevin Van Wijk (2013) are all playing for CB Peñas Huesca of LEB Oro - Spain’s second division.
- Lavonte Dority (2014) is playing for Den Helder Suns in the top division in the Netherlands, while Jordan Coleman (2014) has played for Omnia Basket in Italy’s second division.
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.