Valparaiso (11-7, 2-3 MVC)
Game #19 - Saturday, January 13 - 7 p.m.
at UNI (8-9, 0-5 MVC)
McLeod Center (7,018) - Cedar Falls, Iowa
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team takes to the road for a nationally-televised matchup at UNI Saturday evening. Coming off back-to-back Valley wins at home, the Crusaders are looking to even their record in conference play against a Panther squad in search of its first MVC victory of the season.
Last Time Out: Valpo posted season highs for made 3-pointers and assists in another strong offensive performance on Wednesday night at the ARC, taking down first-place Drake by a 77-60 final for its second straight victory. The Crusaders connected on 12-of-24 3-point attempts and assisted on 25 of their 29 baskets in the winning effort. Tevonn Walker led the way, matching his career high with 26 points, while Max Joseph finished with 16 points and a career-best eight assists.
Following the Crusaders: TV - ESPN2 - Mitch Holthus (PxP) and Malcolm Huckaby (Analyst)
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 (35-16) 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: Valpo and UNI are meeting Saturday for the first time in over 13 years and just the second time in the last quarter-century. The Crusaders and Panthers shared membership in the Mid-Continent Conference from the conference’s formation in 1982 until UNI’s departure for the MVC in 1991. UNI holds a 22-2 advantage in the all-time series over Valpo, and won the last meeting between the two programs in Las Vegas in December of 2004 by a 67-49 final - a game which was the Crusaders’ third in a stretch of four games in 68 hours.
- 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 Drake
- Valpo knocked off the previously-unbeaten Bulldogs with one of its best offensive performances of the year.
- The Crusaders led 12-5 at the first media timeout and never trailed the rest of the way, enjoying an 11-point halftime lead en route to the win.
- Valpo finished the game shooting 55.8% from the field (29-of-52) and was 12-of-24 from 3-point range.
- Senior Tevonn Walker matched his career high with 26 points, knocking down five 3-pointers.
- The Crusaders enjoyed a 30-21 advantage on the boards, led by six rebounds from Walker, who led Valpo on the glass for the third straight game.
- Valpo limited Drake’s Reed Timmer, who entered averaging better than 19 points per game, to just seven points on 3-of-7 shooting – just his second single-digit output of the season.
...notes from Southern Illinois
- The Salukis led by seven points just 3:30 into the game and were up by as many as nine (18-9) with 12:52 to play in the half.
- Trailing 27-20 with 7:52 to play in the first half, Valpo rattled off a 23-2 run to close the period. The Crusaders went 7-of-10 from the field over the course of the run while holding SIU to 0-for-11 shooting and forcing a pair of turnovers.
- Valpo held SIU at bay early in the second half as the strong offensive performance continued, as the Crusaders hit nine of their first 10 field goal attempts over the opening eight minutes of the half.
- Max Joseph (6-9 FG, 3-5 3PT, 2-3 FT) and Jaume Sorolla (5-6 FG, 7-8 FT) tied for team-high honors with 17 points apiece and each set a new career high for scoring as well.
- Valpo tied its season high for 3-pointers as it went 10-of-18 from 3-point range as a team, led by a 4-of-5 effort from Bakari Evelyn.
- Micah Bradford set a new career best with six assists as the Crusaders totaled 22 assists on their 27 made field goals.
- Valpo travels to preseason favorite Missouri State on Wednesday.
- The Crusaders then return to the ARC as they host Loyola on Sunday, Jan. 21 on ESPNU.
...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 2-6 in true road games this year following last Wednesday’s loss at Bradley.
- UNI is still in search of its first win in Valley play, as the Panthers enter Saturday at 0-5 in MVC action and 8-9 overall.
- The Panthers earned noteworthy victories over SMU, North Carolina State and UNLV in non-conference play.
- Bennett Koch paces UNI with 13.2 points per game, while Tywhon Pickford averages 10.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.
Providing a Helping Hand
- Valpo has proven especially efficient at moving the ball on offense over its last two wins.
- The Crusaders tallied 22 assists on 27 baskets in the win over SIU, and followed last time out with 25 assists on 29 field goals in the win over Drake.
- The 25 assists versus the Bulldogs marked Valpo’s best mark versus a D-I opponent since tallying 27 assists against Chicago State on Feb. 5, 2007.
- The assist totals over the last two games are most notable when you consider the Crusaders have had six games this year where they’ve been held to nine or fewer assists - including each of the preceding three contests.
Career Highs Abound
- The strong offensive showings over the last two games have resulted in a number of career highs for Crusader players.
- Both Max Joseph and Jaume Sorolla set new career bests in scoring against SIU with 17 points apiece.
- Micah Bradford set a then-career high with six assists against the Salukis and also matched his career best with five rebounds, while Markus Golder tied his career high with four assists.
- Then, last time out in the win over Drake, Tevonn Walker matched his career high with 26 points.
- Joseph registered eight assists for a new career best in that category, while Bradford’s career high was short-lived, as he picked up seven assists against the Bulldogs.
The Fast and The Furious - Sorolla Edition
- Jaume Sorolla took full advantage of his 12 minutes of playing time in the win over SIU, finishing 5-of-6 from the floor and 7-of-8 from the foul line for a career-best 17 points.
- Sorolla was the first Valpo player in at least 30 years to finish a game with 17 or more points while playing 12 or fewer minutes against a D-I opponent.
- Alec Peters finished with 18 points in 12 minutes against IU Kokomo on Nov. 18, 2015.
- In fact, only three times over the last two years has a Crusader scored in double figures in 15 or fewer minutes of action - earlier this season, Markus Golder scored 11 in 14 minutes in the win over Samford.
- Valpo had five players score in double figures in its win over SIU, led by the 17 points apiece from Joseph and Sorolla.
- Bakari Evelyn tallied 14 points, while Markus Golder scored 13 off the bench and Derrik Smits added 11 as well.
- The last time five Crusaders scored at least 10 points apiece came early last season (11/23/16) in the win over BYU in Las Vegas.
- Notably, despite being just one season later, none of the five who scored 10+ on Saturday were among the quintet who reached double figures against BYU.
- Senior Max Joseph is playing at the highest level of his career to start off his final season of conference play.
- Joseph set new career highs with 17 points and three made 3-pointers in the win over SIU.
- Then, against Drake, Joseph recorded a career-best eight assists and scored 16 points (6-7 FG; 3-3 3PT).
- Over the Crusaders’ first five MVC games, Joseph has scored in double figures four times and is averaging 12.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.
- He has shot at a 61.1% clip from the field and is 8-of-11 from 3-point range over the last five games after going just 2-of-16 from deep in non-conference play.
Cracking The Top-20
- With his final point at Bradley, senior Tevonn Walker moved into the top-20 in Crusader history in career scoring.
- Against SIU, Walker surpassed Lance Barker (1991-95) for 19th position.
- Walker currently sits with 1,224 career points, just 23 points away from Darryl Ashby (1974-78) in 18th position with 1,247 career points.
- Looking ahead, with at least 14 games remaining, Walker is 284 points away from a potential spot in the top-10.
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 lineup in an eight-game span against SIU, bringing Jaume Sorolla off the bench for the first time this year and moving Derrik Smits into the starting five for the first time since Trinity Christian.
- 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 263rd 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.
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 93 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 16th 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 years.
- 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 18.6 points and 8.2 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.