Valparaiso (12-12, 3-8 MVC)
Game #25 - Saturday, February 3 - 7 p.m.
at Southern Illinois (15-9, 7-4 MVC)
SIU Arena (8,284) - Carbondale, Ill.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team opens the month of February on the road Saturday evening looking for back-to-back victories, as the Crusaders head out to play Southern Illinois. The game marks the Crusaders’ first trip to Carbondale in nearly four decades.
Last Time Out: Valpo took control of a tight game late on Wednesday evening at the ARC with a critical 12-2 run over a four-minute stretch and held off Indiana State down the stretch to earn a 69-63 victory in Missouri Valley Conference action. Bakari Evelyn paced the Crusaders with 20 points, while Tevonn Walker added 14 points and four steals as Valpo totaled 13 steals as a team.
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 (36-21) 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: In a series which dates back to 1929, Saturday marks just the sixth meeting all-time between Valpo and SIU. The Crusaders lead the series 3-2 following a win earlier this season in the two squads’ first meeting in MVC play. Valpo won that matchup at the ARC, 83-72, as five Crusaders scored in double figures - led by a career-best 17 points apiece from Max Joseph and Jaume Sorolla.
- Valpo was selected to finish in sixth place in the MVC preseason poll, finishing just 12 points behind Southern Illinois for fifth place.
- 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
- A tight game throughout, the contest saw neither team gain more than a three-point advantage for a stretch of nearly 12 minutes in the second half.
- The Sycamores led 54-51 with 5:14 to play, but Valpo answered with eight straight points over a two-minute span as part of a larger 12-2 run which gave the Crusaders control.
- Valpo scored on six out of eight possessions during the run, highlighted by a key 3-pointer from Markus Golder with 4:38 remaining which gave the Crusaders the lead for good.
- Evelyn paced the Crusaders with 20 points – his fourth straight game leading Valpo in the scoring column and his second consecutive 20-point effort.
- Valpo forced 22 Indiana State turnovers, 13 of which were Crusader steals to match their season best against a D-I opponent. Joseph and Walker each tallied four steals apiece to lead the way.
...notes from Illinois State
- The Crusaders were down just 24-20 with four minutes to go in the first half after holding the Redbirds scoreless for more than five minutes.
- But ISU went on a 10-1 run to extend its lead to double figures just before intermission, and the Crusaders would get no closer than nine the rest of the way.
- Valpo shot just 37.7% from the floor (23-of-61) for the game and finished the night just 3-for-19 from 3-point range.
- The Crusaders missed their first 14 3-point attempts of the game before Bakari Evelyn connected from long range with 2:05 to play.
- The Redbirds struggled from the 3-point line as well, going just 4-of-23 from distance, but finished the game 24-for-35 inside the arc.
- The Crusaders remain on the road next Wednesday, Feb. 7, as they make the trip to Evansville for the first time in MVC play.
- Valpo returns home to the ARC for a nationally-televised game against Illinois State on Sunday, Feb. 11.
...on the road
- The Crusaders sit at 2-9 in true road games this year following their loss at Illinois State last Saturday.
- Valpo had 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.
- Southern Illinois enters Saturday night’s game at 15-9 overall and is tied for second in MVC play with a 7-4 conference mark.
- The Salukis have won each of their last four games, including back-to-back road wins at Missouri State and at UNI.
- Armon Fletcher, who went for 32 points and 14 rebounds in the game at Valpo this year, paces SIU with 14.4 points per game and adds 5.5 rebounds per game.
Strength of The Valley
- This season’s iteration of the Missouri Valley Conference has proven to be the Crusaders’ most challenging conference slate in recent history.
- The MVC is currently ranked eighth in conference RPI and ninth in KenPom this season.
- Each of the other nine MVC programs is ranked 172nd or better in RPI and 174th or better in KenPom.
- Last year, six of Valpo’s nine league opponents ranked lower than the lowest MVC opponent this season in both RPI and KenPom.
- One area where this year’s Crusader squad has excelled is in the steals category, as Valpo is averaging an MVC-best 8.0 steals/game - a mark which ranks 28th nationally.
- The Crusaders are on pace for their highest steals/game average for a single season since the 2002-03 squad recorded 8.8 steals/game.
- Leading the way in the steals department is Tevonn Walker, who ranks second in the Valley with 2.1 steals/game and is on pace to crack Valpo’s single-season chart in the category.
- Walker has 41 total steals this year, while Max Joseph has 37 and Bakari Evelyn 36 - the Crusaders have not had three players tally 40+ steals in a season since the aforementioned 2002-03 campaign (Ali Berdiel-57; Stalin Ortiz-56; Greg Tonagel-41).
Evelyn On Scoring Tear
- Sophomore Bakari Evelyn has paced the Crusaders in scoring in each of the last four games and is now averaging 14.1 ppg in MVC play - just a shade behind Tevonn Walker for team-high honors.
- Included in this stretch for Evelyn are back-to-back 20-point efforts in the last two games at Illinois State and at home against Indiana State - the first consecutive 20+ outputs by a Valpo underclassman since Walker went for 24 at Oakland and 21 at Detroit in January of 2016.
- Evelyn currently ranks third in MVC-only play in 3-pointers/game (2.5) and fifth in 3-point percentage (.467). He has attempted 60 3-pointers in conference action, while only one other shooter among the top-10 in 3-point percentage has attempted even 50.
Moving Up the Charts
- Tevonn Walker moved into Valpo’s career top-20 in scoring in early January, and continued his move up the chart last time out against Indiana State.
- Walker surpassed Chuck Kriston (1960-63) for 17th position in the win over the Sycamores and now has scored 1,298 career points.
- Next up for Walker is Milo Stovall (1998-2002) in 16th position, who finished his career with 1,345 career points.
- Walker also moved into Valpo’s career top-10 in steals last time out as well, passing Raitis Grafs - he owns 143 career steals, just two shy of Howard Little for ninth position.
Defending the 3-Point Line
- Valpo has been strong in defending the 3-point line this season, as its opponents have connected at just a 30.9% clip from distance - a mark which ranks 20th nationally.
- Seven times this year, Crusader opponents have shot 25% or worse from 3-point range, including each of Valpo’s last two outings.
- Valpo has held its opponents to six or fewer 3-pointers in each of the last seven games.
We Are Young
- The Crusaders feature nine underclassmen on their roster.
- The active squad boasts two seniors, six sophomores and three freshmen.
- Valpo ranks 256th 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.
- 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 18.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game for the NAZ Suns and has appeared in six games, scoring 14 points, for the Phoenix 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.