Valparaiso (13-15, 4-11 MVC)
Game #29 - Saturday, February 17 - 8 p.m.
Bradley (18-10, 8-7 MVC)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Two home games are left for the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team in the 2017-18 season, starting with a Saturday night matchup with Bradley. The Crusaders have won back-to-back MVC games on their home court, and are looking to avenge a road loss for the third consecutive home game.
Last Time Out: Valpo went toe-to-toe with a Loyola squad which entered the game atop the Missouri Valley Conference standings on Wednesday evening in Chicago, but the Crusaders were unable to get over the hump in the late stages of the game, eventually falling to the Ramblers by an 80-71 final. The Crusaders scored 50 points in the second half after scoring just 21 first-half points, but Loyola put 52 points on the board in the second half itself.
Following the Crusaders: TV - MVC TV Network (Valpo viewing area - NBC Sports Chicago; other networks - FOX Sports Midwest, FOX Sports Indiana, Fox Sports Kansas City) - John Rooney (PxP) and Rich Zvosec (Analyst)
Video Streaming - outside regional footprint [IL, IN, IA, 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 (37-24) 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 four times, three of which came in a four-season stretch in the early 1980’s before the fourth meeting took place earlier this season. Bradley owns a 3-1 advantage in the series, including an 80-71 victory in Peoria in the programs’ first matchup as Missouri Valley Conference foes.
- Valpo was selected to finish in sixth place in the MVC preseason poll, finishing just 12 points behind Southern Illinois for fifth place.
- 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 Loyola
- Valpo led 11-9 nearing the midway mark of the first half, but Loyola took control with a 13-3 run over a six-minute span.
- Trailing by seven at halftime, the Crusaders tied the game just 88 seconds into the second half - one of four times Valpo evened the score in the second half. But the Crusaders were never able to regain the outright advantage.
- A 3-point play from Markus Golder with 11:56 to play tied the game at 42-all, but Loyola would score on 18 of its next 19 possessions to earn the win.
- After combining for just 49 first-half points, both teams exceeded that mark by themselves in a second half which finished 52-50 in favor of Loyola.
- Tevonn Walker paced four Crusaders in double figures with 18 points. The senior also added five assists without committing a turnover, matching his career high in the assist column for the second straight game.
- Golder and Jaume Sorolla both chipped in 12 points off the bench, the latter doing so while shooting 6-of-7 and also contributing five rebounds and three blocked shots.
...notes from Illinois State
- Valpo led by two points at halftime and never trailed in the second half.
- The Crusaders’ lead was just 51-49 with 7:25 to play before they embarked on a 16-2 run, scoring on six of their next seven possessions - including three 3-pointers from Bakari Evelyn.
- Evelyn scored a game-high 22 points, the second-highest output of his career and the third time in the last five games he has reached at least 20 points.
- Markus Golder went 7-of-10 from the floor for 16 points off the bench, just two points off of his career best.
- Tevonn Walker and Max Joseph both scored in double figures and added five assists and three steals apiece as well.
- John Kiser played 30 minutes off the bench and paced Valpo with nine rebounds to tie a career high as the Crusaders out-rebounded Illinois State 36-32.
- The Crusaders limited the Redbirds to 37.9% shooting, including just a 26.7% clip (8-of-30) from the 3-point line.
- Valpo closes out the regular season with two games next week.
- The Crusaders host UNI at the ARC for Senior Night on Tuesday evening before traveling to Drake for the regular season finale Saturday afternoon.
...at the ARC
- Valpo has 14 regular season home games scheduled at the ARC this season and is 9-3 at home so far this season.
- Missouri State snapped the Crusaders’ 13-game home winning streak in Valpo’s first MVC home game.
- 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 56-7 record at home since the start of the 2014-15 season.
- Since the start of the 1995-96 season, the Crusaders own a 291-63 (.822) record on their home court at the ARC.
- Bradley enters Saturday’s game at 18-10 overall on the year and in a tie for fourth place in the MVC standings at 8-7.
- The Braves had lost three consecutive games before taking down Illinois State in Peoria in their last game.
- Bradley limits opponents to just 64 points per game, a mark which ranks 15th nationally for scoring defense.
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 181st or better in RPI and 157th 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.
Kiser Crashes the Glass
- Sophomore wing John Kiser has been hitting the boards for the Crusaders since his return from injury in mid-January.
- Kiser matched a career-best in Valpo’s win over Illinois State on Sunday with nine rebounds in a career-high 30 minutes, and followed with a game-high eight rebounds last time out at Loyola.
- The former walk-on has paced Valpo on the glass in five of his eight games since returning from injury, grabbing at least six rebounds in all five games.
- One area where this year’s Crusader squad has excelled is in the steals category, as Valpo is averaging an MVC-best 7.8 steals/game - a mark which ranks 30th 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 1.9 steals/game and is on pace to crack Valpo’s single-season chart in the category.
- Walker has 45 steals this year, while Max Joseph has 44 and Bakari Evelyn 40 - the first time Valpo has had three players tally 40+ steals in a season since the aforementioned 2002-03 campaign (Ali Berdiel-57; Stalin Ortiz-56; Greg Tonagel-41).
On the Brink
- While the Crusaders are still looking for their first road win in MVC play, they have been highly competitive in most of their road contests.
- Valpo was tied with Loyola four different times in the second half of its last road game.
- The Crusaders have now been tied or led at hafltime or in the second half in six of their eight MVC road games this season.
- Overall within MVC play, home teams have won at a 73.3% clip - the second-highest percentage of home victories within conference play, trailing only the Ivy League.
Moving Up the Charts
- Tevonn Walker moved into Valpo’s career top-20 in scoring in early January.
- Walker surpassed Milo Stovall (1998-2002) for 16th position last time out against Loyola and now has scored 1,348 career points.
- Next up for Walker is Mike Jones (1986-90) in 15th place, who finished his career with 1,375 career points.
- Walker also moved into Valpo’s career top-10 in steals last month and now ranks ninth with 147 career steals, just three behind Jamie Sykes for eighth 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 30.6% clip from distance - a mark which ranks 13th nationally.
- Eight times this year, Crusader opponents have shot 25% or worse from 3-point range.
- Valpo has held its opponents to six or fewer 3-pointers in 10 of the last 11 games - the only outlier was the home win over Illinois State, where the Redbirds needed 30 attempts to hit eight 3-pointers.
We Are Young
- The Crusaders feature nine underclassmen on their roster.
- The active squad boasts two seniors, six sophomores and three freshmen.
- Valpo ranks 252nd 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.
- The 8-0 month of November 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.
- 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 17.7 points and 7.9 rebounds per game for the NAZ Suns and has appeared in nine games, scoring 16 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 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.