Valparaiso (14-15, 5-11 MVC)
Game #30 - Tuesday, February 20 - 8 p.m.
UNI (13-15, 5-11 MVC)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team hits the floor at the ARC for the final time in the regular season on Tuesday evening as the Crusaders host UNI on Senior Night. The program’s seniors will be honored prior to the game and will address the fans following the game.
Last Time Out: The movement late in the second half of Saturday night’s game at the ARC was all on the Crusaders’ side of the scoreboard, as Valpo went on a 21-0 run late to take the lead and eventually pull away for a 77-64 win in Missouri Valley Conference play over Bradley. Sophomore Markus Golder led the way with 16 points, all of which came in the second half.
Following the Crusaders: TV - CBS Sports Network - John Sadak (PxP) and Jordan Cornette (Analyst)
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 (38-24) 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: Prior to this year, Valpo and UNI had not met for over 13 years and had faced off just once 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 23-2 advantage in the all-time series over Valpo, including an 81-76 win in Cedar Falls on Jan. 13 in the two teams’ first meeting as MVC opponents. Valpo trailed by 19 points with under four minutes to play before unleashing a furious rally, but could not get any closer than the final margin down the stretch.
- 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 Bradley
- Valpo trailed by 10 points with 3:17 to play in the first half, but trailed just 31-26 at the half.
- The Crusaders took their first lead of the game at 54-53 with 7:14 to play.
- Trailing 60-56 with under six minutes to play, Valpo unleashed a 21-0 run over a span of 4:46. In that stretch, Valpo scored on 10 of 12 possessions, while Bradley went 0-of-6 from the field, 0-for-2 from the foul line and committed a turnover.
- Markus Golder connected on a mid-range jumper with 4:33 to play to give the Crusaders the lead for good.
- The highlight of the run came with just over two minutes to play. Sophomore Bakari Evelyn received a pass 35 feet from the basket with the shot clock ready to expire, didn’t hesitate and launched a high-arcing shot that calmly rippled through the net, igniting the crowd as the Crusaders pushed their lead to nine points.
- The Crusaders posted 77 points on a Bradley squad which had entered the game 15th in the nation in scoring defense, limiting opponents to just 64 ppg.
- Valpo scored 51 of its points in the second half. The Crusaders were 17-of-23 from the field in the second half, making six 3-pointers, and were 11-of-12 from the foul line.
- Golder led the second-half surge, as after going into halftime with no points and one rebound, the sophomore finished the night with 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting and a team-high seven rebounds.
- The Crusaders handed out 17 assists on their 23 made field goals, led by six helpers from Max Joseph.
...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.
- Valpo closes out the regular season on Saturday afternoon as the Crusaders travel to Drake.
- They then open Arch Madness from St. Louis with a game on Thursday evening, March 1.
...at the ARC
- Valpo has 14 regular season home games scheduled at the ARC this season and is 10-3 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 57-7 record at home since the start of the 2014-15 season.
- Since the start of the 1995-96 season, the Crusaders own a 292-63 (.823) record on their home court at the ARC.
- UNI enters Tuesday’s game tied with the Crusaders for ninth place at 5-11 in MVC play, and with a 13-15 overall record.
- The Panthers have alternated wins and losses in their last four games, and are still in search of their first true road win of the season (0-9).
- Bennett Koch is the only UNI player to average double figures in scoring, tallying 12.2 ppg on 54.5% shooting from the field.
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 186th or better in RPI and 162nd or better in KenPom.
- Last year, six of Valpo’s nine league opponents ranked lower than the lowest MVC opponent this season in KenPom, as well as five in RPI.
Celebrating the Seniors
- Prior to Tuesday’s game, the two members of the team’s senior class, as well as senior managers and seniors from the pep band, cheerleaders and Crusaderettes will be honored during Senior Day ceremonies.
- Max Joseph and Tevonn Walker came in together from Montreal prior to the start of the 2014-15 season and have been a part of 96 wins over their four-year careers.
- Valpo has enjoyed tremendous success on Senior Day over the past two-plus decades, as the Crusaders own a 24-2 record over the last 26 years in their final home game.
Rallying For the Win
- Valpo came from 10 points down late in the first half to earn its victory over Bradley, marking the second time this year the Crusaders have rallied from a double-digit deficit for a win .
- The Crusaders also came back from down 10 in their non-conference win over UNCW.
- The Bradley game was also the Crusaders’ first win when trailing at the half since Feb. 24, 2017 at Wright State.
- Looking back at the Crusaders’ last three home games - all wins - one thing stands out immediately: Valpo securing the win with a big late run.
- Down by three with 5:14 to play against Indiana State, the Crusaders went on a 12-2 run over the next four minutes.
- Valpo extended a two-point lead with seven minutes remaining to 16 points with a 16-2 run over a stretch of 3:30 in the win over Illinois State.
- Most recently, a 21-0 run took a four-point deficit with less than six minutes to play and made it a 17-point lead in the win over Bradley.
- Sophomore Markus Golder has enjoyed a strong recent stretch of play as he makes a push for potential Sixth Man of the Year accolades.
- Golder has scored in double figures in each of the last five games, averaging 14.4 ppg and 4.0 rpg over that stretch.
- Golder is connecting at a 60% clip from the field over the last five contests and is 11-for-22 from 3-point range in that time.
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 at Loyola last Wednesday and now has scored 1,356 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 148 career steals, just two 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 14th 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 11 of the last 12 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 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.