Valparaiso (14-16, 5-12 MVC)
Game #31 - Saturday, February 24 - 2 p.m.
at Drake (16-14, 10-7 MVC)
Knapp Center (7,152) - Des Moines, Iowa
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Looking to enter its first appearance at Arch Madness on a high note, the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team closes out the regular season Saturday afternoon with a trip to take on Drake.
Last Time Out: Valpo was unable to get over the hump on Tuesday night at the ARC on Senior Night against UNI, as the Crusaders never led as they fell to the Panthers, 68-63. The Crusaders cut UNI’s lead to three points multiple times in the second half, but weren’t able to pull any closer. Bakari Evelyn led three Valpo players in double figures with 19 points, while playing in his final home game, Tevonn Walker recorded 13 points and four rebounds.
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 (38-25) 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: While Valpo and Drake have shared membership in the Pioneer Football League since 1993, they are members of the same all-sports conference for the first time this academic year. The history on the hardwood, while it dates back to 1944, is sparse - the two programs have met just seven times on the basketball court and just once in the last 50 years prior to their first MVC meeting earlier this year. The Crusaders hold a 5-2 advantage in the series, including a 77-60 victory at the ARC on Jan. 10 in the first conference matchup. Tevonn Walker led the way with 26 points and six rebounds in that win, while fellow senior Max Joseph posted 16 points and a career-best eight assists.
- 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 entered the 2017-18 season 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 UNI
- It was a slow start for both teams offensively, as UNI led just 2-0 6:30 into the game. Both teams eventually shot better than 60% from the field in the first half, however.
- Coming into the second half trailing by four, the Crusaders kept UNI from extending its lead past eight points in the second half, but each time Valpo would cut the lead to three points, the Panthers responded.
- Valpo had a shot to cut the lead to one point inside of the two-minute mark, but could not convert.
- For the game, the Crusaders shot 46% (23-of-50) to UNI’s 55.3% (21-of-38) clip. Valpo was just 8-of-13 from the foul line, compared to the Panthers’ 22-of-32 finish from the stripe.
- Bakari Evelyn led three Valpo players in double figures with 19 points, including three 3-pointers.
- Markus Golder scored in double figures for the sixth straight contest, going 6-of-9 from the floor for 14 points while adding five rebounds and three assists.
- Bennett Koch paced UNI with 25 points, going a perfect 8-of-8 from the field and 9-of-14 from the foul line.
- The loss dropped Valpo to 24-3 over the last 27 years on Senior Night.
...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.
- Arch Madness opens in St. Louis on Thursday evening, March 1.
...on the road
- The Crusaders sit at 2-12 in true road games this year following their loss at Loyola Chicago last week.
- 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.
- Drake enters Saturday’s game at 16-14 overall and 10-7 in MVC play, still with a possibility of finishing in a tie for second place in the conference.
- The Bulldogs had a three-game winning streak snapped last time out as they fell in overtime at Illinois State, 89-81.
- Drake boasts an MVC Player of the Year candidate in Reed Timmer, who averages 19.3 ppg and hits at a 42.3% clip from 3-point range.
Next Stop: Arch Madness
- Valpo will get its first taste of Arch Madness next week, traveling to St. Louis for the 2018 MVC Tournament at the Scottrade Center.
- While the Crusaders could finish the regular season in a tie for eighth place, they are locked into the 10 seed for the postseason tournament.
- Valpo’s first game is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 1 against the seventh seed.
- The Crusaders would need to win four games in four days to claim the tournament championship.
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 179th or better in RPI and 159th 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.
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.
- Looking back at the Crusaders’ last three 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 six games, averaging 14.3 ppg and 4.2 rpg over that stretch.
- Golder is connecting at a 61.1% clip from the field over the last six contests and is 13-for-25 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 and now has scored 1,369 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 149 career steals, just one 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 30.7% 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 12 of the last 13 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 17.6 points and 7.6 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.