Valparaiso (15-16, 6-12 MVC)
Game #32 - Thursday, March 1 - 8:30 p.m.
vs. Missouri State (17-14, 7-11 MVC)
Scottrade Center (18,226) - St. Louis, Mo.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team opens its inaugural visit to Arch Madness on Thursday night, as the tenth-seeded Crusaders begin action at the State Farm MVC Tournament against seventh-seeded Missouri State at 8:30 p.m. Valpo will have to win four games in four days to claim the tournament title.
Last Time Out: Valpo enters Arch Madness riding high, as the Crusaders closed out the regular season on Saturday afternoon in Des Moines, Iowa with a 69-64 victory over Drake. Sophomore Derrik Smits led the way for the Crusaders with a career-best 22 points, while the Valpo defense limited Drake to 33.9% shooting for the game.
Following the Crusaders: 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 (39-25) 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 in 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: Missouri State holds a 15-8 advantage in the all-time series with Valpo. The Crusaders had won four straight in non-conference matchups this decade, but the Bears captured both MVC matchups this year - 67-50 in Valpo on Dec. 31 and 64-57 in Springfield on Jan. 17. Alize Johnson posted double-doubles in both games to lead Missouri State, while Max Joseph averaged team highs of 11 points and six rebounds per game over the two contests.
- 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.
...notes from Drake
- Valpo led by 14 with seven minutes to play in the first half before Drake reeled off a 16-0 run - the game would go into the half tied at 30-30.
- The Crusaders scored on six straight possessions early in the second half for a 12-2 run, going ahead 51-42 with 12:28 to go.
- Leading with nine points with under a minute remaining, the Crusaders saw their lead cut to two points with 29 seconds to play, but never surrendered the advantage.
- It was Valpo’s first MVC road victory of the year, but was the seventh time in nine conference road contests it had been tied or led in the second half.
- Sophomore Derrik Smits led the way for Valpo on his career day, finishing with 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the floor while also grabbing six rebounds.
- Markus Golder scored in double figures for the seventh consecutive game, going 6-of-10 from the floor for 13 points. He also narrowly missed his second double-double of the year, grabbing nine rebounds to share team-high honors with Walker, who also scored 11 points.
- Led by the play of Smits, Valpo doubled up Drake in points in the paint, 36-18.
- The Crusaders enjoyed their greatest advantage on the glass within MVC play, out-rebounding the Bulldogs 43-30. Valpo has now held the advantage on the boards in each of its last five games after an eight-game stretch in which it was outrebounded every time out.
...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.
- With a win on Thursday, the Crusaders would face second-seeded Southern Illinois - who they split with in the regular season - in Friday night’s quarterfinal.
...at neutral sites
- Valpo won a pair of neutral-site games at the Savannah Invitational in November, downing Kent State and UNCW in its only neutral-site contests this year prior to thie week.
- Valpo posted a 2-1 record last year in neutral-site games, downing Alabama and BYU in Las Vegas before falling to Milwaukee in Detroit at the HL Championship.
- Missouri State enters Arch Madness with a 17-14 overall record and finished 7-11 in MVC play.
- The Bears finished in a three-way tie for seventh place in the conference and earned the seventh seed due to an RPI tiebreaker (all three teams owned the same head-to-head record against the other two).
- First Team All-Conference honoree Alize Johnson leads MSU, averaging 15.1 ppg and 11.4 rpg.
Crusaders In League Tournaments
- Over the last 10 years, Valpo went 10-8 at the Horizon League Championships.
- The Crusaders were just 2-4 in neutral-site league tournament games over that stretch, including a loss last year to Milwaukee in the HL quarterfinals.
- Valpo would have to win four games this year to claim the conference tournament title, something it has never done.
Wearing the Gold Jerseys
- Valpo’s team managers haven’t had to pull out the road uniforms during conference tournament action for quite some time.
- The last time the Crusaders were the lower seed for a conference tournament game was as the fourth seed at top-seeded Milwaukee in March of 2011.
- That is the sole game in the last eight years during conference tournament play Valpo has worn its road uniform.
Plenty of Conference Wins
- Most years, a 6-12 record would have the Crusaders a couple seeds higher in the final MVC standings.
- Last season, a 6-12 record was good for eighth place - in 2015-16, it would have placed ninth, while in 2014-15, it would have finished seventh.
- In fact, the six wins by a 10th place team matches the most by a squad which finished in 10th place in MVC action since the conference moved to 10 teams - the 1992-93 Creighton and 2012-13 Southern Illinois teams also finished 6-12.
- Valpo had three players honored as the MVC unveiled its postseason awards over the last couple days.
- Sophomore Bakari Evelyn was named to the All-Newcomer Team, averaging 12.5 points and 3.0 assists per game on the year.
- Senior Tevonn Walker was chosen to the All-Defensive Team, finishing the regular season second in the conference in steals/game (1.7).
- It marked the second straight All-Defensive Team selection for Walker, who also earned the honor last season in the Horizon League.
- Sophomore Markus Golder claimed a spot on the conference’s All-Bench Team, averaging 9.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game as Valpo’s sixth man.
- This season marks just the second time in the last 30 years (2007-08) that Valpo hasn’t had at least one First or Second Team All-Conference recipient.
Third Time’s the Charm?
- Valpo will be facing a Missouri State squad which it lost two regular season games against in its tournament opener - a rarity over the years for the Crusaders.
- Over the last 24 years, Valpo has faced a team it lost to twice in the regular season just four times in postseason action.
- The Crusaders avenged a pair of regular season losses with postseason wins over Western Illinois in 1996 and 1999 en route to conference titles.
- Valpo fell for a third time to Cleveland State in 2008 and Wright State in 2009.
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 159th or better in KenPom.
- Last year, seven of Valpo’s nine league opponents ranked lower than the lowest MVC opponent this season in KenPom, as well as five in RPI.
- Valpo finally broke through for its first MVC victory away from home in the regular season finale at Drake after being highly competitive in most of their road contests in conference play.
- The Crusaders were tied or led in the second half in seven of their nine MVC road games this season, but went just 1-8 in road play.
- Valpo’s strong play of late has come in conjunction with the best stretch of play this season from sophomore sixth man Markus Golder.
- Golder has scored in double figures in each of the last seven games, averaging 14.1 ppg and 4.9 rpg over that stretch.
- Golder is connecting at a 60.9% clip from the field over the last seven contests and is 14-for-27 from 3-point range in that time.
- Golder is the first Crusader to score in double figures off the bench in seven or more consecutive games since Stalin Ortiz recorded 10 straight efforts of 10+ points off the bench in the 2002-03 season.
Moving Up the Charts
- Tevonn Walker moved into Valpo’s career top-20 in scoring in early January.
- Walker surpassed Mike Jones (1986-90) for 15th position last time out at Drake and now has scored 1,380 career points.
- Next up for Walker is Jeff Simmons (1978-82) in 14th place, who finished his career with 1,395 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.
We Are Young
- The Crusaders feature nine underclassmen on their roster.
- The active squad boasts two seniors, six sophomores and three freshmen.
- Valpo ranks 249th nationally in Ken Pomeroy’s experience metric, which weights the experience of each player based on minutes played.
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 17.1 points and 7.4 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.