Valparaiso (3-3, 0-0 MVC)
Game #7 - Nov. 28, 2018 - 9:30 p.m. CT
at UNLV (4-1, 0-0 MWC)
Thomas & Mack Center (18,000) - Las Vegas, Nev.
Next Up in Valpo Basketball: The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team represents the Missouri Valley Conference in the MWC/MVC Challenge series Wednesday evening, continuing its road trip with a visit to UNLV. Wednesday’s game concludes a stretch of five out of six games away from home for Valpo, which returns home for three of its next four.
Last Time Out: Valpo rallied from an early nine-point deficit to take the lead in the first half, and then went shot for shot with West Virginia through the first 10 minutes of the second half, but the Mountaineers pulled away in the last 10 minutes as Valpo fell by an 88-76 final in Morgantown, W.V. Senior Deion Lavender handed out 10 assists without committing a turnover, while junior Derrik Smits finished with a team-high 20 points and five blocked shots.
Following the Crusaders: TV – AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain (683 DirecTV; 414 Dish) – Nick Gismondi and Dave Bollwinkel
Video - Available online outside the AT&TSN viewing area
Radio – WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) – Todd Ickow and Aaron Leavitt
Links for the video, audio and live stats will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Matt Lottich: Matt Lottich (42-29) is in his sixth season overall at Valpo and third as head coach in 2018-19. Lottich led Valpo to 15 victories in his second season in charge in 2017-18 and guided the Crusaders through the move to the MVC, which ended the campaign ranked eighth nationally in conference RPI. In his first year as head coach, 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: Wednesday marks the first meeting in the all-time series between Valpo and UNLV. Valpo is 13-21 all-time against current MWC teams, but most of those meetings (23 of 34) came against Air Force in the mid to late 1900’s. This century, Valpo is 2-2 against a trio of current MWC teams: Colorado State (1-0), New Mexico (0-2) and Utah State (1-0).
- Valpo was selected to finish in seventh place in the MVC preseason poll with 173 points.
- Valpo has finished worse in the final standings than its preseason projection just once in the last eight years.
...looking back at last year
- Valpo went 15-17 in its first season as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference.
- The Brown and Gold posted a 6-12 record in MVC play in a conference which ended the season ranked eighth in the nation in conference RPI.
- The 2017-18 campaign marked the first time in the last eight years that Valpo has not earned a bid to postseason tournament play.
- Sophomore Bakari Evelyn was named to the MVC’s All-Newcomer Team, while sophomore Markus Golder earned a spot on the conference’s All-Bench Team.
...in the loss to West Virginia
- West Virginia got out to a quick start, leading 14-5 just 4:25 into the game as it scored on six of its first eight possessions of the game.
- Valpo rallied to take a 21-20 lead with eight minutes to play in the first half, and West Virginia would eventually lead 39-36 at the half.
- The first six minutes of the second half were like a heavyweight fight, with both offenses trading blows. Valpo went 6-for-8, including a perfect 4-for-4 from the 3-point line, over that stretch.
- But Valpo ended up losing ground over that stretch, as West Virginia scored 18 points of its own over the first six minutes of the second half to lead 57-52. Valpo tied the score twice over the opening few minutes, but was never able to regain the lead outright.
- The Mountaineers eventually pulled away with a 9-0 run midway through the half, as Valpo went scoreless for a four-minute stretch.
- Valpo placed four in double figures in the loss: Derrik Smits (20), Ryan Fazekas (15), Markus Golder (13) and Bakari Evelyn (10).
- Valpo enjoyed its best 3-point shooting game of the season, going 9-of-20 from deep.
...in the win over SIUE
- Bakari Evelyn tied the game at 68-68 with an elbow jumper with 11 seconds to play in regulation, and Valpo forced a 3-point miss at the buzzer to send the game to overtime.
- Valpo outscored SIUE 7-2 in the extra period.
- Wednesday was just the second overtime game in head coach Matt Lottich’s three years as head coach – the Crusaders had lost the previous one in double overtime to Santa Clara at the ARC on Dec. 22, 2016.
- All five Valpo starters scored in double figures on Wednesday in a balanced effort, led by a season-high 16 points from Evelyn - 15 of which came after halftime.
- Valpo out-scored SIUE from the foul line 21-8, going 21-of-33 versus the Cougars’ 8-of-15. Valpo also limited SIUE to just 4-for-21 shooting from the 3-point line.
- Valpo starts December with back-to-back home games, first hosting UC Riverside at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 2.
- The Crusaders then welcome High Point to campus for a Tuesday night game, Dec. 4.
...on the road
- Wednesday is the second of 13 true road games for Valpo in the 2018-19 regular season, as it is currently 0-1.
- Valpo went just 3-12 in true road games last season.
- Prior to last year, Valpo had finished above .500 in true road games in four of the last five seasons.
- UNLV enters Wednesday’s game at 4-1 on the season, having won four straight since a season-opening loss to Loyola Marymount.
- Wednesday marks the sixth of seven consecutive home games for UNLV to open the season.
- Seven different UNLV players are averaging at least six points per game in the early going this year, led by 12.0 ppg from Shakur Juiston.
- Wednesday is the second time Valpo will participate in the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge series since joining the MVC.
- Last season, Valpo opened the challenge at home against Utah State and gave The Valley an early lead with a 72-65 win, led by 25 points and nine rebounds from Tevonn Walker.
- This is the eighth season of the challenge series, as the original iteration lasted four years, while this is the fourth season of the challenge’s renewal.
- The MWC owns a 3-1-3 advantage in the series and has the 38-27 aggregate advantage in games - the last two years have ended in 5-5 draws.
Tough Slate Away From Home Continues
- Valpo continues its challenging slate of games away from home in the non-conference portion of the schedule on Wednesday night as it faces UNLV.
- The three-game Myrtle Beach Invitational included games against Conference USA preseason favorite Western Kentucky, as well as Wake Forest out of the ACC.
- Valpo will play four true road games in the non-conference slate - two against Sweet 16 teams from a season ago in West Virginia and Texas A&M, as well as games at UNLV and George Washington.
Dominating On Both Ends
- Junior Derrik Smits enjoyed a strong game on both ends of the court Saturday at West Virginia, leading Valpo with 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting and setting a new career high with five blocked shots.
- The five blocks was the most by a Valpo player since Vashil Fernandez blocked five in the NIT title game against George Washington in March 2016.
- Smits is the first Valpo player with 20+ points and 5+ blocks in the same game since Zoran Viskovic posted 27 points and seven rejections in a win over Northern Illinois in January 1998.
- For Smits, Saturday was his second 20+ point outing in the last three games - both coming against Power 5 schools - after reaching the mark just once in his first two seasons.
Running the Point
- Graduate transfer Deion Lavender has been a steady influence at point guard early in his Valpo career, and he took it to another level Saturday against West Virginia.
- Facing a Mountaineer squad known for its relentless defensive pressure, Lavender dished out 10 assists and did not commit a single turnover.
- Lavender was the first Valpo player to reach double figures in assists since Urule Igbavboa did so as part of a triple-double at Chicago State in February 2007.
- Further, Lavender is the first Crusader with at least 10 assists and zero turnovers in the same game since Bryce Drew handed out 11 assists without a turnover against Buffalo in January 1997.
- Lavender currently leads the MVC and ranks 36th nationally with 5.8 assists/game, and became the first Valpo player in at least three decades to open a season with four consecutive games of five or more assists.
No Freshman Jitters
- Freshman Javon Freeman has enjoyed a strong start to his Valpo career.
- Freeman is the first Valpo freshman to score in double figures in each of the first five games of his career in at least three decades - a streak which came to an end with his nine-point effort last time out at West Virginia.
- In that time span, only Bryce Drew and Erik Buggs had even started their Valpo career with three consecutive games in double figures.
- Freeman’s first game against Concordia University Chicago was the highest-scoring debut by a Valpo freshman in two decades.
- Freeman scored 22 vs. Concordia, the most points by a Valpo freshman in his debut since Lubos Barton scored 27 in a win over South Carolina in November of 1998 - also the last time a Valpo freshman led the team in scoring in his debut.
You Can Leave Vegas a Winner
- Las Vegas has been very good to Valpo in the recent past, as the Brown and Gold enters Wednesday’s game on a five-game winning streak in the city.
- Most recently, Valpo took down Alabama and BYU to win the MGM Grand Main Event in November 2016.
- Prior to that, Valpo earned wins over Northern Colorado and Texas A&M-CC as part of the Las Vegas Invitational at the Orleans Arena in November 2010.
- Valpo’s winning streak in Vegas dates back to December 2004 and a win over Longwood to conclude the Las Vegas Holiday Classic at Valley H.S.