Valparaiso (4-3, 0-0 MVC)
Game #8 - Dec. 2, 2018 - 1 p.m.
UC Riverside (2-6, 0-0 Big West)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Valpo Basketball: The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team returns home for two games in three days, starting with a Sunday afternoon matinee against UC Riverside. Starting with the game against the Highlanders, five of Valpo’s next seven games will be at the ARC.
Last Time Out: Trailing by 11 late in the first half at UNLV, Valpo ended the opening period on an 11-4 run and then started the second half on a 15-2 run to take control, eventually going on to a 72-64 victory over the Runnin’ Rebels Wednesday evening as part of the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge series. Derrik Smits led the way for Valpo with 20 points and 12 rebounds.
Following the Crusaders: Video – ESPN+ – Todd Ickow and David Huseman
Radio – WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) – Garrett Willis and Dan Stellfox
Links for the video, audio and live stats will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Matt Lottich: Matt Lottich (43-29) 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: Sunday marks the back end of a home-and-home series between Valpo and UC Riverside. The Highlanders captured the first-ever meeting between the two programs last season on Dec. 20 in Riverside by a 73-60 final despite 15 points from Max Joseph. Valpo is a combined 5-2 against current members of the Big West Conference, with its most recent meeting against a Big West opponent prior to last year coming on Dec. 22, 2000 at the ARC - a 65-52 victory over Cal State Fullerton.
- 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 win at UNLV
- Valpo trailed the Runnin’ Rebels 31-20 with 5:46 to play in the first half following an 11-0 UNLV run.
- The Crusaders out-scored UNLV 11-4 to close the first half within four points, and then went on a 15-2 run over the first six minutes of the second half.
- The Runnin’ Rebels got no closer than six points in the final minutes of the game.
- Valpo has now won its MWC/MVC Challenge series game in each of its two seasons as an MVC member institution.
- Valpo’s win over the Rebels gave the MVC a 5-3 lead in the series with two games remaining on Saturday.
- Wednesday’s victory was the sixth straight for the Valpo men’s basketball program in Las Vegas, dating back to 2004.
- Facing one of the nation’s top rebounding teams, Valpo more than held its own on the glass. UNLV held a slim 45-41 advantage on the boards, but Valpo grabbed 17 offensive rebounds to the Rebels’ 16 and enjoyed an 18-6 edge in second-chance points.
...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.
- Valpo welcomes High Point to the ARC Tuesday night at 7 p.m.
- The Brown and Gold then travels to Washington, D.C. to take on George Washington Saturday afternoon.
...at the ARC
- Valpo has 15 regular season home games scheduled at the ARC this season and is 2-0 so far this year at home.
- Valpo posted a 10-4 record at home last year, its eighth consecutive season reaching double figures in home victories
- Valpo has recorded a 59-8 (.881) mark in home games since the start of the 2014-15 season.
- Over the last 23 years, Valpo owns a 294-64 (.821) record on its home court at the ARC.
- UC Riverside enters Sunday’s game at 2-6 overall this year, falling to Cal Baptist 80-70 last time out.
- The Highlanders are led by Dikymbe Martin’s 15 points per game.
- Martin scored a game-high 30 points and added six rebounds, four assists and four steals in last year’s win for UCR over Valpo.
There Is Nothing I Do Better Than Revenge
- Sunday’s game against UC Riverside kicks off what can be viewed as a revenge tour for the Valpo basketball program during the month of December.
- Valpo fell at UC Riverside last season by a 73-60 final and trailed 34-13 18 minutes into that contest.
- Then, coming up Saturday, Valpo will play at George Washington in a rematch of the 2016 NIT championship game that the Colonials won 76-60.
- Monday, Dec. 17 brings Ball State to the ARC - the Cardinals beat Valpo last season, 71-70, thanks to a 3-pointer by Taylor Persons with 3.3 seconds to play.
- Valpo pressured UNLV into committing 25 turnovers in Wednesday’s win, scoring 32 points off of the Rebels’ miscues.
- The 25 turnovers was the most by a Valpo Division I opponent since Chicago State coughed the ball up 25 times in March of 2002.
- Valpo’s 32 points off of turnovers was its highest output against a D-I foe since scoring 32 points off of 23 turnovers in a 93-70 win over Maine in November of 2014.
Rally For the Win
- Valpo found itself trailing by 11 points just over 14 minutes into Wednesday’s game against UNLV, but came from behind to take the lead with 18:29 to play and went on to the victory.
- The comeback was Valpo’s largest deficit overcome since rallying from down 12 points in a win at Cleveland State on Jan. 14, 2017.
Dominating On Both Ends
- Junior Derrik Smits continued his strong recent run of play with his first career double-double last time out in the win at UNLV, posting 20 points and a career-best 12 rebounds.
- Smits tallied 20 points and blocked a career-high five shots in Valpo’s game at West Virginia, becoming the first Valpo player to hit those marks in the same game since Zoran Viskovic posted 27 points and seven rejections in a win over Northern Illinois in January 1998.
- Earlier this year, Smits scored a career-high 23 points against Wake Forest. He has now scored 20+ three times in the last four games after reaching the mark just once in his first two seasons.
No Freshman Jitters
- Freshman Javon Freeman has enjoyed a strong start to his Valpo career.
- Freeman has scored at least nine points in each of the first seven games of his career.
- Freeman became the first Valpo freshman to score in double figures in each of the first five games of his career in at least three decades.
- 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.