Indiana State (10-6, 3-2 MVC)
at Valparaiso (9-9, 2-3 MVC)
Game No. 19 – Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020 – 7 p.m. CT
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) – Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Valpo Basketball: It’s a Saturday night of Missouri Valley Conference hoops at the Athletics-Recreation Center as Indiana State makes its way to Porter County to create the latest installment of a deep history between the two instate foes. Valpo avenged a pair of regular season losses to eliminate head coach Greg Lansing’s team in the conference tournament a year ago in St. Louis, setting the stage for Saturday’s matchup that features two of the league’s top three scorers. In addition to the game, fans who come out will enjoy halftime entertainment courtesy of Tyler’s Amazing Balancing Act.
Last Time Out: A game of bursts saw Valpo rally from 11 down early in the first half to take an 11-point lead by the end of the half, only to see UNI eventually push the lead back to double figures in an 88-78 victory for the Panthers on Wednesday night. A battle between the league’s top two scorers did not disappoint, as sophomore standouts A.J. Green (UNI) and Javon Freeman-Liberty (Valpo) led their teams by scoring 29 and 28, respectively. The Panthers, a team receiving votes nationally in the AP and USA Today Coaches’ polls, shot 57.7 percent from the field and 54.5 percent from beyond the arc while also going 16-of-19 (84.2) percent at the foul line in the triumph.
Following Valpo Basketball: Video – The Valley on ESPN+ – Jordan Bernfield (play-by-play) and Marcus Wilson (analyst)
Radio – WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) – Todd Ickow (play-by-play) and Danny Dalenberg (analyst)
Twitter updates - @ValpoBasketball
Links for the audio and live stats will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Matt Lottich: Matt Lottich (63-53) is in his seventh season overall at Valpo and fourth as head coach in 2019-20. Lottich led the team to 15 victories in his third season in charge in 2018-19, the program’s second campaign in the Missouri Valley Conference. In his first year as head coach (2016-17), Lottich guided Valpo to its fifth Horizon League regular season championship in a six-year span as he led the team to 24 wins and an at-large berth into the NIT. Lottich, hired as the 22nd head coach of the Valpo men’s basketball program in April 2016, graduated from Stanford University in 2004 and New Trier High School (Illinois) in 2000.
Series Notes: It’s the continuation of a long-time series this weekend as Valpo and Indiana State match up on the hardwood for the 87th time. The Brown & Gold were responsible for ending the Sycamore season a year ago, as Valpo cruised to a 77-55 triumph on Thursday in St. Louis. Indiana State had won both regular season meetings, 70-53 on Jan. 23 in Terre Haute and 87-82 in overtime on Feb. 13 at the ARC. The tournament win was Valpo’s first as a member of the MVC. Valpo is 18-24 all-time when hosting Indiana State and 33-53 overall against the Trees.
Among National Leaders: Valpo ranks 32nd nationally in steals per game (8.7), 35th in assists per game (15.9), 20th in total steals (156) and 20th in total assists (287). Freeman-Liberty is 16th in points per game (20.9), 15th in steals per game (2.5), fifth in field goal attempts (315), eighth in field goals made (139), 10th in total points (377) and sixth in total steals (45). Among sophomores, he’s fifth in points per game, third in steals per game and first in total steals.
Freeman-Liberty Eyes the Record Book: Javon Freeman-Liberty has already surpassed his season point total from a year ago, when he finished with 364 points, tying for 17th for points by a Missouri Valley Conference freshman since 2000. He is already at 377 points this year, giving him an opportunity to finish the year among Valpo’s all-time leaders. He needs to get to 570 to join the program’s single-season Top 10. The sophomore star has already surpassed the 100-steal milestone for his career and finished his freshman season with 60, the most by a freshman in program history and the third-most by any Valpo player. This year he is at 45, just eight away from moving into a tie for 10th with Bryce Drew’s 1997-98 season on Valpo’s single-season steals list.
Watch List: Javon Freeman-Liberty was named to the 2019-20 Lou Henson Award midseason Watch List on Jan. 9. The award, named after the former Illinois and New Mexico State head coach, honors the nation’s top Division-I mid-major player. Freeman-Liberty is one of 50 players on the midseason watch list.
Sophomore Showdown: In a battle of two of the Missouri Valley Conference’s brightest stars, Javon Freeman-Liberty finished with 28 points to defending conference Freshman of the Year A.J. Green’s 29 in UNI’s 88-78 victory over Valpo on Jan. 15. However, Freeman-Liberty had the better all-around stat line, pulling down eight rebounds and four steals. It was the sophomore sensation’s 18th consecutive double-figure scoring output, his 10th game with 20 points or more and his fourth contest with 28 points or more. He also led the team in rebounds for the first time since Nov. 25 vs. Cincinnati in the game at UNI, as his eight boards marked his highest total since accruing nine in the game against the Bearcats. In addition, he enjoyed his fifth game this season with four steals or more in the battle with the Panthers.
Bench Mob: After Valpo fell behind 17-9 at the 12:47 mark of the first half on Jan. 15 against UNI, head coach Matt Lottich went to the bench, with the quartet of Zion Morgan, Ben Krikke, John Kiser and Eron Gordon replacing 80 percent of the starting lineup and joining Javon Freeman-Liberty on the floor for a key stretch. The new group scored eight straight points to tie the game, capping an 11-0 run. All four players made key contributions in the contest. Morgan dished out five assists to lead the team and match a season high. The JUCO transfer received a healthy DNP on Jan. 11 vs. Drake, but responded well with five points, five assists and two steals in the game in Cedar Falls. Krikke had his highest point total against a Division-I opponent with 13. Kiser was second on the team with five rebounds while also hitting a 3, upping his season percentage to 39.4, second on the team. Gordon scored eight points on 4-of-6 shooting before fouling out, finishing the evening with a team-best +8 in the +/- department. Valpo had 29 bench points in the game, its highest total since also receiving 29 bench points in a win over Central Michigan on Dec. 8. Those two games tied for Valpo’s highest bench-point total against a Division-I opponent this season.
Other Tidbits Wrapping Up UNI (Jan. 15)
- Valpo had just two turnovers in the first half and finished with 11 for the game, winning the turnover battle 14-11.
- Valpo attempted just six free throws, its third game this year with fewer than 10 attempts (all losses). UNI went 16-of-19 at the stripe, as the 84.2 percent marked the highest free-throw percentage by a Valpo opponent with more than five attempts this season.
- Valpo shot 49.2 percent from the field, its highest shooting percentage since a victory at High Point on Dec. 18. However, the Panthers shot 57.7 percent, the highest shooting percentage by a Valpo opponent since a loss at Eastern Michigan back on Dec. 3.
- Despite battling an illness leading into the game and missing morning shootaround, sophomore Daniel Sackey had 10 points, his first double-figure output since Dec. 18 at High Point and his fourth of the season.
- Ben Krikke’s 13 points marked his fourth time in double figures during his freshman campaign. He went 3-of-5 from 3-point distance after entering the evening at 3-of-14 from 3-point range all season.
- Mileek McMillan had 11 points, hitting double figures for the fifth time this year.
- Javon Freeman-Liberty (28) led the team in scoring for the 13th time this season and set the pace in rebounding (8) for the fifth time.
- Valpo dropped to 0-14 all-time in games at UNI.
The Stripe a Key: The team’s success in the win column has been tied closely with its success at the free-throw line this season. Valpo is 6-1 when shooting free throws at 70 percent or better, with the only defeat coming in overtime against Cincinnati. Conversely, the team is 2-8 against Division-I opponents when shooting below 70 percent at the foul line. Valpo went 18-of-20 at the charity line in the team’s 66-61 victory over Drake on Jan. 11, marking the third time this season and second in the last three games the squad has shot free throws at a clip of 90 percent or better.
The Clay Way: After finishing with five points or fewer in six of his first seven games, Donovan Clay hit his stride over a 10-game stretch, through the Jan. 11 game vs. Drake. He made his way into double figures in scoring in eight of those. Over that 10-game stretch, Clay averaged 11.6 points per game and a team-best 4.8 rebounds per contest. However, he had a rare quiet evening on Jan. 15 at UNI, finishing scoreless with one rebound while attempting just three shots in 23 minutes. The freshman was held off the scoreboard for the first time in his career.
Scouting the Sycamores
- Coming off a 65-42 win over Evansville on Wednesday that was the program’s best defensive performance in terms of points permitted since 2011 and second-best of the Greg Lansing Era.
- Have held each of their last two opponents to 53 points or fewer and own a 23-0 record when keeping opponents under that threshold during the Greg Lansing Era.
- Lansing is in his 10th season as the team’s head coach and previously served eight years as an assistant in Terre Haute. He ranks second on the school’s all-time wins list.
- Lead the league in 3-point percentage at 39.5 percent, a potentially troubling stat for a Valpo team that is ninth in 3-point defense, allowing opponents to shoot 35.9 percent.
- Led in scoring and rebounding by Tyreke Key at 17.6 points per game and 5.3 boards per contest. Jordan Barnes is chipping in 11.7 points and 4.1 rebounds per outing. Key was a member of the MVC Preseason First Team, while Barnes was on the second team.
- After the showdown between the top two scorers in the league on Wednesday in Cedar Falls, this will be a battle of two of the top three as Freeman-Liberty leads the way with 20.9 points per game and Key is third at 17.6.
- Picked sixth in the MVC Preseason Poll.
Professor of the Game: Saturday’s Forever Valpo Professor of the Game is Musa Pinar. Dr. Pinar is a professor of marketing in the College of Business and currently serves as the Paul Brandt Professor of Business. He cannot attend Saturday’s game, as he is on sabbatical in his home country of Turkey. He is a loyal Valpo basketball fan and sent an email that he is with us in spirit and is listening to the game online from Turkey.
Close Calls: Four of Valpo’s last six games have been decided by five points or fewer. Prior to the Jan. 7 game at Southern Illinois, Valpo played three games in a row decided by four points or fewer, with each game getting progressively closer – a 72-68 defeat at Arkansas, a 66-63 setback vs. Loyola and an 81-79 win at Evansville. Eight of Valpo’s 17 games have been decided by six points or fewer this season. This season marks the first time Valpo has had a stretch of three straight games decided by four points or fewer since the 2011-12 season (Dec. 29-Jan. 6; L 57-55 vs. Milwaukee, W 90-87 vs. Green Bay, W 73-71 at Detroit Mercy).
Guarding the Arc: Valpo held Drake to 2-of-20 from behind the 3-point arc (10 percent) on Jan. 11, the team’s second-best performance this season in terms of 3-point defense behind a Dec. 8 victory over Central Michigan where the Chippewas went just 1-of-17 (5.9 percent). That Central Michigan team had previously made at least four 3s in every game this season, and that was Valpo’s lowest opponent 3-point percentage since Jan. 26, 2015 (Milwaukee 1-of-17, 5.9 percent). Drake’s two made 3s on Jan. 13 at the ARC was the team’s lowest total since Feb. 17, 2015.
Finding a Way to Win: Valpo shot just 33.3 percent on Jan. 11 vs. Drake, but did enough right to withstand a cold shooting performance in a 66-61 victory. The game marked Valpo’s lowest shooting percentage in a victory since beating UIC 64-58 on Jan. 21, 2010 despite a 32.1 percent shooting clip. The 66 points were the fewest by Valpo in a victory this season. Valpo was previously 0-5 this year when scoring fewer than 70 points.
Swiping and Dishing: Valpo currently leads the Missouri Valley Conference in both steals per game (8.7) and assists per game (15.9). The last time Valpo finished a season with over 8.6 steals per game was 2001-2002, when the team averaged 10.1 steals per contest. The 2005-2006 campaign was the last time Valpo averaged over 16 assists per game, completing the year at 17.7.
Increased Thievery: Valpo swiped 11 steals in the Jan. 7 game at Southern Illinois, already the seventh game this season with 10 steals or more and the 11th game with nine steals or more. By comparison, the team had just four games a year ago with nine steals or more and two with double-figure steal totals. As a team, Valpo has 8.7 steals per game, up from 6.1 last season.
#SCTop10 Again: Javon Freeman-Liberty slammed home a poster dunk in the first half of Tuesday’s game at Southern Illinois, gaining national attention as the play appeared on ESPN throughout the evening. The play checked in at No. 5 on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays, marking the second time this season that the program has been featured on the daily countdown, as Daniel Sackey had the No. 9 play for an August buzzer-beater to top Carleton as part of the program’s foreign tour. Since Valpo joined the Missouri Valley Conference, the University has been featured on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays on seven occasions spanning five sports – men’s basketball (three times), women’s basketball, softball, men’s soccer and volleyball.
Wrapping Up Jan. 11 vs. Drake
- After scoring a career-high 21 in Valpo’s first MVC home game, freshman Donovan Clay followed with an 18-point effort in the second home conference contest of the campaign. He has led the team in scoring twice this season, the aforementioned MVC home games against Drake and Loyola.
- Clay went 7-of-7 at the free-throw line, becoming the second Valpo player to go perfect at the stripe with at least seven attempts this season, joining Nick Robinson’s 8-for-8 on Nov. 12 at SIUE. Clay entered the game against Drake just 4-of-13 at the free-throw line this season.
- Clay also squeezed a team-high seven rebounds, his third straight game with seven boards or more.
- Javon Freeman-Liberty dished out a team-best five assists to go along with 15 points and five rebounds. It was his 17th straight double-figure scoring effort, and he also has nine games of 20 points or more.
- John Kiser and Mileek McMillan had three steals apiece. McMillan’s figure marked a career high, while Kiser matched a personal best and turned in his second-straight three-steal effort.
- Valpo held Drake to just two made 3s, the program’s fewest in a game in five years.
Nine Times Nine: Senior John Kiser has yet to enjoy a double-figure scoring or rebounding output in his career, but he has totaled nine efforts of exactly nine points or nine rebounds. His nine-point, nine-rebound performance at Southern Illinois on Jan. 7 allowed him to match career bests in both areas. It was his sixth career nine-point effort (fifth this season) and his third career nine-rebound output (first this season). In addition, the former walk-on matched a career high in steals in the game against the Salukis, replicating his three-steal showing from Feb. 5, 2019 at Illinois State. He has led the team in rebounds six times this season, the most on the team.
Stopping the Streak: With Valpo’s 81-79 overtime victory over Evansville on Jan. 4, the team stopped a five-game head-to-head losing streak against the Aces and garnered its first win against Evansville since joining the Missouri Valley Conference (previously 0-4). But most noteworthy of all was the 22-game losing skid in games played at Evansville that came to an end. Matt Lottich became the first Valpo coach to win at Evansville since the legendary Gene Bartow led his team to a 101-95 victory on Feb. 1, 1969. During the years (or more accurately, decades) between those victories, five Valpo coaches went winless in the River City: Bill Purden (0-6), Ken Rochlitz (0-3), Tom Smith (0-5), Homer Drew (0-4) and Bryce Drew (0-1). No member of the Valpo team or coaching staff was alive the last time the program won in Evansville before Saturday.
Working Overtime: The Jan. 4 game at Evansville was Valpo’s second overtime affair of the season and first victory. The squad came out on the wrong end of an 81-77 decision vs. Cincinnati in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Nov. 25. The win over the Aces snapped a three-game OT losing streak that also included home defeats to Indiana State and Missouri State last season and dated back to a 75-70 OT victory over SIUE at the ARC on Nov. 21, 2018. Jan. 4 at Evansville was Valpo’s first OT affair in a true road game since Feb. 26, 2016, an 80-76 win at Milwaukee in the final year of Bryce Drew’s head coaching tenure.
Leading the League
- This marked the second time in the last three years Valpo entered Valley play as the conference leader in steals per game (8.7) after also doing so in 2017-18 (7.8 spg).
- Javon Freeman-Liberty became the first Valpo player to enter conference action as the league’s leading scorer since 2016-17, when Alec Peters started Horizon League play at 25.5 points per game.
- Freeman-Liberty was also the first Valpo player to enter conference play leading the way in steals since 2016-17, when Lexus Williams topped the Horizon League at 1.8 per game.
- This was the first time Valpo started conference action atop the statistical leaderboard in assists (16.7 apg) since 2011-12, when Valpo started Horizon League action averaging 14.7 assists per game.
- Freeman-Liberty is trying to become the first player to lead The Valley in both scoring and steals since Drake’s Curt Smith in 1993. In addition, he is attempting to become the first play to lead the MVC in steals in consecutive seasons since Hersey Hawkins of Bradley did so in 1986, 1987 and 1988.
- Valpo is trying to become the first Valley team to lead the league in both assists and steals since Bradley in 2008.
Clay Has a Day: The moment didn’t appear too large for freshman Donovan Clay as he played in his first Missouri Valley Conference game on Dec. 30 vs. Loyola. He knocked down all eight of his field-goal attempts while also going 4-for-4 from 3-point distance. In addition to producing a career-high 21 points, Clay became the first Valpo player to go unblemished from 3-point distance with more than three attempts since Alec Peters also went 4-for-4 on Jan. 18, 2016 at Youngstown State. Clay became the first MVC player to have eight or more shot attempts without a miss this season and the fourth with four or more 3-point tries without a misfire. The last MVC player to go 8-for-8 or better from the field was Sean Lloyd on Feb. 27, 2019 at Evansville. Clay became the first Valpo player to go perfect from the field with eight or more attempts since Zoran Viskovic went 8-for-8 at Youngstown State on Feb. 19, 1998 and 11-for-11 at Chicago State on Jan. 31, 1998. Clay’s 21 points were the most by a Valpo player in a conference opener since Tevonn Walker started Horizon League action with a 23-point effort on Dec. 30, 2016 at UIC.
Putting Up Points: Valpo finished the nonconference schedule with a scoring average of 76.3, the team’s highest nonconference scoring average since entering the 2013-14 league slate at 77.1. The team currently sits at 75.4 points per game, up from 66.8 a year ago.
Winning Ways: Thanks to the Dec. 18 win at High Point, Valpo locked up a winning record during the nonconference portion of the schedule for the 10th consecutive season. The last time Valpo entered the conference slate with a sub-.500 mark was 2009-10, when Valpo went 5-7 prior to the start of Horizon League action.
Gordon Going Off: Redshirt junior Eron Gordon had the first 20-point output of his career on Dec. 18 at High Point, going 7-of-9 from the field and 6-of-8 from 3-point distance in the process. He became just the sixth Missouri Valley Conference player to net six treys in a single game this season and the first Valpo player with more than four in a contest in 2019-20. Ryan Fazekas was the most recent Valpo player to knock down six 3s in a game, as he did so on Jan. 5, 2019 at Missouri State.
Sackey Set-ups: Daniel Sackey set up his teammates nicely on Dec. 18, giving out a career-high nine assists in the win over High Point. He also had 11 points, went 6-of-8 at the foul line and drew six fouls in the road victory. Perhaps most impressive of all, Sackey’s nine assists came opposite zero turnovers. He became just the fifth different Missouri Valley Conference player with a nine-assist outing this season and in total it marked the seventh nine-assist game by a Valley player in 2019-20. Sackey became just the second player in The Valley this season with eight or more assists in game. In the win over High Point, Sackey became the first Missouri Valley Conference player with nine or more assists and no turnovers in a game this season. This is the second straight season Valpo has had a player with nine or more assists and no turnovers in a game, as Deion Lavender had 10 assists and no turnovers on Nov. 24, 2018 at West Virginia.
Comeback Kids: Although Valpo would love to avoid facing double-figure first-half deficits altogether, the team has showed a knack for erasing large margins this year. Five times, the team has come from double digits down to tie or take the lead including two occasions where the Brown & Gold prevailed after chasing by double figures.
- Valpo faced an early 18-5 deficit at Arkansas (in North Little Rock, Ark.) on Dec. 21 and battled back to take an eight-point lead over the Razorbacks with 7:27 to play before falling 72-68.
- Valpo faced a 10-point halftime deficit on Dec. 3 at Eastern Michigan and chased by as many as 12 before coming back to take a 66-60 lead with 7:23 to go. The Eagles eventually prevailed 85-79.
- Valpo rallied from 12 down with 10:12 to play to force overtime in an eventual 81-77 defeat to Cincinnati on Nov. 25 in the third-place game of the Paradise Jam.
- On Nov. 12 at SIUE, Valpo was down by 10 with 13:00 minutes to play in the opening half before winning by 13. That marked the first time Valpo had come from down by double figures to win by double figures since Feb. 17, 2018, a 77-64 victory over Bradley.
- The most noteworthy comeback of all came on opening night, when Valpo erased a 14-point deficit to beat Toledo 79-77. It was the team’s largest comeback against a Division-I opponent since Jan. 17, 2013, rallying from 22 down to beat Detroit Mercy 89-88. It was Valpo’s biggest comeback in any game since coming from 16 down to beat Trinity Christian on Nov. 12, 2016.
- In Matt Lottich’s head coaching tenure (fourth season), there have already been 10 times Valpo has trailed by double figures and come away victorious. The team overcame four double-figure deficits in 2016-17 (Wright State, Cleveland State, BYU and Trinity Christian), two in 2017-18 (Bradley and UNCW) and two in 2018-19 (George Washington and Illinois State).
Lock-Down D: Central Michigan entered its Sunday, Dec. 8 game at the Athletics-Recreation Center as the top scoring offense in the nation at 93.9 points per game. Valpo held the Chippewas to a season-low 55 points, just the second time all season they’ve been held below 75 with the other instance coming at Minnesota. Valpo contained Central Michigan to just 33.9 percent shooting for the game, the team’s second-lowest shooting percentage of the season. The 55 points were the fewest allowed by Valpo all season and the opponent’s field goal percentage of 33.9 was the team’s best since holding Missouri State to 30.9 percent on Jan. 29 of last season.
November Success: Valpo finished the month of November with a 5-3 record, continuing a tradition of strong starts to seasons. November has been Valpo’s best month under head coach Matt Lottich, as the team owns a 24-7 (.774) November mark through the first four years of his tenure. This marked the 10th straight season Valpo has had a winning record in November, as the team has compiled a 56-19 (.747) November record over the last decade.
A Flair for the Dramatic: Valpo added a new name to its long list of late-game heroes in the program’s storied history during the Nov. 5 season opener vs. Toledo as Javon Freeman-Liberty knocked down an off-balance 15-footer from the left elbow with 3.7 seconds left in a 79-77 victory at the Athletics-Recreation Center. That marked the 24th time since the start of the 1992-93 season Valpo has prevailed on a game-winner in the final five seconds. Although it was the first game of the regular season, it was already the second time Valpo has won in dramatic fashion this year as Daniel Sackey’s overtime buzzer-beater lifted the team past Canadian powerhouse Carleton 83-80 in overtime on its foreign tour in August.
Nonconference Highlights: Valpo’s nonconference schedule was highlighted by seven opponents that qualified for the postseason last year. Here are a few of the opponents that highlighted the 13-game docket that led into the start of Missouri Valley Conference action.
- Toledo (Nov. 5) went 25-8 last season including a 13-5 conference mark. The Rockets went to the NIT a year ago and have won back-to-back MAC West Division titles.
- Saint Louis (Nov. 9) has made four NCAA Tournament appearances in the last decade and went 23-13 in 2018-19 on its way to the Atlantic 10 Tournament title.
- Grand Canyon (Nov. 22) went 20-14 overall and 10-6 in the WAC last season, qualifying for the postseason with a CBI berth. The Lopes have reached the WAC title game and qualified for the postseason in each of their first two years as a Division-I postseason eligible team.
- Nevada (Nov. 24) went 29-5 and 15-3 in the Mountain West last season on the way to an NCAA Tournament appearance.
- Cincinnati (Nov. 25) posted a 28-7 (14-4 American) record last season, qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.
- Central Michigan (Dec. 8) enjoyed a 23-12 overall record and 10-8 MAC mark last season, winning two games in the MAC Tournament and qualifying for the CBI. The 23 victories tied the program’s highest total in 16 years.
- Arkansas (Dec. 21) closed out Valpo’s nonleague schedule in North Little Rock. The Razorbacks, members of the SEC, reached the second round of the NIT last season and finished 18-16 overall. Against one of the top teams nationally in the NET rankings, Valpo led by eight with under eight minutes remaining, but fell 72-68.
Wrapping Up Canada
- Valpo finished its four-game Canadian Foreign Tour from Aug. 10-14 with an unblemished mark after notching wins over McGill (84-78), Concordia (94-90), Carleton (83-80, OT) and the University of Quebec (81-68).
- Valpo battled from 90-80 down with 4:56 to play to top Concordia 94-90 in Montreal on Aug. 11 thanks to a game-closing 14-0 run.
- The highlight of the tour came on Aug. 13, when Winnipeg native Daniel Sackey drained a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to top Carleton 83-80 in overtime.
- Valpo stopped Canadian powerhouse Carleton’s 15-game winning streak against NCAA Division-I teams that included triumphs over USF, Ole Miss, Providence, Cincinnati, Vanderbilt and Alabama.
- The Sackey buzzer-beater was No. 9 on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays that evening.
- Javon Freeman-Liberty scored a team-high 18.8 points per game during the Canada journey, while Donovan Clay and Mileek McMillan shared the team lead by averaging 5.3 boards apiece. Sackey averaged 15.0 points per game during the trip.
- Javon Freeman-Liberty and Ryan Fazekas both earned All-MVC Second Team honors.
- They joined Tevonn Walker (2017) as the only Valpo players to be tabbed preseason all-MVC since joining the conference.
- The last time Valpo had multiple players on the preseason all-league first or second teams in the same season was 2016, when Alec Peters and Shane Hammink were first and second team Horizon League preseason picks, respectively.
- Valpo was picked to finish ninth in the preseason poll, based on a survey of the conference’s head coaches, sports information directors and media. Missouri State was named the preseason favorite.
Wrapping Up 2018-2019
- Valpo moved up two spots in the standings from Year 1 to Year 2 in the Missouri Valley Conference while also earning its first Arch Madness victory by beating Indiana State 77-55 in the opening round of the MVC Tournament.
- Valpo allowed 66.3 points per game, ranking 48th of 351 nationally in scoring defense.
- The team finished with 15 victories for the second straight season including nonconference triumphs over UNLV and George Washington. Valpo started 4-0 in Missouri Valley Conference play, but finished the year 15-18 overall and 7-11 in league action.
New Year, New Look
- Valpo has five returning letter winners after seven letter winners departed following the 2018-19 campaign.
- Valpo has 40.1 percent of its scoring and 35.7 percent of its rebounding back from last season.
- The five returning letter winners are Valpo’s fewest since the 2013-14 campaign, when Jordan Coleman, LaVonte Dority, Bobby Capobianco and Vashil Fernandez were the only players back from the previous season.
- Associate head coach Luke Gore is in his 18th year on staff and has served under four different head coaches. The Valpo veteran has helped the team to seven postseason berths in the last nine years and was on staff for the three winningest seasons in program history. He oversees the team’s post players.
- Assistant coach Rob Holloway is back for his second season after spending the previous two years on staff at Eastern Illinois, his alma mater.
- Assistant coach Matt Bowen returned to Valpo’s staff in 2018-19 after previously spending four seasons with the Brown & Gold from 2002-2006. He was the head coach at the University of Minnesota Duluth from 2012-2018.
- Director of Basketball Operations Jason Karys is in his first season in that capacity, but has been around the program in a variety of roles, spending two years as a graduate assistant, one as a walk-on player and three as a manager.
- Strength & Conditioning Coach Derek Bol is in his eighth season. He is a 2010 graduate of Iowa State.
- Graduate Assistant Peter Funk has taken that role after three years as an undergraduate manager.
- Athletic trainer Ken DeAngelis is in his first season full-time at Valpo after previously earning his master’s degree from the University in 2012 while spending two years as a graduate assistant athletic trainer.
Tradition of Excellence
- Valpo has 14 NCAA Tournament appearances and four NIT berths in the program’s proud history, with the team’s postseason success highlighted by a Sweet Sixteen run in 1998.
- The program has produced nine All-Americans, won 18 regular season conference championships and 10 conference tournament crowns.
- Valpo also boasts eight NBA players, 10 conference players of the year and 20 20-win seasons.
- Nine of the team’s NCAA appearances have come since 1996.
- Valpo has qualified for the postseason seven times in the last nine years, but enters 2019-20 seeking its first postseason tournament berth since playing in the NIT to conclude the 2016-17 season.
- Valpo has developed a myriad of professional basketball players over the last quarter century, most notably a pair of NBA players in the last three years.
- Ryan Broekhoff (class of 2013) signed a contract with the Dallas Mavericks in the summer of 2018 after spending five seasons playing internationally in Russia and Turkey.
- Broekhoff tallied a season-high 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the floor (3-5 3PT) in 22 minutes of action Jan. 5 in a 106-100 loss against Philadelphia. Broekhoff played in 42 games during the 2018-19 season.
- Alec Peters (class of 2017) was the 54th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns.
- Peters appeared in 20 games for the Suns in 2017-18, highlighted by a 36-point performance in the season finale against Dallas - a new single-game high by a Valpo alum in the NBA.
- Peters won a championship with CSKA Moscow in Russia in 2018-19. He signed a one-year contract with Anadolu Efes in Turkish BSL on July 9, 2019.
- 2018 Valpo graduate Tevonn Walker plays for Hamburg in German BBL. Walker’s classmate Max Joseph signed a contract with Nassjo Basket in Sweden following his time at Valpo.
- 2017 product Jubril Adekoya plays for Carramimbre CBC Valladolid in Spanish LEB Gold.
- Cory Johnson (2011) signed with Penarol in Argentina.
- Keith Carter, who rounded out his Valpo career in 2016, played in the 2019 NBA Summer League with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
- Valpo has now produced 50 pro basketball players over the last 25 years.
#0 Javon Freeman-Liberty, So. (Chicago, Ill.)
- Already surpassed his season point total from his freshman campaign on Jan. 15 at UNI, turning in a 28-point, eight-rebound, four-steal outing to lead the team in all three categories.
- Named to the Lou Henson Award (mid-major player of the year) Watch List on Jan. 9.
- Made an appearance on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays on Jan. 7, checking in at No. 5 thanks to a poster dunk in a game at Southern Illinois.
- Enjoyed his fourth game this season with 25 points or more in an overtime win at Evansville on Jan. 5.
- Had his 14th straight game in double figures with 10 points and a career-high seven assists on Dec. 30 vs. Loyola.
- Led Valpo in scoring for the 10th consecutive game against D-I opponents with 21 to go along with seven rebounds, six assists and four steals on Dec. 21 at Arkansas in Little Rock. Tied a career high in assists in that contest.
- Led the team with 22 points despite being limited to 27 minutes due to early foul trouble in a Dec. 18 win at High Point. Put an exclamation point on the victory with a highlight-reel dunk late in the game.
- Poured in a team-high 28 points while equaling a career high with five steals on Dec. 3 at Eastern Michigan.
- Was named the MVC Player of the Week for the second time in a three-week span on Dec. 2.
- Started the season with seven straight games of 19 points or more, joining Alec Peters (2016-17) as the only Valpo players to accomplish that feat in that last 30 years. Saw that streak snapped when he scored 12 points in just 18 minutes on Nov. 27 vs. NAIA Trinity Christian.
- Averaged 25.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game during three contests at the Paradise Jam event (Nov. 22-25), earning all-tournament team honors. His success came against three quality teams in Grand Canyon, Nevada and Cincinnati, including a career-high 32 points in an overtime defeat to the Bearcats on Nov. 25.
- Stuffed the stat sheet with 21 points, nine rebounds, four steals and a career-high five assists on Nov. 17 vs. North Dakota.
- Had a career-high 30 points while also pulling down 13 rebounds in a Nov. 12 win at SIUE. He became the second Valpo player in the last 20 seasons with a 30&10 game, joining Alec Peters (six times).
- Scored 14 points in a span of 4 minutes, 23 seconds on Nov. 9 at SLU and finished the game with 19, marking the first sequence of back-to-back games with 19 points or more in his career.
- Started the year with a 19-point, five-rebound effort in a 79-77 victory over Toledo on Nov. 5. That culminated with an off-balance 15 footer with 3.7 seconds left that gave Valpo the lead and the win.
- Member of the 2018-19 MVC All-Freshman Team, 2018-19 MVC All-Defensive Team and 2019-20 MVC Preseason Second Team.
- Finished the 2018-19 season with 60 steals, the third most in single-season program history behind only Lubos Barton in 2001-02 and Scott Anselm in 1988-89.
- Accumulated 364 points in 2018-19, surpassing Bryce Drew’s freshman campaign for the fourth-most by a freshman in program history.
- Pulled down 142 rebounds in 2018-19, the fifth-most by a freshman in the history of the program.
- Joined Lubos Barton as one of just two rookies in program history with top five freshman marks in scoring, rebounding and steals.
- Became the first Valpo freshman to lead a conference in one of the five major statistical categories and the first Valpo player since at least 1982 to pace a conference in steals.
#1 Sigurd Lorange, Fr. (Trondheim, Norway)
- Set career highs in points (11) and assists (four) while knocking down four of his six shots and canning three 3s on Nov. 27 vs. Trinity Christian.
- Made his collegiate debut on Nov. 9 at Saint Louis, then scored his first collegiate basket on Nov. 12 at SIUE, a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the first half.
- Before coming to Valpo, played for Gimle Basketball in the BLNO, Norway’s top professional basketball league.
- Helped lead Gimle to a league runner-up finish, averaging nearly 20 points and better than four assists.
- Averaged 17.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game for Norway at the U18s in 2018.
#2 Zion Morgan, R-Jr. (Chicago, Ill.)
- After a healthy DNP in the previous game, responded with five points, two steals and a team-high five assists on Jan. 15 at UNI. That equaled his season high in helpers.
- Pulled down six rebounds on Jan. 7 at Southern Illinois, his second-highest total of the season.
- Grabbed a career-high nine rebounds in only 13 minutes on Dec. 21 at Arkansas, also tossing in four points.
- Pulled down a season-high four rebounds in just 10 minutes in a Dec. 8 victory over Central Michigan.
- Had season highs in points (seven), assists (five) and steals (four) on Nov. 27 vs. Trinity Christian.
- Previously played at UNLV (2016-17) and Wabash Valley College (2017-18 & 2018-19), leading the Warriors to a 25-8 record last season.
- Was teammates with Valpo’s Nick Robinson at Kenwood Academy in Chicago.
- Uncle Mardy Gilyard was a wide receiver at Cincinnati and was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
#3 Brock Pappas, So. (Valparaiso, Ind.)
- Grabbed his first career rebound in a Dec. 8 win over Central Michigan.
- Made his collegiate debut on Nov. 27 vs. Trinity Christian, playing the final four minutes of a win over the Trolls.
- Nursing major who joined the program as a walk-on in 2018-19.
- Is a Valparaiso, Ind. native and a graduate of nearby Washington Township.
- Mother (Lisa) has worked on Valpo’s campus for 32 years, currently serving as an administrative assistant in the Department of Education. Brother (Bryce) and father (Steve) are both Valpo graduates, and his brother was named after Bryce Drew.
#4 Daniel Sackey, So. (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada)
- Despite battling an illness leading into the game and missing morning shootaround, had 10 points on Jan. 15 at UNI, his first double-figure output since Dec. 18 at High Point and his fourth of the season.
- Became the second player in the Missouri Valley Conference with three or more eight-assist games and the first with a nine-assist, no-turnover performance this season on Dec. 18 at High Point. He set a career high in the assist area while also scoring 11 points, going 6-of-8 at the foul line and drawing six fouls.
- Tied career highs in assists (8) and steals (4) on Dec. 3 at Eastern Michigan.
- Had his second straight six-rebound effort on Nov. 25 vs. Nevada, equaling a personal best.
- Made four critical free throws down the stretch and pulled down a significant rebound to put Valpo over the top in a 78-74 victory over Grand Canyon on Nov. 22 in the Paradise Jam opener. He finished the game with 12 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals including a 6-of-7 showing at the foul line. The six boards marked a career watermark.
- Led the team in assists for the fourth straight game on Nov. 17 vs. North Dakota, enjoying his third game with six assists or more.
- Dished out a career-high eight assists in the regular-season opener on Nov. 5 vs. Toledo.
- Had usurped his career scoring watermark by halftime and finished the Nov. 9 game at Saint Louis with personal bests in points (22), made field goals (7), made 3-pointers (3) and made free throws (5), becoming the first player to go perfect from beyond the arc with three or more attempts since Max Joseph on Jan. 20, 2018, the only other player to do so in the last four seasons.
- Made a buzzer-beater to upstage Canadian powerhouse Carleton in overtime in August, making an appearance on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays at No. 9 that evening.
- Has been a drummer since elementary school. The basement of his family’s home in Canada includes a small recording studio. He has a deep passion for music.
- Became just the sixth Manitoban to earn a scholarship in Division-I men’s basketball since the NCAA reorganized into its current competitive format in 1973.
#5 Donovan Clay, Fr. (Alton, Ill.)
- Enjoyed an 18-point, seven-rebound performance on Jan. 11 vs. Drake, leading the team in both areas. He went 7-for-7 at the free-throw line after entering that game just 4-of-13 at the stripe all season.
- Established a career best with nine rebounds, including six offensive boards, on Jan. 7 at Southern Illinois.
- Reached double figures for the seventh time in eight games on Jan. 4 at Evansville, contributing 10 points to go along with a team-high seven rebounds, his highest total on the boards in a game against a Division-I opponent.
- Became the first Valpo player since 1998 to go perfect from the field with eight or more field goal attempts while scoring a career-high 21 points on Dec. 30 vs. Loyola.
- Scored in double figures for the fifth straight game by posting 10 on 4-of-7 shooting in a Dec. 18 win at High Point.
- Had his fourth consecutive double-figure scoring output on Dec. 16 at Charlotte, posting 11 points, six rebounds and four assists. He knocked down three 3-pointers and blocked a pair of shots. It was his first career multi-block effort and the first time in his young career he hit multiple 3-pointers in a game. His assist total tied his personal best.
- Had his third straight double-figure scouting output with 10 points, all in the first half, on Dec. 8 vs. Central Michigan.
- Had his second straight double-figure output by adding 11 points on Dec. 3 at Eastern Michigan.
- Filled the stat sheet with career highs in points (16), rebounds (8) and assists (4) on Nov. 27 vs. Trinity Christian.
- Had the first double-figure scoring output of his collegiate career in a win over Grand Canyon, also matching a season best with his second-straight four-rebound game.
- Made his first home start and had career highs in assists and rebounds with four of each on Nov. 17 vs. North Dakota.
- Made his first career start in a game near his hometown of Alton, Ill. on Nov. 12 at SIUE, scoring five points and grabbing three boards.
- Knocked down a 3-pointer and collected three rebounds on Nov. 9 at Saint Louis, a game played near his hometown of Alton, Ill.
- Made his collegiate debut and scored his first collegiate basket on Nov. 5 vs. Toledo
- After senior year of high school: 4A First Team All-State, member of All-Metro First Team, honorable mention Associate Press All-State, Riverbend Boys Basketball Player of the Year, the Telegraph Large Schools Boys Basketball Player of the Year, named the “biggest sleeper” in the state of Illinois by the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Had a late growth spurt in high school, going from 6-foot-3 as a junior to 6-7 as a senior.
- Father Dexter, who is his role model, played college basketball at Rend Lake Junior College.
#10 Eron Gordon, R-Jr. (Indianapolis, Ind.)
- Led the team with a personal-best four steals on Jan. 7 at Southern Illinois.
- Went 4-of-5 from the field and drained three 3s in an 11-point, five-rebound performance on Jan. 4 at Evansville. That allowed him to reach double figures for the fifth time in the last eight games.
- Knocked down six 3-pointers and scored a career-high 20 points on Dec. 18 at High Point. He became just the sixth Missouri Valley Conference player to net six treys in a single game this season and the first Valpo player with more than four in a contest in 2019-20.
- Had his first five-rebound game in a Valpo uniform on Dec. 16 at Charlotte.
- Had a season-high 14 points while going perfect from both the floor (4-for-4) and the foul line (4-for-4) while playing 20 quality minutes off the bench in a Dec. 8 victory over Central Michigan.
- Reached double figures for the first time in his Valpo career on Nov. 27 vs. Trinity Christian, scoring 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting while draining a pair of 3s.
- Knocked down all three of his shot attempts and totaled nine points and three steals on Nov. 25 in an overtime loss vs. Cincinnati.
- Made his Valpo debut on Nov. 5 vs. Toledo, seeing six minutes of action.
- Joined the program in 2018-19 but sat out due to transfer rules. Appeared in 48 games over his two years at Seton Hall.
- Oldest brother Eric was the seventh pick of the 2008 NBA Draft and has played 11 seasons in the NBA. Father Eric is one of the Top 20 all-time scorers at Liberty. Brother Evan is playing in the CBA after scoring over 1,300 points at the Division-I level at Liberty, Arizona State and Indiana.
- Adds to Valpo’s recent history of NBA connections after Derrik Smits, Shane Hammink and Chandler Levingston Simon all had fathers who played in the NBA. Javon Freeman-Liberty’s uncle played in the NBA, while Valpo women’s basketball player Ella Ellenson is the brother of Henry.
#11 Emil Freese-Vilien, Fr. (Copenhagen, Denmark)
- Had a season-best five points on Nov. 27 vs. Trinity Christian.
- Made his collegiate debut on his birthday in the Nov. 5 game vs. Toledo by contributing four points, three rebounds and two assists.
- Started playing basketball in November 2014 after playing badminton during his younger years.
- Played for Denmark at both the U16 and U18 FIBA Euro Championships in 2015 and 2017, respectively.
- Shortly before coming to Valpo, played for Vaerlose in the Danish Basketligaen, the highest professional league in Denmark.
#15 Luke Morrill, Fr. (Lombard, Ill.)
- Made his collegiate debut by playing the final four minutes of a Nov. 27 victory over Trinity Christian, scoring four points and pulling down two rebounds.
- Joined the program as a walk-on for the 2019-20 season.
- Graduate of Montini Catholic – also the alma mater of a pair of Valpo women’s basketball players, Ilysse Pitts and Zoe MacKay Zacker.
- Played his prep basketball under the late Daryl Thomas.
#22 Mileek McMillan, Jr. (Merrillville, Ind.)
- Had 11 points on Jan. 15 at UNI, hitting double figures for the fifth time this year.
- Swiped three steals on Jan. 11 vs. Drake, establishing a season high and matching a career best that also came in a home game against Drake back in 2018.
- Connected on multiple triples for a second straight game with two in his eight-point effort at Southern Illinois on Jan. 7.
- Made three key 3-pointers in the second half on Jan. 4 at Evansville, his first game this season with multiple made triples.
- Topped his previous rebounding career high with nine, coming just shy of a double-double in a 14-point effort on Dec. 21 at Arkansas. Equaled a personal best with six made field goals in a near upset of the Razorbacks.
- Contributed nine points on 4-of-7 shooting on Dec. 16 at Charlotte.
- Set a career high for the second straight game with 16 points vs. North Dakota on Nov. 17, his third double-figure output of the season and the fourth of his career.
- Posted a career-high 13 points on Nov. 12 at SIUE.
- Saw action in 30 games as a sophomore after appearing in all 32 games as a freshman.
- Local to Northwest Indiana after playing his prep basketball for nearby Merrillville High School.
- Helped his Merrillville Pirates finish with a 22-2 record his junior year of high school.
#23 Ben Krikke, Fr. (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)
- Drained three 3s on Jan. 15 at UNI to finish with 13 points, his highest total against a Division-I opponent. That equaled his previous season total for made 3s, as he entered the evening 3-of-14 for the season.
- Reached double figures for the first time since Nov. 27 vs. Trinity Christian, scoring 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting in a Jan. 4 win at Evansville.
- Had a personal-best six rebounds on Dec. 30 vs. Loyola.
- Collected five rebounds on Dec. 18 at High Point, tying a season high. It marked his second five-rebound effort in a three-game span.
- Scored a team-high 18 points to establish a career watermark in the Nov. 27 win over Trinity Christian. Also had four boards and four assists while snatching two steals against the Trolls.
- Didn’t make a field goal over the first three games of his career, but he knocked down five on 11 attempts against North Dakota on Nov. 17. He finished with 11 points, one of four Valpo players in double figures.
- Made his collegiate debut in the Nov. 5 season opener vs. Toledo.
- Competed for Team Canada at the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup in Argentina, averaging 9.9 points per game and 4.4 rebounds per game while helping Canada to a fourth-place finish.
- Credits his father’s Michael Jordan DVD set for helping him hone his skills. DVDs included Jordan’s greatest games, plays and Top 10 dunks.
- Was the MVP of the Alberta Basketball All-Star Showcase, scoring 37 points.
#25 Nick Robinson, R-Jr. (Chicago, Ill)
- Dished out seven assists for the second consecutive game on Jan. 4 at Evansville, equaling his career high.
- Had 15 points while setting season highs in made field goals (six), made 3-pointers (three) and assists (seven) on Dec. 30 vs. Loyola.
- Boasted season highs in rebounds (nine) and assists (six) while scoring 13 points to help Valpo top Central Michigan on Dec. 8.
- Topped the team with seven rebounds, four of which occurred on the offensive glass, on Dec. 3 at Eastern Michigan.
- Had a personal-best 19 points to go along with eight rebounds and went 8-for-8 at the free-throw line on Nov. 12 at SIUE.
- Had nine points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals in his Valpo debut, a victory over Toledo in the Nov. 5 season opener.
- Joined the program as a transfer in 2018-19 and sat out due to transfer rules after playing two seasons at Saint Joseph’s and appearing in 62 games, starting 30 times.
- High school teammate of Valpo’s Zion Morgan at Kenwood.
- Enjoys taking photos of nature in his spare time.
#33 John Kiser, Sr. (Noblesville, Ind.)
- Made a huge 3-pointer with 3:01 remaining on Jan. 11 vs. Drake, giving Valpo its first lead of the second half in a 66-61 victory. He grabbed three steals, equaling his career high and marking his second straight three-steal outing.
- Had a career day on Jan. 7 at Southern Illinois, equaling personal bests in points (nine), rebounds (nine), steals (three) and made field goals (four).
- Led Valpo in rebounds for the fifth time this season by matching his season high with eight boards on Dec. 18 at High Point.
- Had his fifth career nine-point effort and fourth of the season, matching a career high in scoring while leading the team in rebounds for the third time in 2019-20 with seven boards on Dec. 16 at Charlotte.
- Matched a career high with nine points on Nov. 24 vs. Nevada, his fourth career nine-point effort and third this season.
- Equaled a career high with nine points for the second time this season on Nov. 17 vs. North Dakota. He has three nine-point efforts in his Valpo career.
- Had eight points, seven rebounds and a career-high five assists on Nov. 12 in a win at SIUE. That marked his third straight game with seven or more rebounds.
- Was a non-scholarship walk-on in 2016-17 as a freshman, but earned a scholarship following that season.
- Is the program’s longest-tenured player as the only member of the 2016-17 team still active at Valpo.
- The mechanical engineering major earned 2017-18 MVC Scholar-Athlete honorable mention.
#35 Ryan Fazekas, R-Sr. (Chesterton, Ind.)
- Was injured on Nov. 9 at Saint Louis and has not played since.
- Started the season by leading the team with a career-high 23 points on Nov. 5 vs. Toledo.
- Graduated from nearby Marquette Catholic High School (Michigan City, Ind.) before beginning his collegiate career with two seasons at Providence.
- Sat out the 2017-18 season at Valpo and is now in his second season playing for the team. Member of this year’s Second Team Preseason All-MVC squad.
- Enters the season ranked second among active Valley players in career 3-point field goal percentage (minimum 30 attempts) at .432, behind only Loyola’s Cooper Kaifes.