Valparaiso (13-13, 6-7 MVC)
at Illinois State (8-17, 3-10 MVC)
Game No. 27 – Saturday, Feb. 15 – 6 p.m. CT
Redbird Arena (10,200) – Normal, Ill.
Next Up in Valpo Basketball: The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team will hit the road for the first of back-to-back away games on Saturday night at Illinois State. This snaps a streak of four straight games without a hotel stay. Valpo will look to make it back-to-back wins for the first time since a three-game winning streak over SIUE, North Dakota and Grand Canyon from Nov. 12-22. A victory on Saturday would allow Valpo to match its Missouri Valley Conference win total from last season with four games to spare.
Last Time Out: Valpo established the program record for the fewest points allowed against a Division-I opponent since the advent of the shot clock in a 55-38 victory over Southern Illinois on Wednesday night at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Freshman forward Ben Krikke led the way with 15 points and seven rebounds, helping Valpo snap the Salukis’ seven-game winning streak. Javon Freeman-Liberty had 14 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals, while Mileek McMillan added nine points and five boards.
Following Valpo Basketball: Television – MVC TV Network (FOX Sports Midwest, NBC Sports Chicago, FOX Sports Indiana) – Mitch Holthus (play-by-play) and Rich Zvosec (analyst)
Video - ESPN3 (out of market only)
Radio – WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) – Todd Ickow (play-by-play) and Ben Ariano (analyst)
Twitter updates - @ValpoBasketball
Links for the audio and live stats will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Matt Lottich: Matt Lottich (67-57) 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: Valpo and Illinois State have met just 16 times ever, with the two teams having split the first 16 meetings right down the middle. Prior to Valpo’s arrival in the Missouri Valley Conference, the two teams hadn’t squared off since 1981. Valpo has won four of five over the Redbirds since joining The Valley, including a season sweep a year ago. Last year’s ARC meeting was the memorable 58-56 victory on Jan. 2, 2019 when Markus Golder hit a half-court buzzer beater to seal the comeback after Valpo faced a 10-point deficit with less than two minutes remaining. The Brown & Gold followed that up by going into Redbird Arena and recording a 69-53 win on Feb. 5.
Valpo 80, Illinois State 70 (Feb. 1): Valpo defended its home court with an 80-70 victory over Illinois State on Saturday, Feb. 1 at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Ben Krikke had 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists, leading the team in all three areas. Javon Freeman-Liberty and Donovan Clay tossed in 12 points apiece on a night where seven Valpo players finished with seven points or more and four had five or more rebounds.
Defense Dominates: The accomplishments of the Valpo defense were numerous in the 55-38 victory over Southern Illinois on Feb. 12 at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
- The 37 points were the fewest allowed against a Division-I opponent since Jan. 21, 1984, when Valpo edged Green Bay 35-33. Wednesday set the record for the fewest points allowed by a Valpo team since the advent of the shot clock in 1985-86.
- Valpo’s performance tied for 16th in Missouri Valley Conference history since the advent of the shot clock for the fewest points allowed in a conference game.
- The 38 points were the second-fewest scored by the Salukis (15-11, 9-4) in school history since 1950 and the fewest since 36 at Bradley in 1981.
- The 38 points were the fewest scored by any Missouri Valley Conference team this season. The previous low was Loyola’s 39 on Feb. 5 at Indiana State. Wednesday marked the lowest point total by a Valley team since Loyola had 35 on Jan. 23, 2019 vs. Missouri State.
- The 38 points also marked the fewest allowed by a Valley team in any game this year and the fewest since the aforementioned outing by Missouri State last season.
- The 13 made baskets by Southern Illinois were the fewest by any MVC team in conference play this season and the second-fewest by any MVC team in any game. The Salukis had just 10 baskets on Dec. 15 at Missouri.
- Valpo became the first MVC team to allow 13 made field goals or fewer in a game this season. Bradley previously topped that chart with just 14 field goals allowed vs. North Carolina A&T on Dec. 7.
- The 23.6 percent shooting was the best defensive performance in terms of field-goal percentage by an MVC team this season. The last Missouri Valley Conference team to hold an opponent to that low of a single-game field goal percentage was Drake on Nov. 8, 2018 vs. Division-III Buena Vista.
- Wednesday’s Valpo performance marked the best field-goal percentage defense by any Valley team in a game against a Division-I foe since Wichita State held Cal Poly to 20.7 percent on March 21, 2014. Valpo held SIU to 23.6 percent, the lowest single-game field goal percentage by an MVC team in a conference game since March 2, 2007, when Creighton limited Indiana State to 23.3 percent.
Cruising to Victory: Blowout victories in league play have been hard to come by since Valpo joined the Missouri Valley Conference given the quality of the competition. But the Feb. 12 triumph over Southern Illinois was a rare exception with Valpo rolling to the 55-38 win. The 17-point margin of victory equaled Valpo’s largest since joining the conference. The team previously topped Drake 77-60 on Jan. 10, 2018. It was also Valpo’s second-largest margin of victory against a Division-I team this year behind a 22-point win over Central Michigan.
Enough to Win: Valpo didn’t put on a scoring clinic in the Feb. 12 game against Southern Illinois, but the 55 points were more than enough to emerge victorious. Valpo improved to 1-4 this season and 3-25 under Matt Lottich when scoring fewer than 60 points. Two of the three victories under Lottich when scoring under 60 have come against Southern Illinois at the Athletics-Recreation Center as Valpo beat the Salukis 55-52 last season. The other such win was 58-56 over Illinois State to start conference play last year. Over the last five seasons, Valpo has just two victories when scoring 55 points or fewer, both against Southern Illinois. The last time Valpo prevailed with a lower point total was 54-44 over Green Bay in the 2015 Horizon League Championship to advance to the NCAA Tournament.
Setting the Tone: Valpo set the tone for the memorable defensive evening in the first half on Feb. 12 vs. Southern Illinois, holding the Salukis to 16 points. Previously, Valpo’s best defensive half in conference play this season was allowing 23 points against Evansville and the season low was 22 permitted against Central Michigan. The 16 points were the low for a Valpo opponent in a half since the team held Milwaukee to 16 in the 2017 Horizon League Tournament. (We’ll whisper this part: The Panthers led 16-12 at halftime of that game.) The 16 points tied for the fewest allowed by Valpo in a half since March 22, 2016, when the team limited St. Mary’s to 13 points after halftime in an NIT game at the ARC.
Turnaround Talk: Valpo turned a 13-point loss from the Jan. 7 date at Southern Illinois into a 17-point win over the Salukis on Feb. 12. That marked the first time Valpo turned a double-figure defeat from the first meeting into a double-figure win in the second meeting since joining The Valley. The opposite did occur once last season, with Valpo falling by double figures in the second meeting with Bradley and cruising to victory in the first matchup. This marks the first time since the season series with Loyola in 2008-09 where Valpo lost the first game of a conference double-round robin by double figures and turned it around to win the second matchup by double figures.
Year Opponent First Mtg Second Mtg
2019-20 SIU -13 +17
2018-19 Bradley +11 -25
2016-17 Green Bay +24 -17
2013-14 Green Bay +15 -14
2011-12 Youngstown +14 -18
2010-11 Loyola +10 -20
2008-09 Loyola -15 +24
Stealing a Record Book Spot: Valpo sophomore Javon Freeman-Liberty swiped his way into Valpo’s single-season Top 10 in steals on Feb. 9 at Loyola and has continued to ascend the program’s steals chart. After his two steals on Feb. 12 vs. Southern Illinois, the sophomore is up to 58 for the season, tied with Keith Carter’s 2015-16 season for fourth in program history. He’s two away from his season total from last year, which ranks third on the all-time list. Freeman-Liberty is just five steals away from tying the program’s single-season record, which was set by Lubos Barton (63) in 2001-02. Scott Anselm (1988-89) is second with 61 steals. Freeman-Liberty is also attempting to become the first player to lead the MVC in steals in consecutive seasons since Hersey Hawkins of Bradley did so in 1986, 1987 and 1988. He is in position to pace the conference for the second straight season.
Freeman-Liberty Eyes 500: Currently at 499 points, Javon Freeman-Liberty has an opportunity to finish the year among Valpo’s all-time scoring leaders, needing to get to 570 to join the program’s single-season Top 10. He needs one point to become the first Valpo player since Alec Peters (2016-17) to surpass 500 points in a season. Freeman-Liberty is also closing in on the 900-point precipice for his career as he currently stands at 863.
In the National Rankings: Freeman-Liberty is ranked in the Top 50 nationally in the following categories: points per game (19.2, 47th), steals per game (2.23, 21st), field goal attempts (422, seventh), field goals made (180, 18th) and total steals (58, 10th). He’s ninth among sophomores in points per game and fifth among sophomores in steals per game.
Other Notes Wrapping Up SIU (Feb. 12)
- Donovan Clay had a career-high five assists and did not commit a turnover. He led Valpo in assists for the first time in his career, becoming the team’s fifth different assist leader over the last five games, joining Javon Freeman-Liberty, Ben Krikke, Daniel Sackey and Nick Robinson.
- Javon Freeman-Liberty reached 14 points despite playing just 26 minutes, his lowest minute total this season against a Division-I opponent. He has cracked double figures in all 26 games this season.
- Senior John Kiser led the team with a plus/minus of +20.
- Mileek McMillan contributed nine points and five rebounds, his second straight game with nine points or more after scoring nine points total over the previous three games.
- Ben Krikke led the team in scoring with 15 points and shared the team lead in rebounds with seven, five of which came on the offensive glass. Krikke has led the team in scoring three times this season, two of which have come in the last four contests.
- Valpo limited SIU star freshman Marcus Domask to two points prior to halftime and seven points for the game on 2-of-10 shooting. He scored 21 points in the first half in the first meeting between the two teams.
- Valpo survived 17 turnovers, the team’s highest total in conference play and highest in any game since Dec. 16 at Charlotte.
Scouting the Redbirds
- Coming off a 71-63 setback at first-place UNI on Wednesday night. Freshman DJ Horne led the way with 16 points while also pulling down a career-high six rebounds.
- Are 0-10 on the road this season but own an 8-4 home mark including wins in each of their last two home games, beating Evansville and Indiana State.
- Led in scoring by Zach Copeland at 15.0 points per game. Keith Fisher III is the team’s top rebounder at 5.7 per contest.
- Picked to finish seventh in the MVC Preseason Poll.
- Under the direction of head coach Dan Muller, who has been in charge of the program since the 2012-13 season. He was named the 2017 MVC Coach of the Year.
Handing Out Helpers: Valpo junior Nick Robinson made his first start since Jan. 15 on Feb. 9 by cracking the starting five for the game at Loyola. He responded by setting up his teammates nicely with a career-high nine assists, matching Daniel Sackey (Dec. 18 at High Point) for the most by a Valpo player in a game this season. Valpo joins UNI as the only two teams in the Missouri Valley Conference with multiple players who own nine-assist efforts in 2019-20. Robinson’s nine helpers were the most by a Valpo player in a league game since Micah Bradford had nine on Jan. 13, 2018 at UNI.
Connecting from Distance: Valpo bounced back from a season-low 13 percent shooting night from 3-point range on Feb. 5 against UNI by connecting on 45.8 percent of its shots from distance on Feb. 9 at Loyola. That was the highest 3-point shooting percentage by the Brown & Gold since an overtime win at Evansville on Jan. 4. Sunday also marked Valpo’s most made 3s in a game (11) since the aforementioned contest at the Ford Center (12). Valpo made more than 10 3s in a regulation Valley game for the first time since Jan. 5, 2019 at Missouri State (12). Prior to the game at Loyola, Valpo had won five straight games when making more than 10 3-pointers dating back to Jan. 24, 2018 vs. Evansville.
McMillan Has Range: Mileek McMillan nailed a career-high four 3s on Feb. 9 at Loyola on his way to a team-high 14 points despite playing only 16 minutes. He knocked in multiple 3s in a game for the sixth time this year, all in conference play. The Valpo forward has hit multiple triples in six of his last 11 games after not doing so at all in his first 13 games of the season.
Tight Battles: Valpo fell to 5-4 in games decided by five points or fewer with the two-point setback at Loyola on Feb. 9. It was Valpo’s fifth game of the season decided by three points or fewer and fourth decided by two points or fewer. Valpo is 3-2 this year in games decided by three points or fewer, with both losses coming against the Ramblers.
Other Notes Wrapping Up Loyola (Feb. 9)
- Donovan Clay dunked for the second straight game, lifting his season total to 10. He joins Javon Freeman-Liberty (12) as Valpo players with a double-figure dunk total this year.
- Nick Robinson returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Jan. 15, and Daniel Sackey came off the bench for the first time this season.
- Mileek McMillan finished with a team-high 14 points, leading the team in scoring for the third time in the last six games. Before this six-game stretch, McMillan hadn’t led the team in scoring in his collegiate career.
- Javon Freeman-Liberty finished with 13 points, his 25th straight game scoring in double figures.
- Loyola extended its head-to-head winning streak against Valpo to seven, but this was the closest matchup between the two teams since Valpo joined The Valley. The Ramblers won 71-54 in last year’s Gentile Arena meeting. This year, both regular season matchups were dictated by three points or fewer.
- After entering the game averaging a league-low 11.2 turnovers per game in conference play, Valpo gave it away 17 times, the team’s most in Valley play this year.
- Valpo has incurred back-to-back losses for the first time in conference play. The team had traded off wins and losses through the first 11 MVC games, the first time since at least 1982 when Valpo joined the Associated of Mid-Continent Universities that Valpo did not have consecutive wins or consecutive losses in the first 11 league contests.
A Burst Off the Bench: Valpo outscored Illinois State 36-13 in bench points on Feb. 1, a 23-point surplus in that area that marked Valpo’s largest of the season against a Division-I opponent. The 36 points off the bench were also the most this year for the Brown & Gold in a DI game. Valpo has been outscored in bench points just twice through the first 12 Missouri Valley Conference contests, both games against Loyola. The 36 bench points against the Redbirds were Valpo’s most in a Division-I game since Jan. 13, 2018 when the team had 37 in an 81-76 loss to UNI.
Lock Down D: Easily lost on a night that featured a disappointing outcome, Valpo played well enough to win on the defensive end in the 63-51 setback vs. UNI on Feb. 5. The 63 points were the fewest allowed by Valpo in the last seven games and tied with the Jan. 7 game at Southern Illinois for the fewest allowed in a defeat this season. Valpo held UNI to just 37.7 percent shooting, the fourth time this season and the second straight game Valpo has limited the opponent under 40 percent from the field. Coincidentally, Valpo has held each of its last two opponents (Illinois State and UNI) to exactly 23-of-61 (37.7 percent) shooting. The shooting percentage of 37.7 was UNI’s lowest in the last nine games and the team’s third-lowest clip of the season. The 63 points was the lowest total for the Panthers since a 60-55 loss to West Virginia on Nov. 26. Only West Virginia, Old Dominion and Valpo have held UNI to 63 points or fewer in a game this season. The squad entered Wednesday averaging 77.4 points per game. This is the first time Valpo has held the opponent under 40 percent shooting in back-to-back games since Jan. 8, 2019 (vs. Bradley) and Jan. 12, 2019 (at Southern Illinois).
Leading the Way: In back-to-back games on Jan. 29 at Bradley and Feb. 1 vs. Illinois State, Valpo has had the same player hold outright team leadership in points, rebounds and assists. Javon Freeman-Liberty became the first Valpo player to accomplish that feat all season on Jan. 29 at Bradley, turning in a 21-point, seven-rebound, four-assist effort. Freshman Ben Krikke followed that up with a dominant night of his own on Feb. 1 vs. Illinois State, leading the team in points (17), rebounds (eight) and assists (four). Before Freeman-Liberty accomplished the feat against the Braves, the last Valpo player to own the outright team lead in all three categories in a game was Deion Lavender on Nov. 16, 2018 vs. Monmouth, when he had 15, eight and five. Krikke became the first Valpo freshman to solely lead the team in points, rebounds and assists in a game since at least the start of the 1989-90 season.
Increased Thievery: Valpo swiped 10 steals in the Jan. 29 game at Bradley, already the team’s eighth game this season with 10 steals or more. The Brown & Gold followed with nine steals on Feb. 1 vs. Illinois State, the team’s 15th game this year with nine steals or more. By comparison, Valpo had just four games a year ago with nine steals or more and two with double-figure steal totals. As a team, Valpo has 8.3 steals per game, up from 6.1 last season. Valpo currently leads the Missouri Valley Conference in steals.
Close Calls: Valpo secured the season sweep of Evansville on Jan. 26, notching its second straight two-point victory over the Purple Aces. This marks the first time the Brown & Gold have played two games in one season against the same opponent both decided by two points or fewer since 2010-11, when the team lost by one point and two points to Green Bay. This marks the first time Valpo has won three or more regular season games by two points or fewer in the same year since 2012-13, though the team had three such victories in 2015-16 counting a postseason win over BYU. Three straight meetings between Valpo and Evansville have been decided by exactly two points. Before last year's regular season finale that saw Evansville prevail 65-63, the two teams had not played a game decided by two points or fewer since 1974 despite the fact that 32 meetings had taken place since.
Heating Up: Mileek McMillan scored in double figures in four straight games after doing so just three times over the first 16 games of the year. His 16-point effort to tie a career high on Jan. 26 vs. Evansville capped his double-figure streak. He averaged 12.5 points per game over those four outings. McMillan had scored in double figures just four times over the first 68 games of his career before doing so in four straight games. The junior led Valpo in scoring in back-to-back games after not doing so in any of his first 70 career games.
Lofting Up Treys: Valpo had 39 3-point attempts in the Jan. 23 game at Missouri State, tying for the fifth most in a single game in the history of the Missouri Valley Conference. It was the most 3-point attempts by a Valpo team since at least the 1989-90 season and the most by any Valley team since Drake tossed up 42 3-point attempts against Western Kentucky on March 21, 2008. Before that, no Valley squad had jacked up 39 or more treys since Jan. 27, 1999 when Drake did so against Missouri State. In addition, the 39 attempts tied for the most by a Valley team in a league-only game.
The JQH Arena Arc: The last two times Valpo teams have played in JQH Arena, there has been no shortage of attempts from 3-point distance. The Valpo women set the arena record for 3-point tries with 40 on Jan. 27 of last season before the Valpo men set a men’s arena record with 39 attempts on Jan. 23 of this season in Springfield.
Ryan Returns: Valpo senior Ryan Fazekas returned from his wrist injury on Jan. 23 at Missouri State, coming back after being sidelined for 17 games. In his first game back, he scored six points by knocking down a pair of 3s before fouling out. Prior to the return against the Bears, Fazekas had played in just 22 of 52 games over the last two seasons while battling various ailments.
Strong Second Halves: Valpo outscored Missouri State by 13 in the second half on Jan. 23, statistically the team’s best half in conference play this season. That was the second straight second half that has gone well for Valpo, which outscored Indiana State 54-42 after the break on Jan. 18. Over those two games, the Brown and Gold outscored the opponent by a combined count of 98-73 in the second half.
Comeback Kids: Valpo continued its trend of erasing significant deficits in the 86-77 victory over Indiana State on Jan. 18 at the ARC. The hosts trailed by 11 with 6:12 to go in the first half, but pulled off the team’s third victory when behind by 10 points or more this season. It was already the 11th time in Matt Lottich’s four-year tenure as the head coach that Valpo has chased by double digits and came away victorious. Valpo has come from double figures down to tie or take the lead seven times this year.
Erasing Double-Figure Deficits Under Lottich
Year Opponent Largest Deficit Outcome
2019-20 Indiana State 11 W 86-77
2019-20 SIUE 10 W 89-76
2019-20 Toledo* 14 W 79-77
2018-19 Illinois State 12 W 58-56
2018-19 George Washington 10 W 82-79
2017-18 Bradley 10 W 77-64
2017-18 UNCW 10 W 79-70
2016-17 Wright State 10 W 84-74
2016-17 Cleveland State 12 W 78-67
2016-17 BYU 12 W 92-89
2016-17 Trinity Christian 16 W 89-75
*largest comeback vs. D1 opponent since Jan. 17, 2012 vs. Detroit Mercy
Points Galore: Valpo improved to 5-0 this season and 27-2 under Matt Lottich when scoring 80 points or more thanks to the 86-77 victory over Indiana State on Jan. 18. The 86 points marked the most Valpo has scored in a Missouri Valley Conference game since joining the league. The field-goal percentage of 50.8 against the Sycamores was Valpo’s highest in a Valley game this season. It was Valpo’s highest single-game scoring output in conference play since blitzing UIC 96-65 in a Horizon League encounter on Jan. 22, 2017, the same game that saw Alec Peters shatter Bryce Drew’s all-time scoring record.
Balanced Attack: Five Valpo players finished in double figures in the Jan. 18 victory over Indiana State, the first time that has occurred against a Division-I opponent since Dec. 2, 2018 vs. UC Riverside. Valpo has had four or more players finish in double figures in each of the last two games.
Kiser Cracks Double Figures: Senior John Kiser has accomplished a lot along his journey from walk-on to key player, but one threshold he hadn’t cracked before the Jan. 18 matchup with Indiana State was scoring double figures in a game. He had previously reached nine on six occasions, but made it into double figures with a career-high 12 points while sharing the team lead with eight rebounds in the home victory over the Sycamores.
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.
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.
#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.
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.
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.
Comebacks, Revisited: Seven times this season Valpo has trailed by double figures and come back to tie or take the lead. On three of those occasions, the Brown & Gold sealed the deal and won the game.
- Valpo trailed by 11 in the first half on Jan. 18 vs. Indiana State before coming back to win 86-77.
- 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 11 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.)
- Made a career-high eight free throws in a victory over Evansville on Jan. 26.
- Had the highest home scoring output of his career with a 25-point, eight-rebound night in a Jan. 18 victory over Indiana State. In the process, he became the 11th player in the nation to surpass the 400-point mark this season. He made a career-high seven free throws in that game.
- 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.
- Collects shoes and has over 150 pairs.
#1 Sigurd Lorange, Fr. (Trondheim, Norway)
- Has been out since Jan. 18 with a hip injury.
- 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.)
- Scored seven points and pulled down five rebounds in 12 minutes of action in a Feb. 1 win over Illinois State. The point total was his D1 best and matched his overall career high set against Trinity Christian.
- Made his first career start on Jan. 18 vs. Indiana State, pulling down six rebounds in just 18 minutes.
- 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)
- Came off the bench for the first time this season on Feb. 9 at Loyola.
- Had his third straight double-figure scoring game on Jan. 26 vs. Evansville, posting a dozen points for his highest scoring output since late November in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
- 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.)
- Had a career-high five assists and did not commit a turnover, pacing the team in assists in the Feb. 12 win over Southern Illinois.
- Scored 13 second-half points to finish with 15 on his birthday on Jan. 29 at Bradley. It was the highest scoring output in a road game in his collegiate career.
- Finished with a team-high eight rebounds while notching his fifth multi-block game of the season on Jan. 23 at Missouri State.
- Scored 18 points on Jan. 18 vs. Indiana State, making it three straight conference home games with 18 points or more.
- 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.)
- Had his second four-steal game of the season on Jan. 23 at Missouri State.
- Scored 12 points and handed out a career-high three assists despite playing much of the game with a bandage after suffering a cut to the head in the first half of the Jan. 18 game vs. Indiana State.
- 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.)
- Contributed nine points and five rebounds in a Feb. 12 win over Southern Illinois, his second straight game with nine points or more after scoring nine points total over the previous three games.
- Tied a career high with four made 3s and finished with a team-high 14 points in just 16 minutes on Feb. 9 at Loyola. Led the team in scoring for the third time in six games after not doing so at all in his first 70 career games.
- Tied career highs in points (16) and blocks (three) on Jan. 26 vs. Evansville to lead Valpo in scoring for the second straight game after previously not doing so in any of his first 70 career games. This marked his fourth straight game in double figures. Recorded a game-saving blocked shot in the final minute of a two-point win over the Aces.
- Led his team in scoring for the first time in his collegiate career, posting 12 points on Jan. 23 at Missouri State while draining three 3s.
- 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)
- Had a team-high 15 points and tied for the team lead with seven rebounds on Feb. 12 vs. Southern Illinois, his third time this season and second in a four-game span leading the team in scoring.
- Became the first Valpo freshman since at least the start of the 1989-90 season to lead the team outright in points, rebounds and assists in a single game on Feb. 1 vs. Illinois State. He set Division-I career highs in all three areas and surpassed his overall career high in rebounds with his line of 17 points, eight boards and four assists.
- 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)
- Made his first start since Jan. 15 at UNI on Feb. 9 at Loyola and dished out nine assists, matching the most by any Valpo player this season and establishing a career best.
- 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.)
- Led the team with a plus/minus of +20 on Feb. 12 vs. Southern Illinois.
- Had a career-high four steals on Jan. 29 at Bradley.
- After previously scoring exactly nine points on six occasions, he cracked double figures with a career-high 12 points while sharing the team lead with eight rebounds in a Jan. 18 win over Indiana State.
- 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.)
- Tied a season high by knocking down four 3s on his way to 14 points on Jan. 29 at Bradley, his first double-figure scoring effort since returning from his injury.
- Was injured on Nov. 9 at Saint Louis and missed 17 games with a wrist injury before returning on Jan. 23 at Missouri State.
- 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.