Valparaiso (11-6, 4-0 MVC)
Game #18 - Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019 - 7 p.m.
at Loyola (10-7, 3-1 MVC)
Gentile Arena (4,963) - Chicago, Ill.
Next Up in Valpo Basketball: The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team continues Missouri Valley Conference play on Tuesday night with a matchup of the top two teams in the MVC standings, as Valpo travels to Loyola looking to extend its winning streak to six consecutive games. A victory would give Valpo a two-game lead in the conference standings.
Last Time Out: It was only fitting that graduate transfer Deion Lavender, returning to the home arena from his freshman year, was the one to cap off the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team’s win at Southern Illinois on Saturday, as Lavender converted on a layup with 13 seconds remaining to secure Valpo’s 65-61 win over the Salukis. Derrik Smits paced Valpo in the winning effort with 16 points and eight rebounds.
Following Valpo Basketball: TV – NBC Sports Chicago – Jordan Bernfield and Jeff Dickerson
Video – ESPN+
Radio – WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) – Todd Ickow and David Huseman
Links for the video, audio and live stats will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Matt Lottich: Matt Lottich (50-32) is in his sixth season overall at Valpo and third as head coach in 2018-19. Lottich led Valpo to 15 victories in his second season in charge in 2017-18 and guided the the program through the transition to the MVC, which ended the campaign ranked eighth nationally in conference RPI. In his first year as head coach, Lottich guided Valpo to its fifth Horizon League regular season championship in the last six years as he led the team to 24 wins and an at-large berth into the NIT.
Series Notes: Loyola holds a 36-15 advantage in the all-time series against the Crusaders – a series which dates way back to 1922. Prior to last season, the two squads had not met since February of 2013, as the Ramblers departed the Horizon League for the Missouri Valley Conference following that season. Loyola won both matchups last year, earning a 70-54 win at the ARC and an 80-71 win in Rogers Park. Prior to last season, Valpo had won four straight at the Gentile Arena.
- Valpo was selected to finish in seventh place in the MVC preseason poll with 173 points.
- Valpo has finished worse in the final standings than its preseason projection just once in the last eight years.
- Valpo is looking to buck MVC history this year - in 110 years of Valley basketball, only 28 teams have gone from last place one year to an upper division finish the following year.
...looking back at last year
- Valpo went 15-17 in its first season as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference.
- The Brown and Gold posted a 6-12 record in MVC play in a conference which ended the season ranked eighth in the nation in conference RPI.
- The 2017-18 campaign marked the first time in the last eight years that Valpo has not earned a bid to postseason tournament play.
- Sophomore Bakari Evelyn was named to the MVC’s All-Newcomer Team, while sophomore Markus Golder earned a spot on the conference’s All-Bench Team.
...in the win at Southern Illinois
- A 12-2 run late in the first half gave Valpo the lead for good in the win over the Salukis.
- The two squads traded offensive punches early in the second half, and for the first 11 minutes of the half, Valpo’s lead would fluctuate between seven and 11 points.
-Valpo extended its lead to its apex at 59-46 with 6:46 to play before SIU went on a 12-2 run over the next four minutes.
- With the score 63-61 Valpo with 40 seconds to play, SIU elected to play out the defensive possession, and Deion Lavender received a perfect pass from Derrik Smits and laid it in with under 13 seconds remaining to secure the win.
- Valpo won despite playing without leading scorer Ryan Fazekas due to injury.
- Valpo posted a season-low total of seven turnovers while forcing 13 SIU miscues. Valpo enjoyed an 18-4 advantage in points off turnovers.
- Derrik Smits led three Valpo players in double figures with 16 points - 14 of which came in the second half - and recorded a team-high eight rebounds as well.
...in the win over Bradley
- For the second straight game, a late first-half run was key, as Valpo outscored Bradley 18-2 over a nine-minute stretch to extend a one-point lead to 17 points.
- Valpo limited the Braves to just one field goal over the final 13 minutes of the first half, taking a 31-18 lead into halftime.
- The lead remained in double figures for the first 15 minutes of the second half, but a 12-2 run by the Braves cut the advantage to 50-45 with less than three minutes to play.
- Bakari Evelyn knocked down a 3-pointer on Valpo’s next possession and then followed by feeding Javon Freeman for a dunk, and Bradley got no closer than eight the rest of the way.
- Freeman led the way with 17 points, his highest scoring output against a D-I opponent this year, on 7-of-10 shooting. He was the only Valpo player to score in double figures, but five others scored between six and nine points.
- Daniel Sackey matched his career high with six assists in the win, four of which came before the game’s first media timeout.
- A return home to the ARC awaits Valpo on Saturday as it hosts UNI for a 3 p.m. tipoff as part of Basketball Day Indiana.
- Valpo then heads down to Terre Haute for a matchup against the Sycamores of Indiana State next Wednesday, Jan. 23.
...on the road
- Saturday is the sixth of 13 true road games for Valpo in the 2018-19 regular season, as it is currently 4-2 in true road games this year and 2-0 in MVC road games.
- Valpo has already surpassed its overall and MVC-only road win totals from last year, as it went just 3-12 in true road games last season and just 1-8 on the road in MVC play.
- Prior to last year, Valpo had finished above .500 in true road games in four of the last five seasons.
- Loyola enters Tuesday’s first-place matchup at 10-7 overall and 3-1 in MVC play following a 67-64 victory over Illinois State on Saturday.
- Loyola has won nine consecutive MVC home games dating back to last season.
- The Ramblers boast a trio of players averaging better than 13 points per game - Marques Townes (14.3 ppg), Clayton Custer (13.9 ppg) and Cameron Krutwig (13.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg).
Looking For 5-0
- Valpo is looking to get to 5-0 in MVC play on Tuesday - a mark it has reached in conference play just twice this century.
- Despite winning five regular season titles in its last six seasons in the Horizon League, the 2015-16 season was the only time in that stretch Valpo won even its first two league games, starting 6-0 en route to a 16-2 league record.
- The 2002-03 Valpo squad also started 6-0 on its way to a 12-2 record and a Mid-Continent Conference regular season championship, the only other time this century Valpo has won even three straight games to open conference play.
- Last season, it took Valpo until its 16th MVC game to earn its fifth conference win.
A Winning Streak
- Valpo has reeled off five consecutive victories heading into Tuesday’s contest, its longest winning streak of the season.
- Valpo has now recorded at least one winning streak of five or more games in eight of the last nine seasons.
- The last four in this five-game winning streak have all been MVC games - Valpo’s longest conference winning streak since winning eight straight Horizon League games in 2016-17.
Getting Gritty on Defense
- It’s been Valpo’s defensive effort which has helped it get out to its 3-0 start in Missouri Valley Conference action.
- Valpo surrendered 69.8 points per game on 44.4% shooting from the floor in non-conference action.
- Meanwhile, in its first three MVC games, Valpo has given up just 58.2 points per game on 37.5% shooting.
- Digging into the analytics, Valpo has held both Illinois State (85 points per 100 possessions) and Bradley (76.4) to their respective worst offensive performances of the season.
Defending Without Fouling
- Perhaps the biggest change defensively for Valpo this season has been its ability to play defense without committing fouls and sending opponents to the foul line.
- Last year’s team ranked 337th nationally (14th from last) in defensive free throw rate, while this year’s squad ranks 49th nationally in the same category.
- In terms of raw numbers, last year’s Valpo opponents averaged 23.2 FT/game across all games and 22.8 FT/game in conference play, while this year, opponents are averaging 15.9 FT/game overall and 13 FT/game in conference play.
The Balanced Attack
- On the offensive end, Valpo has proven to have multiple threats who can step up through the season’s first 17 games.
- Entering Tuesday’s game, five different players are averaging in double figures in the scoring column, led by Ryan Fazekas’ 12.7 points/game.
- Six different players have led Valpo in scoring in a game this season.
- Valpo last featured five different players averaging in double figures in 2007-08, the program’s first season in the Horizon League.
- Big runs in the opening period have proven key to helping Valpo claim each of its last three victories.
- Missouri State - 30-6 run over span of 8:02 (8:44-0:42 - took tie game and made it a 24-point lead)
- Bradley - 18-2 run over span of 8:27 (12:42-4:15 - took one-point lead and extended it to 17 points)
- Southern Illinois - 22-6 run over span of 8:06 (8:44-0:38 - took seven-point deficit and turned it into nine-point lead)
Freeman Delivering as a Freshman
- Freshman wing Javon Freeman has been a consistent producer for Valpo as a rookie this season.
- Freeman, who is currently averaging 11.1 points/game, has scored in double figures nine times and has scored seven or more points in all but one of Valpo’s first 17 games.
- Only eight Valpo freshmen in the last 30 years have averaged in double figures - the seven who completed a full four years at Valpo all currently reside among the top-20 in program history in career scoring.
- Meanwhile, just past the midway point of the season, Freeman has tallied 31 steals - well within range to challenge Lubos Barton’s program single-season record of 63 steals.
- Freeman also currently leads the MVC with 1.8 steals/game - since Valpo helped found the Mid-Continent Conference in 1982-83, only seven Valpo players have led their conference in one of the main five statistical categories. None of those seven players were freshmen, and none led their league in steals.
- Meanwhile, only three MVC freshmen in the last 40 seasons have led The Valley in one of the main stat categories as well.
- Freeman is the only Valpo freshman in the last three decades to open his career with five straight games of 10+ points - only two others had started with three straight such games.
Challenging Start to Conference Play
- Valpo’s schedule in the first quarter-plus of MVC play shaped up to be a tough slate entering the season.
- Valpo will face each of the conference’s top four teams in the preseason poll within the first five games of MVC action.
- Valpo has already defeated Illinois State (#2) and Bradley (#4) at the ARC, and Southern Illinois (#3) on the road.
- Markus Golder’s buzzer-beater against Illinois State added to the lore of last-second shots in Valpo history.
- It was Valpo’s first game-winner with the clock at zero since Ryan Broekhoff connected on a 3-pointer to give Valpo the 70-69 win in the 2013 Horizon League semifinal at the ARC over Green Bay.
- It was Valpo’s first game-winner from beyond halfcourt since Greg Tonagel drilled a heave from the opposite 3-point line for a 71-68 win over Belmont at the ARC on Jan. 11, 1999.
- Of course, the most famous buzzer-beater in program history came courtesy of Bryce Drew in the first round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament versus Ole Miss.
- Golder’s shot came in at the top spot on SportsCenter’s Top 10 on Wednesday night’s countdown. He became the third different Valpo athlete over three different sports to earn a SportsCenter Top 10 spot since Valpo joined The Valley.
- Junior Ryan Fazekas became the first Valpo player since the program joined the MVC to earn a weekly award from the conference office, as he was named the MVC Newcomer of the Week on Jan. 2.
- Fazekas earned the honor after leading all players in scoring with 19 points - including five 3-pointers - in Valpo’s win over Purdue Northwest.
- Fazekas repeated as MVC Newcomer of the Week Jan. 7 after pouring in 10 3-pointers over Valpo’s first two MVC wins over Illinois State and Missouri State.
Shooting - The Highs and the Lows
- The difference in Valpo’s 3-point shooting in wins versus losses this year is striking - in its 10 victories, Valpo is hitting 40% from the 3-point line, while in its six losses, Valpo is shooting just 23.8% from deep.
- Valpo has hit more than four 3-pointers just twice in its six losses and has shot better than 29% from deep in a loss just once.
- Meanwhile,Valpo has enjoyed a number of strong shooting performances in wins, including a 15-of-27 effort from deep in its win at George Washington and a 12-of-24 performance in the win at Missouri State.
- The 15 triples were the program’s highest total against a Division I opponent since going 15-of-26 from deep in a Feb. 5, 2013 win over UIC.