Valparaiso (12-9, 5-3 MVC)
Game #22 - Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019 - 7 p.m.
Missouri State (10-11, 4-4 MVC)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Valpo Basketball: The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team closes out a brief two-game homestand Tuesday night at the ARC, hitting the halfway point of Missouri Valley Conference play as it welcomes Missouri State to town.
Last Time Out: Playing most of the game without its top three scorers, Valpo battled gamely against Drake at the ARC Saturday night and was within four with 3:44 to play before running out of gas down the stretch, as the Bulldogs left Valpo 70-59 victors. Daniel Sackey and Jaume Sorolla tied for team-high honors with 13 points, while Sorolla also set a career best with five blocked shots.
Following Valpo Basketball: Video– ESPN+ – Jordan Bernfield and Kevin Lehman
Radio – WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) – Todd Ickow and David Huseman
WJOB (1230 AM/104.7 FM, Hammond) – Ryan Walsh and John Pigatti
Links for the video, audio and live stats will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Matt Lottich: Matt Lottich (51-35) 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: Missouri State holds a 16-9 advantage in the all-time series with Valpo. The Bears captured all three meetings in Valpo’s first season as an MVC member - 67-50 in Valpo, 64-57 in Springfield and 83-79 in St. Louis in the opening round of the MVC Tournament - but Valpo came out 82-66 victors in the first matchup this season, earlier this month in Springfield. Ryan Fazekas led four Valpo players in double figures in that win with 18 points, connecting on 6-of-11 from the 3-point line.
- 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 loss to Drake
- Valpo’s two leading scorers - juniors Ryan Fazekas and Derrik Smits - were sidelined due to injury, and its third leading scorer - junior Markus Golder - left the game with an injury less than five minutes into the game.
- The last 12 minutes of the first half were played within a six-point span, as it was a one-possession game the entire time. Valpo led 23-21 with 4:51 to play in the half, but Drake ended the half on an 8-3 spurt to lead 29-26 at intermission.
- Valpo evened the game at 35-35 3:28 into the second half on a steal and fast-break basket from Daniel Sackey, but that tie would last just 23 seconds and was the only time the game was tied in the second half.
- Valpo cut Drake’s lead to four points on three separate occasions down the stretch, but all three times, the Bulldogs responded with points on their next possession.
- Leading the way in the scoring column Saturday were Sackey and Jaume Sorolla, who shared team-high honors with 13 points.
- Sackey matched his career high with the 13 points and also came up with a career-best four steals.
- Meanwhile, Sorolla went 6-of-7 from the field. The six field goals made matched his career best, while he set a new career high on the defensive end with five blocked shots.
...in the loss at Indiana State
- A pair of free throws from junior Markus Golder 3:34 into the game tied it at 8-8, but ISU’s Tyreke Key nailed a 3-pointer on the Sycamores’ next possession to give Indiana State the lead for good.
- Indiana State outscored Valpo 17-5 over a stretch of 10 minutes in the first half to extend its lead to 13 points, and would eventually lead 32-21 at the half.
- Valpo would get no closer than 10 points in the second half.
- Valpo gave up 70 points to the Sycamores on just 59 possessions, the third-worst defensive efficiency for Valpo this season, only coming in ahead of the West Virginia and Western Kentucky defeats.
- Valpo committed 14 turnovers against the Sycamores’ eight as Indiana State held a 22-6 advantage in points off turnovers. ISU also outscored Valpo in the paint, 40-30.
- Derrik Smits and Golder tied for team-high honors with 14 points apiece, while Deion Lavender added 10 points and a game-high seven rebounds off the bench.
- Valpo hits the road for its next two games, starting Saturday afternoon at Evansville.
- The Brown and Gold then trek to Normal, Ill. to face Illinois State on Tuesday evening.
...at the ARC
- Valpo has 15 regular season home games scheduled at the ARC this season and is 7-3 so far this year at home following its loss to Drake on Saturday.
- Valpo posted a 10-4 record at home last year, its eighth consecutive season reaching double figures in home victories.
- Valpo has recorded a 64-11 (.853) mark in home games since the start of the 2014-15 season.
- Over the last 23 years, Valpo owns a 299-67 (.817) record on its home court at the ARC.
- Missouri State enters Tuesday night’s game at 10-11 overall and 4-4 in MVC play this season.
- The Bears are 4-2 since Valpo’s win in Springfield on Jan. 5, including wins in each of their last two outings, where they limited Loyola to 35 points and Bradley to 37 points.
- Tulio Da Silva leads three MSU players in double figures with 15.4 points per game on 58.8% shooting and also averages a team-best 7.4 rebounds per game.
- Valpo entered Saturday’s game against Drake without the services of its two leading scorers, Ryan Fazekas and Derrik Smits.
- Valpo then lost third-leading scorer Markus Golder to injury less than five minutes into the game.
- Going back 30 years, there hasn’t been a single instance of Valpo’s two leading scorers at the end of the year both missing the same game within that season.
Minutes Up For Grabs
- With the rotation severely shortened against Drake due to injuries, minutes played piled up for a number of players.
- Freshman Javon Freeman played the full 40 minutes, the first time a Valpo player has gone the distance in a regulation game since Will Bogan and Erik Buggs played the full 40 in the NIT at Miami in March of 2012.
- Freshman Daniel Sackey played a shade under 37 minutes, just the second time this year he has even cracked the 30-minute mark.
- Junior Jaume Sorolla played a season-high 28 minutes, the most time he’s logged on the court since going 30 minutes last year at Evansville.
Shooting - The Highs and the Lows
- The difference in Valpo’s 3-point shooting in wins versus losses this year is striking - in its 12 victories, Valpo is hitting 40.3% from the 3-point line, while in its nine losses, Valpo is shooting just 23.6% from deep.
- Valpo has hit better than 33% from 3-point range in a loss just once this season and is averaging just 4.6 3-pointers/game in defeats.
- Valpo hit just two 3-pointers in its losses against Indiana State and Drake last week, the first time the Crusaders have been limited to that few triples in consecutive games since hitting two 3-pointers apiece against Loyola and UIC in February of 2011.
- 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.
- This year’s squad became just the third Valpo team this century to win at least four straight games to open conference play.
- 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.
Centers of Attention
- The combined play of Valpo centers Derrik Smits and Jaume Sorolla has proven crucial to winning since joining The Valley.
- Since joining the MVC, in Valpo’s 11 conference wins, Smits and Sorolla have combined to average 17.7 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.
- Meanwhile, in 15 conference losses, the post duo has averaged just 10.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.
- The top six scoring performances from the duo have all come in MVC wins.
- Smits and Sorolla have combined to pull down nine or more rebounds in seven MVC games to date - all of which have been Valpo wins.
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 82nd 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 16.5 FT/game overall and 16.0 FT/game in conference play.
- 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.