Valparaiso (13-12, 6-6 MVC)
Game #26 - Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019 - 7 p.m.
Indiana State (12-12, 4-8 MVC)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Valpo Basketball: The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team begins the stretch run of the regular season on Wednesday night at the ARC as it hosts Indiana State in a key MVC matchup. At the two-thirds mark of the conference season, Valpo is enveloped in the middle of an extremely tight race in the standings. Free replica jerseys will be given away to the first 1,000 fans in attendance.
Last Time Out: Valpo held a nine-point lead over MVC leader Loyola at the ARC Sunday afternoon with just over seven minutes remaining, but the Ramblers scored the next 13 points to take the lead for good as Valpo eventually fell by a 56-51 final in front of a capacity crowd. Freshman Javon Freeman continued his recent strong play with a team-high 17 points.
Following Valpo Basketball: Video – ESPN3 – Jordan Bernfield and Kevin Lehman
Radio – WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) – Todd Ickow and David Huseman
WJOB (1230 AM/104.7 FM, Hammond)
Links for the video, audio and live stats will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Matt Lottich: Matt Lottich (52-38) 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: The fourth-most common opponent in Valpo men’s basketball history, Indiana State holds a 52-32 advantage in the all-time series. Valpo claimed non-conference wins over the Sycamores in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, but all three meetings as MVC foes have gone the way of the homestanding team, including a 70-53 victory for Indiana State last month in Terre Haute.
- 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 Loyola
- Valpo led 24-22 at the half and held the outright lead for the first 16 minutes of the second half.
- A pull-up jumper from the edge of the paint by Javon Freeman with 7:41 to play gave Valpo a 43-34 lead.
- But the Crusaders would then be kept off the board by the Ramblers on their next seven trips down the court on offense, going 0-for-7 with a turnover during that stretch as Loyola went on a 13-0 run to take hte lead for good.
- It was the second straight defeat Valpo has held a nine-point lead and lost (at Evansville), marking the largest lead lost in a defeat this season. On the flip side, Valpo has overcome double-digit deficits for wins three times.
- Javon Freeman continued his recent strong play with a team-high 17 points on Sunday, while Deion Lavender added 12 points.
...in the win at Illinois State
- Valpo scored the first 14 points of the game and led by 15 just 4:30 into the contest.
- Valpo’s largest lead of the first half came at 25-8 with 11:12 to play in the first half before the Redbirds scored the next 13 points to close within four.
- Valpo answered with a 16-3 run to take a 41-24 lead into halftime.
- Valpo outscored Illinois State 10-3 over the first three-plus minutes of the second half, scoring on its first five offensive possessions.
- The Crusaders led 56-33 with 12:38 to play before going scoreless for nearly the next eight minutes, as the Redbirds scored 15 straight points.
- Illinois State was within 58-51 at the under-four media timeout before Valpo ended the game on an 11-2 run.
- With seven games left to play in the conference schedule, Valpo has already matched its conference win total from a season ago.
- Valpo went 10-of-23 from 3-point range, matching the total number of 3-pointers it had made in the previous four games combined.
- This weekend brings a trip to Drake for a Saturday afternoon game.
- Valpo returns home to the ARC to host Southern Illinois next Wednesday, Feb. 20.
...at the ARC
- Valpo has 15 regular season home games scheduled at the ARC this season and is 7-5 so far this year at home following its loss to Missouri State on Jan. 29.
- Valpo needs wins in its final three home games to reach double figures in home wins for the ninth straight year.
- Valpo has recorded a 64-13 (.831) mark in home games since the start of the 2014-15 season.
- Over the last 23 years, Valpo owns a 299-69 (.813) record on its home court at the ARC.
- Valpo has lost each of its last three MVC home games, its first three-game home losing streak in league play since losing to Loyola, #10 Butler and Cleveland State during the 2007-08 Horizon League campaign.
- Indiana State enters Wednesday’s game at 12-12 overall and tied for ninth place in The Valley standings at 4-8 in conference play.
- The Sycamores are just 1-4 since beating Valpo back on Jan. 23, including most recently a 96-67 loss on Saturday night at Bradley.
- Sophomore Tyreke Key leads ISU, averaging 16.7 points per game and hitting at a 47.6% clip from the 3-point line, while junior Jordan Barnes adds 15.7 points per game.
- Valpo welcomed a capacity crowd to the ARC last time out for the Loyola game, with an attendance of 5,148 for the showdown against the Ramblers.
- It was Valpo’s highest-attended home game since setting the building record with an attendance of 5,444 for the 2016 NIT quarterfinal against Saint Mary’s.
- It was the highest-attended regular season game since drawing 5,166 for a nationally-televised matchup with Detroit on Feb. 16, 2013.
The Conference Race
- At the two-thirds mark of the MVC schedule, the standings are as jumbled as ever, and Valpo finds itself right in the heart of the jumble.
- Valpo currently sits at 6-6, in a tie for fifth place. The Crusaders are just one game out of a tie for second.
- But on the flip side, Valpo is also just one game out of seventh and two games out of last place.
60 Seems to Be the Mark
- Valpo won its MVC opener over Illinois State by a 58-56 final, but since that point, the 60-point mark seems to be the team’s harbinger of success.
- Valpo has scored 60+ five times in conference play and is a perfect 5-0 in those games.
- Meanwhile, the Crusaders have been limited to 59 or fewer points six times since the opener and have gone 0-6 in those games.
- Freshman Javon Freeman was named MVC Newcomer of the Week on Monday after averaging 22 points per game on 66.7% shooting last week.
- Freeman’s week was highlighted by a 27-point effort on 11-of-13 shooting at Illinois State, a game which included a 20-point first half.
- Freeman is the first Valpo player with a 20-point first half since Alec Peters scored 23 in the opening 20 minutes against Indiana State in December of 2016.
- Peters was also the last Valpo freshman to score 20 in a half, scoring 20 in the second half at Evansville in November of 2013.
- Freeman currently leads the MVC in steals - he would become the first Valpo freshman to lead a conference in a major stat category since at least 1982, while only three MVC freshmen have led the conference in a category in the last 40 years.
- Freeman grabbed 15 rebounds in Valpo’s home game against Missouri State, becoming the shortest Valpo player in at least 30 years with a 15-board effort.
- Freeman opened his career with five straight double-figure scoring efforts, the only Valpo freshman to do so in the last 30 years - only two others had even scored in double figures in three straight to open their careers.
- Freeman scored 22 in his debut, the highest-scoring debut by a freshman since Lubos Barton scored 27 in 1998.
Rounding Back to Health
- Valpo is down to just one regular out due to injury, after playing one game without the services of its then-three leading scorers.
- Leading scorer Ryan Fazekas exited the Jan. 8 game against Bradley due to an ankle injury and has not played since.
- Second-leading scorer Derrik Smits missed the Jan. 26 game against Drake due to a back injury.
- Third-leading scorer Markus Golder exited early in that same Drake game, leaving Valpo without its then-three leading scorers and with just seven scholarship players for the duration of that 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.
- Smits returned to action Jan. 29 against Missouri State, while Golder suited up again Feb. 2 at Evansville.
- Valpo has just three players - Deion Lavender, Javon Freeman and Daniel Sackey - who have played in all 25 games this season.
Shooting - The Highs and the Lows
- The difference in Valpo’s 3-point shooting in wins versus losses this year is striking - in its 13 victories, Valpo is hitting 40.5% from the 3-point line, while in its 10 losses, Valpo is shooting just 24.4% from deep.
- Valpo has hit better than 33% from 3-point range in a loss just once this season and is averaging just 4.3 3-pointers/game in defeats.
- Prior to the win at Illinois State, Valpo had made just 10 3-pointers combined over the course of its four-game losing streak.
- 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, a 12-of-24 performance in the win at Missouri State, and most recently a 10-of-23 mark in the win at Illinois State.
- The 15 triples at GW 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.
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 12 conference wins, Smits and Sorolla have combined to average 17.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.
- Meanwhile, in 18 conference losses, the post duo has averaged just 10.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.
- The top six scoring performances from the duo have all come in MVC wins, as have the top six rebounding games from the pair.
- Markus Golder’s 50-foot buzzer-beater for the win Jan. 2 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 that night.
- Freeman is the second Valpo player to receive Newcomer of the Week accolades from the MVC this season.
- Fazekas became the first Valpo player since joining the MVC to earn a weekly award, 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.