Valparaiso (13-13, 6-7 MVC)
Game #27 - Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019 - 2 p.m.
at Drake (19-7, 8-5 MVC)
Knapp Center (7,152) - Des Moines, Iowa
Next Up in Valpo Basketball: The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team faces three road tests in its next four games, starting on Saturday afternoon as Valpo heads to Des Moines to take on one of the MVC’s hottest teams in Drake. Valpo is in search of its fourth road win in conference play.
Last Time Out: Career nights from junior Derrik Smits and senior Deion Lavender were not enough Wednesday evening for Valpo to come out victorious, as Valpo dropped its second overtime home game of MVC play to Indiana State, 87-82. Valpo had two shots to potentially win the game at the end of regulation, but then never led in overtime. Smits finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds, while Lavender scored 16 points.
Following Valpo Basketball: Video – ESPN3
Radio – WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) – Todd Ickow and Aaron Leavitt
Links for the video, audio and live stats will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Matt Lottich: Matt Lottich (52-39) 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: While Valpo and Drake have shared membership in the Pioneer Football League since 1993, they became members of the same all-sports conference for the first time last year. The history on the hardwood, while it dates back to 1944, is sparse - the two programs have met just nine times on the basketball court, including just once in a 50-year span prior to their two MVC meetings last year. The Crusaders hold a 6-3 advantage in the series, but Drake came out victorious at the ARC earlier this year, 70-59, in a game which Valpo played most of without its three leading scorers.
- 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 Indiana State
- Neither team led by more than three points for the final nine minutes of regulation.
- Holding the lead inside the final four minutes, Valpo misfired on five consecutive free throw attempts to allow Indiana State to stay within striking distance.
- Valpo’s Ryan Fazekas hit two free throws with 46 seconds to play in regulation to give the Crusaders a two-point lead, but Indiana State hit a pair with 33.4 to play to tie.
- Valpo got a pair of looks on its final possession, but could not knock either down as the game headed to overtime.
- Indiana State went on top for good 12 seconds into the extra period. The Sycamores pulled out to a seven-point advantage at 79-72 with 2:53 to play, and Valpo could get no closer than three the rest of the way.
- The overtime loss was the second in Valpo’s last three home games, as the Crusaders fell to Missouri State in overtime on Jan. 29.
- The foul line proved to be the difference, as Valpo went just 27-for-40 (67.5%) from the stripe as compared to a 25-of-28 (89.3%) mark for Indiana State.
- Valpo also committed a season-worst 21 turnovers which the Sycamores turned into 29 points.
...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.
- Valpo returns home to the ARC to host Southern Illinois on Wednesday, Feb. 20.
- The Crusaders then will spend a second straight Saturday in Iowa, playing at UNI next Saturday night.
...on the road
- Saturday is the 11th of 13 true road games for Valpo in the 2018-19 regular season, as it is currently 5-5 in true road games this year and 3-3 in MVC road games.
- Valpo has 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.
- Drake enters Saturday’s game with an MVC-best 19-7 overall record and sits in a tie for second place at 8-5 in conference play.
- After starting MVC play 1-3, Drake has won seven of its last nine games, including a 72-69 win at Southern Illinois last time out.
- Nick McGlynn leads the Bulldogs, averaging 15.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
The Conference Race
- Through 13 of 18 conference game, the standings are as jumbled as ever, and Valpo finds itself right in the heart of the jumble.
- Valpo currently sits at 6-7, in a four-way tie for fifth place.
- Valpo is just two games out of second place, but is also just two games out of last place.
- Three of Valpo’s final five games of the regular season are against teams it is currently tied with.
Looking to Snap the Skid
- Valpo has lost six of its last seven games, dating back to a Jan. 23 loss at Indiana State.
- Valpo actually went through a similar stretch last season, losing seven out of eight games in a stretch that ended with the 13th game of MVC play. The Crusaders then won three of their final five games of the regular season.
- Included in this year’s stretch of games is four straight home losses - the first time Valpo has dropped four consecutive conference home games since the 1990-91 season.
Smits Steps Up
- Junior Derrik Smits had one of the top games of his career last time out against Indiana State.
- Smits was a perfect 7-for-7 from the floor and added nine free throws for 23 points, matching his career high set earlier this season against Wake Forest.
- Smits also grabbed 11 rebounds, one off his career best, to finish with his fourth double-double of the season.
- Smits became the first Valpo player to not miss a shot from the floor with at least seven attempts since Matt Kenney went 7-for-7 at Green Bay on March 2, 2013.
- 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 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
- Junior Ryan Fazekas returned to action last time out against Indiana State after missing nine games with an ankle injury.
- With Fazekas’ return, Valpo had its full complement of 10 rotation players for the first time since he got hurt early in the Jan. 8 game against Bradley.
- In that stretch, Valpo played the Jan. 26 game against Drake without Fazekas and Derrik Smits, and then Markus Golder got hurt early in the contest as well, leaving the Crusaders without their then-three leading scorers.
- Smits returned to action Jan. 29 against Missouri State, while Golder missed the MSU game as well before suiting up Feb. 2 at Evansville.
- 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.
- Valpo has just three players - Deion Lavender, Javon Freeman and Daniel Sackey - who have played in all 26 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 13 losses, Valpo is shooting just 25.6% from deep.
- Valpo has hit better than 33% from 3-point range in a loss just twice this season and is averaging just 4.5 3-pointers/game in defeats.
- 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.
- 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.