Valparaiso (14-14, 7-8 MVC)
Game #29 - Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019 - 7 p.m.
at UNI (13-15, 8-7 MVC)
McLeod Center (7,018) - Cedar Falls, Iowa
Next Up in Valpo Basketball: The battle for positioning in the conference standings continues on Saturday night for the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team, as it heads to Cedar Falls, Iowa to take on UNI. A win over the Panthers on Saturday evening would move Valpo into a tie for fourth place and give it a season sweep of UNI, a potential key tiebreaker coming down the home stretch of regular season play.
Last Time Out: It was only fitting Wednesday night at the ARC that senior Deion Lavender would intercept Southern Illinois’ last-gasp pass to secure Valpo’s win, as the former Saluki made big shots down the stretch to help complement a strong team defensive effort in Valpo’s 55-52 victory over SIU. Lavender scored baskets on three straight possessions in the final four minutes and finished with 10 points, while Derrik Smits scored a team-high 11.
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 (53-40) 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: Prior to last season, when Valpo joined the MVC, Valpo and UNI had not met for over 13 years and had faced off just once in the last quarter-century. The Crusaders and Panthers shared membership in the Mid-Continent Conference from the conference’s formation in 1982 until UNI’s departure for the MVC in 1991. UNI holds a 24-3 advantage in the all-time series over Valpo, but it was Valpo which earned the 75-66 win at the ARC earlier this year behind 21 points and 11 rebounds from Derrik Smits. Valpo is in search of its first-ever win in Cedar Falls, as the Panthers have won all 12 prior home meetings.
- 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 over Southern Illinois
- SIU led 28-24 at the half, but Valpo scored nine straight points over the first four-plua minutes of the half to take a 33-28 lead.
- SIU regained the lead at 42-40 with 9:24 to play before Valpo scored the next eight to go up 48-42 with seven minutes remaining.
- SIU drew to within three points as the clock ticked towards four minutes to play, but Deion Lavender took over at that point, scoring on three straight trips for a personal 6-0 spurt to give Valpo a 55-46 advantage with 2:07 to play.
- SIU would rally at the free throw line, however, getting 10 free throw attempts in a span of 52 seconds while Valpo had the ball just twice – a missed shot and a turnover. SIU would go just 6-of-10 from the line in that stretch, cutting Valpo’s advantage to 55-52.
- SIU had two shots to tie in the final 10 seconds, but missed both, and the Salukis’ final full-court inbounds pass was intercepted by Lavender to secure the win.
- With the win, Valpo snapped a four-game home losing streak. The victory was also the seventh for Valpo in MVC play this season, surpassing last year’s total of six.
- Valpo shot just 43.1% for the game and was just 3-of-11 from the 3-point line, but did connect at a 54.5% clip from the field in the second half.
- Meanwhile, the Crusaders limited SIU to 38.8% shooting for the game and a 4-of-15 mark from 3-point range.
- Valpo also forced 19 SIU turnovers, which resulted in 21 points on the offensive end.
...in the loss at Drake
- Valpo never led, as Drake opened the game on an 8-2 run in the first three and a half minutes.
- Drake led by 15 with less than five minutes to play in the first half before Valpo put together an 11-2 run to move to within 38-32 at the break.
- The Bulldogs extended their lead to double digits for most of the second half and were up 74-60 with 1:52 to play.
- Valpo went on a 15-5 run over the next 63 seconds to close to within four, and actually had two looks to cut a four-point deficit to just one possession in the final 30 seconds, but could not convert.
- Drake took both ends of the season series this year from Valpo after the Crusaders swept the Bulldogs last season.
- The loss was Valpo’s third straight defeat, all of which have come by five points.
- Four Valpo players scored 15 or more points, led by Deion Lavender, who matched his season high with 16 points on 8-of-13 shooting. It was the first time four Valpo players scored 15+ points in the same game since a triple-overtime affair against Mercer on Nov. 29, 2013 - also a Valpo loss.
- Valpo’s final road game of the regular season comes next Wednesday evening at Bradley.
- Valpo then hosts Evansville on Senior Day next Saturday afternoon, March 2 to close out the regular season.
...on the road
- Saturday is the 12th of 13 true road games for Valpo in the 2018-19 regular season, as it is currently 5-6 in true road games this year and 3-4 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.
- UNI enters Saturday night’s game at 13-15 overall and at 8-7 in MVC play, alone in fourth place in the conference standings.
- The Panthers have won three consecutive games, including a 63-43 win last time out at Missouri State.
- Freshman AJ Green leads UNI, averaging 15.1 points per game.
The Conference Race
- Through 15 of 18 conference game, Valpo currently sits in a four-way tie for fifth place.
- A win on Saturday would move Valpo into a tie for fourth with UNI (and potentially others).
- Valpo is in strong shape when it comes to potential tiebreakers, as it has already swept two of the teams it is tied with (Illinois State and Southern Illinois) and can do no worse than split against Bradley and UNI.
- Staying out of the bottom four is key, as the seven through ten seeds have to play on Thursday at Arch Madness and win four games as opposed to three to win the tournament.
Defense Leads the Way
- After two straight games where Valpo’s offense scored better than a point per possession, but the defense surrendered more than 1.1 points per possession, the defense got back to leading the way in Wednesday’s win.
- Valpo posted a defensive efficiency of 77.5 in the win over SIU, its best performance since an efficiency of 76.4 in the home win over Bradley back on Jan. 8.
- Valpo is now 4-1 in MVC play when posting a defensive efficiency of 90 or better, 1-3 with a defensive efficiency of 90-100, and 2-4 with a defensive efficiency of 100 or worse.
- Meanwhile, Valpo picked up the win despite an offensive efficiency of just 82.0, its worst mark in a win since at least 2002.
Lavender Steps Up
- Approaching the final games of his collegiate career, Deion Lavender has enjoyed some of his best performances over the last few outings.
- Lavender is averaging 13.5 points per game over the last four games, highlighted by back-to-back 16-point efforts - his highest scoring output in a Valpo uniform.
- Over these last four games, Lavender is connecting at a 65.6% clip from the field and also averaging 5.5 rebounds/game.
- Lavender has scored in double figures each of the last four games after reaching the 10-point mark just four times in his first 24 games at Valpo.
- This year’s stretch somewhat mirrors a similar end of the season Lavender enjoyed his freshman year at SIU, where he averaged 11.2 points/game over the season’s final 10 games and scored in double figures seven times.
Rewriting the Record Book
- Defensive categories are getting some editing in Valpo’s all-time record books, thanks to the feats of junior Jaume Sorolla and freshman Javon Freeman.
- Sorolla has now blocked 26 shots this year after rejecting three last time out against SIU, giving him 88 career blocked shots - eighth-most in program history and just two shy of Morris Smith for seventh position.
- Meanwhile, Freeman broke Valpo’s freshman record for steals in a season at Drake and moved into the overall single-season top-10 last time out against SIU. With 53 steals, he is currently tied for ninth in a single season in Valpo history and is just 10 shy of Lubos Barton’s single-season record of 63, set in 2001-02.
- Javon Freeman was named MVC Newcomer of the Week on Feb. 11 after averaging 22 points per game on 66.7% shooting over the previous two games.
- 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.
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% from the 3-point line, while in its 14 losses, Valpo is shooting just 25.5% from deep.
- Valpo has hit better than 33% from 3-point range in a loss just twice this season and is averaging just 4.3 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.
- Ryan 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.