Valparaiso (14-16, 7-10 MVC)
Game #31 - Saturday, March 2, 2019 - 1 p.m.
Evansville (10-20, 4-13 MVC)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Valpo Basketball: The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team finishs out the regular season Saturday afternoon at the ARC as it hosts Evansville. Deion Lavender, as Valpo’s lone player in his final year of eligibility, will be honored prior to the game and address the fans following the game.
Last Time Out: Valpo suffered through its worst offensive performance of the season Wednesday night at Bradley, falling to the Braves, 67-42. With the loss, Valpo is locked into the 8/9 game on Thursday night at Arch Madness against Indiana State. Derrik Smits led Valpo against the Braves with 12 points.
Following Valpo Basketball: Video – ESPN+ – Todd Ickow and David Huseman
Radio – WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) – Danny Dalenberg and Paul Oren
Links for the video, audio and live stats will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Matt Lottich: Matt Lottich (53-42) 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: Two programs with a long history, Valpo and Evansville will meet on the hardwood for the 87th time on Saturday, making the Purple Aces Valpo’s second most common opponent in program history, behind only Butler. Evansville holds a 69-17 advantage in the series, including wins in all three meetings as MVC opponents - the latest a 64-53 decision at Evansville earlier this season. Evansville is one of just two Valley foes Valpo hasn’t defeated at least once since joining the conference (Loyola).
- Valpo was selected to finish in seventh place in the MVC preseason poll with 173 points.
...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 at Bradley
- Valpo started the game strong, outscoring Bradley 9-4 over the opening 5:16, as four different Crusaders scored in the game-opening stretch.
- Valpo would score just one basket over the next eight minutes, with Bradley pulling out to a 19-11 lead thanks to a 15-2 run.
- Bradley would extend its lead to as many as 11 points in the late stages of the first half, and Valpo eventually trailed 31-22 at halftime.
- Valpo scored just two points over the first 7:30 of the second half as Bradley extended its lead to 17 points, and Valpo would get no closer than 15 the rest of the way.
- Valpo’s shooting numbers were its lowest of the season Wednesday night. It connected on just 26.8% (15-of-56) from the field and was just 2-of-22 (9.1%) from the 3-point line.
- Bradley hit 50% (24-of-48) from the floor and outscored Valpo on the fast break 13-2 on Wednesday.
- Valpo played Wednesday without the services of Ryan Fazekas, sidelined with a thumb injury. Fazekas had been back for just four games since returning from an ankle injury.
...in the loss at UNI
- Valpo trailed by as many as 10 in the first half and was down 30-23 at the half.
- UNI got a 3-point play on its first possession of the second half to lead 33-23, but Valpo would outscore the Panthers 12-4 over the next seven-plus minutes to cut its deficit to two points.
- Trailing by one with seven minutes to play, Valpo had a shot to take the lead, but it came up short and the Panthers came down and immediately hit a 3-pointer. The triple sparked a 10-2 UNI run over the next 2:30 as the Panthers led 53-44 with 3:58 to play.
- Valpo would get no closer than six points down the stretch.
- The teams’ shooting was the floor was nearly identical, as Valpo hit 22-of-50 (44.0%) and UNI hit 21-of-48 (43.8%). Both squads went 5-of-15 from 3-point range as well.
- The difference in the game came at the foul line and in taking care of the basketball. UNI finished the night 15-of-17 from the charity stripe, while Valpo was just 6-of-10.
- Meanwhile, the Crusaders turned the ball over 16 times to lead to 15 UNI points. On the flip side, the Panthers committed just 12 turnovers and Valpo converted those into just eight points.
- The loss was Valpo’s 13th in as many games all-time in Cedar Falls, as the Crusaders have never beaten the Panthers on their home court.
- Arch Madness starts next Thursday, with Valpo having to win four games in four days to claim the conference tournament championship.
...at the ARC
- Valpo has 15 regular season home games scheduled at the ARC this season and is 8-6 so far this year at home following its loss to Indiana State last Wednesday.
- Valpo will fail to reach double figures in home wins for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
- Valpo has recorded a 65-14 (.823) mark in home games since the start of the 2014-15 season.
- Over the last 23 years, Valpo owns a 300-70 (.811) record on its home court at the ARC.
- Valpo snapped a four-game conference losing streak in its last home game with a win over Southern Illinois.
- Evansville enters Saturday’s game at 10-20 overall and 4-13 in MVC play.
- The Purple Aces are locked into the 10th seed for Arch Madness.
- Evansville has dropped seven straight games since beating Valpo in early February, including a 98-91 loss at home to Southern Illinois last time out.
- KJ Riley leads the Purple Aces, averaging 13.5 points per game, while Marty Hill adds 11 points per game as well.
Arch Madness Seedings
- With one game left in the regular season, Valpo is guaranteed to be playing in the 8/9 game on Thursday at Arch Madness.
- Valpo can finish no worse than a tie for eighth - if it loses and Indiana State wins, the Sycamores would be the 8 seed and Valpo the 9 seed by virtue of a season sweep. Otherwise, Valpo will be the 8 seed.
- The winner of the 8/9 game advances to play the 1 seed Friday at noon. Drake, Loyola and Missouri State are all still in the running to claim the top seed.
- Saturday is Senior Day at the ARC, and Valpo will recognize Deion Lavender - the lone team member in his final season of eligibility.
- Senior manager Peter Funk will also be honored, as well as seniors from the pep band, cheerleaders and Crusaderettes.
- Valpo has enjoyed tremendous success on Senior Day over the past two-plus decades, as the Crusaders own a 24-3 record over the last 27 years in their final home game.
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 11.2 points per game over the last six games, highlighted by back-to-back 16-point efforts - his highest scoring output in a Valpo uniform.
- Over these last six games, Lavender is connecting at a 56.3% clip from the field and also averaging 5.3 rebounds/game.
- Lavender has scored in double figures in four of those six 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.
- Valpo posted its worst offensive performance of the year Wednesday at Bradley, as it connected on just 26.8% (15-of-56) from the field and was just 2-of-22 (9.1%) from the 3-point line.
- The 3-point performance was the program’s worst since hitting 5.9% from deep against Milwaukee on Dec. 29, 2011.
- Meanwhile, the field goal percentage was the worst since connecting on just 25% of its field goal attempts in the 2000 NCAA Tournament against Michigan State.
- Valpo’s offensive efficiency of 68.2 was its worst in conference play since posting a 65.4 mark in a 66-42 loss at Cleveland State in December of 2008.
- Valpo has now posted an offensive efficiency below 90 in 10 of 17 conference games and is 2-8 in those contests.
Record Book Watch
- Three Crusaders are making their mark on Valpo’s record books this year.
- Junior Jaume Sorolla has blocked 28 shots this year, giving him 90 career blocked shots through three years - tied with Morris Smith for seventh-most in program history, and just four shy of sixth position.
- Junior Derrik Smits is just three field goal attempts shy of the minimum 500 needed to qualify for Valpo’s career field goal percentage chart - his current clip of 56.5% over his first three years would rank third in program history.
- Smits is shooting at a 59.9% mark from the field this season, a percentage which would be seventh-best on Valpo’s single-season chart should he maintain it for the duration.
- Freshman Javon Freeman broke Valpo’s freshman record for steals in a season earlier this year at Drake. With 56 steals on the year, Freeman is currently tied with Stalin Ortiz’s 2002-03 campaign for sixth in a single season in program history. He is just seven steals shy of Lubos Barton’s single-season record of 63, set in 2001-02.
Leading the League
- Not only is Javon Freeman on track to threaten Valpo’s single-season steals mark, he also currently paces the Missouri Valley Conference with 1.9 steals/game.
- Freeman would become the first Valpo freshman to lead a conference in one of the five major statistical categories, and would also become the first Valpo player since at least 1982 to pace the conference in steals.
- Alec Peters was the last Valpo player to lead a league in a major stat category, leading the Horizon League in both scoring (23.0 ppg) and rebounding (10.0 rpg) in 2016-17.
- Vashil Fernandez was the last to post a league-best block total, averaging 3.3 bpg to lead the Horizon League in 2015-16.
- Since 1982, no Valpo player has led their conference in assists or steals.
- 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 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 24.6% from deep.
- Valpo has hit better than 33% from 3-point range in a loss just twice this season and is averaging just 4.3 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.
Similar Starts in New Conference
- Valpo’s first two seasons in the Missouri Valley Conference have played out quite similar to the program’s first two seasons in the Horizon League.
- In Valpo’s first two seasons in the Horizon League (2007-09), the program posted a 31-36 overall record and went 14-22 in league play.
- To date, in its first two MVC seasons, Valpo owns a 29-33 overall record and a 13-22 mark in conference play.
- After its first two seasons in the Horizon League, Valpo would not finish worse than fourth place in its final eight years as a league member and claimed five league regular season titles.