Milwaukee - WI - The Valparaiso Crusaders boast the Horizon League's highest scoring player in Alec Peters (6'9''-F-95), but it's been the Valparaiso defense that has been mostly responsible for the Crusaders entering their Thursday night game against the Milwaukee Panthers with a league-best 8-1 record.
Entering the game allowing just 63 points per game, best in the Horizon League, the Crusaders held the Panthers to ten points below their scoring against average in running their conference record to 9-1 by defeating the Panthers 71-53.
'We've had success for a long time here being a defensive team,' said Valparaiso Coach Matt Lottich. 'As long as I'm here, that's going to be a priority.'
'If a team doesn't score as much as we do, we win the ball game,' said Peters. 'We have that focus for every single game. It's a team effort, not just one person stopping one guy.'
Valparaiso starts an imposing front line of the 6-9 Peters, 6-7 Shane Hammink and 7-2 Derrik Smits. When Smits goes to the bench for a rest, the Crusaders lose very little in the height department with the insertion of 6-11 Jaume Sorolla. That is a huge front line by Horizon League standards and provides great rim protection for the Crusaders.
With Valparaiso clinging to a 21-19 lead with just over four minutes left in the first half, the Crusaders tightened their defensive screws and held the Panthers scoreless for the remainder of the first half to take a 26-19 lead into halftime. Valparaiso continued its stingy ways by holding Milwaukee scoreless for the first three-plus minutes of the second half as part of a 23-4 run over a 13 minute stretch spanning both halves. With the conclusion of that run, Valparaiso had built a comfortable 44-23 lead and was on its way to the win.
The Crusaders were led offensively, as they have for most of the season, by Peters, who tested the NBA draft waters after last season before deciding to return to Valparaiso for his senior season. With scouts from the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers in Milwaukee to scout Peters, the Horizon League's preseason player of the year scored a game-high 22 points.
Peters' game starts behind the three-point arc where his feathery jump shot is his calling card. He shoots primarily off the catch from distance with textbook shooting mechanics and pure rotation. Peters got it going early on Thursday night knocking down his first two attempts from behind the three-point arc. He made two more triples in the second half to finish with a four-for-five shooting night from behind the arc. After not visiting the free throw line at all in the first half, Peters went to the line eight times in the second half and drained all eight attempts to improve upon the impressive .902 free throw shooting mark he brought with him into the game.
Peters misfired on all five of his midrange shots in the first half. He shoots in the midrange off one-dribble moves and out of post-ups. But like most good scorers, Peters was not deterred by his midrange misfires in the first half. 'You can't lose your focus,' he said. 'If you start hesitating, you get yourself into a little bit of a funk. If shots aren't falling, maybe attack the basket a little more.'
Valparaiso also received double-digit scoring nights from freshman Micah Bradford and senior Hammink. Carrying a 3.5 points per game average into the game, Bradford put up a career-high 14 points by knocking down 3-of-4 shots from behind the arc and also contributing five rebounds to the Crusaders' 34-24 rebounding advantage. 'Micah has stayed the course. It's not a surprise that he's been playing well,' said Lottich.
Hammink is one of three Crusaders who can boast of a father not only with NBA experience, but a father taken in the first round of the NBA draft. Hammink's father, Geert, was a 1993 pick of the Orlando Magic who went on to play parts of three seasons in the NBA. Smits' father, Rik, played his entire 12-year NBA career with the Indiana Pacers after being drafted by the club in 1988. Chandler Levingston Simon, a 6-7 freshman, claims Cliff Levingston, an 11-year NBA veteran drafted by the Detroit Pistons in 1982, as his father.
Hammink started his career at LSU before transferring to Valparaiso. A left-hand dominant player to give defenses a different look, Hammink scores mostly in the midrange and at the rim driving primarily to his left to explore scoring opportunities off the bounce. He entered the game with a Horizon League ninth-best scoring average of 15.5 points per game and scored 12 against the Panthers.
Cody Wichmann led the scoring for Milwaukee with a 17-point night. But he had to work for his points and needed 16 shots to score his 17 points. Entering the game as Milwaukee's leading scorer at just under 13 points per game, Wichmann found finding rhythm against the Valparaiso defense very difficult and did not dent the scoring column until the ten-minute mark of the second half. In addition to holding Wichmann scoreless in the first half, the Valparaiso defense limited Brock Stull, Milwaukee's second leading scorer, to only two first-half points.
The Valparaiso game notes are stuffed with seasonal and career highlights of Peters, but perhaps his most impressive achievement is joining a group of about 50 players who established career scoring and rebounding records at their respective schools. In the basketball hotbed that is the state of Indiana, only Larry Bird of Indiana State and Luke Harangody of Notre Dame have posted more points and rebounds at a D-1 school.
Valparaiso continues its trek through the state of Wisconsin when it travels north to play Green Bay on February 4. Milwaukee concludes a two-game homestand also on February 4 when it hosts Illinois-Chicago.
Mika leads BYU to upset of No. 1 Gonzaga 79-71 - 2 hours ago
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Top-ranked Gonzaga's quest to go undefeated this season ended under a barrage of baskets by BYU's Eric Mika (6'10''-F) on Saturday night. Mika had 29 points and 11 rebounds, and BYU upset Gonzaga 79-71. It was the Cougars' first victory ever over a No. 1 team, after four losses, and spoiled the Bulldogs' perfect record in their last regular season game. The sophomore center made 10 of 14 shots from the floor and 9 of 13 free throws. His biggest basket put BYU ahead 73-71 with a minute lef... [read more]
Top-ranked Gonzaga's quest to go undefeated this season ended under a barrage of baskets by BYU's Eric Mika (6'10''-F) on Saturday night. Mika had 29 points and 11 rebounds, and BYU upset Gonzaga 79-71. It was the Cougars' first victory ever over a No. 1 team, after four losses, and spoiled the Bulldogs' perfect record in their last regular season game. The sophomore center made 10 of 14 shots from the floor and 9 of 13 free throws. His biggest basket put BYU ahead 73-71 with a minute left in the game. Gonzaga lost the ball on its next two possessions, and then Corbin Kaufusi (6'10''-C) had a putback and Mika hit two free throws to put the game out of reach. Gonzaga ended a string of 15 consecutive games where it didn't trail in the second half. "They haven't had anyone have a lead on them in the second half for quite a while," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "I thought that would be a really big emotional thing for us, and an emotional thing for them to have to respond. "You beat the No. 1 team on the road the last weekend of the season, it's good for a lot of reasons," Rose added. The Cougars rallied from an early 16-point deficit, and Mika said the team never wavered in its belief it could win. "I think all of us did and that was a big thing," Mika said. "I don't think a lot of teams, especially in our conference, believe 100 percent that they're going to come in and do that." The Cougars scored 44 points in the second half and made nine 3-pointers to just three for Gonzaga. Nigel Williams-Goss (6'3''-G-94) scored 19 points for Gonzaga (29-1, 17-1 West Coast), which was seeking to become the first team since Kentucky in 2014-15 to finish the regular season without a loss. "Obviously, it didn't go as we hoped," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "We missed a lot of free throws and turned the ball over too much to be able to win a close game like that." Gonzaga missed 13 of its 29 free throws and had 16 turnovers but still led most of the game. "The season isn't over," Gonzaga guard Jordan Mathews (6'4''-G-94) said. "It is a great season. We'd love to be 30-0, but we are 29-1." T.J. Haws added 17 points and Elijah Bryant 14 for BYU (21-10, 12-6). The last team to finish the entire season undefeated was Indiana in 1975-76. Gonzaga came out fired up and jumped to an 18-2 lead in the first five minutes, making 7 of 10 shots. The Zags cooled off, and three consecutive 3-pointers by BYU's Haws cut Gonzaga's lead to 26-22. Mika's basket cut Gonzaga's lead to one point before the Bulldogs closed with a 10-5 run to take a 41-35 lead at halftime. Zach Collins (7'0''-F-97)' putback gave Gonzaga a 58-46 lead midway through the second. A technical foul on Gonzaga helped BYU cut its deficit to 58-53 and seemed to spark the Cougars. A pair of 3-pointers by Nick Emery (6'2''-G) cut Gonzaga's lead to one, and Mika's basket gave the Cougars their first lead at 61-60. The teams traded baskets until Mika put the Cougars ahead for good. Courtesy of: abcnews.com
Behind a double-double from Jae'Sean Tate (6'4''-F) and hot shooting nights from C.J. Jackson (6'1''-PG) and Jaquan Lyle (6'5''-G-96), Ohio State handled No. 16 Wisconsin, 83-73, in head coach Thad Matta 's Ohio State-record 457th game at the helm of the Buckeyes Thursday at Value City Arena. Tate went for 15 points and 12 boards for his second-consecutive double-double while Jackson went 4-for-4 from beyond the arc en route to a team-high 18 points to go along with four rebounds, four as... [read more]
Behind a double-double from Jae'Sean Tate (6'4''-F) and hot shooting nights from C.J. Jackson (6'1''-PG) and Jaquan Lyle (6'5''-G-96), Ohio State handled No. 16 Wisconsin, 83-73, in head coach Thad Matta 's Ohio State-record 457th game at the helm of the Buckeyes Thursday at Value City Arena. Tate went for 15 points and 12 boards for his second-consecutive double-double while Jackson went 4-for-4 from beyond the arc en route to a team-high 18 points to go along with four rebounds, four assists and four steals. Lyle added 17 points, including all 10 from the charity stripe, while also tacking on four helpers for the Buckeyes (16-13, 6-10 Big Ten). Bronson Koenig (6'4''-G) led all scorers with 27 for the Badgers (22-6, 11-4 Big Ten). After a Koenig 3-pointer gave Wisconsin a 6-4 lead just over two minutes into the game, the Buckeyes used a 9-0 run to take a 13-6 advantage with 14:40 remaining in the half. The Buckeyes then got hot from the field, turning it into a 44-31 halftime lead. For the half, Ohio State shot 51.6 percent while connecting on five shots from behind the arc. Tate turned in a double-double with 13 points and 10 boards in 17 first-half minutes while Jackson added nine points and three assists. Koenig kept the Badgers in it with 14 in the first half, including four 3-pointers. The Badgers had the Buckeyes lead trimmed to nine at 56-47 with 11:00 remaining but back-to-back 3-pointers by Lyle and Jackson pushed the Ohio State advantage up to 15 at 62-47 with 9:19 left to play. Wisconsin was unable to get within 13 until the final minute of play as the Buckeyes hit on 5 of 6 3-pointers after the half. Courtesy of: mariononline.com
San Diego, CA - Jenny Craig Pavilion had never hosted the No. 1 team in the country before Gonzaga showed up on Thursday night. The top ranked Bulldogs (29-0) came in and systematically dismantled the University of San Diego (12-17) 96-38, recording the largest margin of victory ever for a No. 1 team on the road. Gonzaga jumped out to an 11-0 lead while USD missed its first nine shots and pushed that lead to 28 at halftime despite nine turnovers and 50 percent shooting from the foul line. [read more]
San Diego, CA - Jenny Craig Pavilion had never hosted the No. 1 team in the country before Gonzaga showed up on Thursday night. The top ranked Bulldogs (29-0) came in and systematically dismantled the University of San Diego (12-17) 96-38, recording the largest margin of victory ever for a No. 1 team on the road.
Gonzaga jumped out to an 11-0 lead while USD missed its first nine shots and pushed that lead to 28 at halftime despite nine turnovers and 50 percent shooting from the foul line. The Zags came out even more focused in the second half and shot an astounding 74 percent from the field including 8-of-11 from 3-point range. Gonzaga hit 13 3's on the night while USD managed just 14 made buckets, a recipe for disaster. The Zags imposed their will defensively challenging every shot and staying solid. Combine that effort with smart play and you get that type of performance as they only committed 12 fouls in the game.
Every night it can be one of several players leading the way for the Zags and on this night the first standout was Johnathan Williams III (6'9''-F-95). The 6-9 junior transfer from Missouri made his presence known early on both ends of the floor. USD was determined to quickly double Przemek Karnowski on every touch and he was more than willing to pass out of the traps. Williams found himself on the receiving end of passes out of the rotations resulting in 10 first half points despite missing 4-of-6 free throws. He was more dominant on the defensive end grabbing 13 first half rebounds while USD only grabbed eight as a team. Williams was aggressive and used his size and athleticism to attack everything coming off the rim. His performance allowed the guards to leak out in transition and push the pace offensively leading to several of those open 3-point looks. Williams finished the night with 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting and 19 rebounds. He is now shooting 61 percent from the floor on the year.
The Tritons came out determined not to let the 7-1 Karnowski beat them and he was held to just three field goal attempts notching just five points and three rebounds. But he became a facilitator in successfully passing out of the post and initiating the offensive attack. It has been the calling card all year long of the unselfish Bulldogs who made it look easy all night long in shooting 66 percent for the game.
Leading scorer 6-5 junior Nigel Williams-Goss had a typical game for him with 14 points, six rebounds and five assists. The player of the year candidate is averaging 16.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists. He is always in control, is a vocal leader on the floor and plays extremely hard on the defensive end. He had the ability to get to the rim whenever he wanted yet he displayed patience by working the offense and finding even easier shots for his teammates. Many of those open looks went to Josh Perkins and Zach Collins. Perkins (6-3 soph.) knocked down 5-of-8 from 3-point range and seemed to be unguarded all night long. He also chipped in five rebounds and led the team with six assists, which shows he was not forcing shots up.
The Bulldogs also have the luxury of bringing a 7-foot McDonald's All-American off the bench in freshman Collins. Collins is third on the team in scoring at 10.7 per game despite only playing 17 minutes per game. He has the look of a future lottery pick written all over him. He has a great combination of size and athleticism to go along with polished post moves and a soft touch. He can score on either block with either hand. He made one play where he caught the ball at the high post in a high-low set, saw the pass was not there then took one hard dribble to his left and finished it left handed like a guard. He is also a good defender and has 3-point range (43.8%).
There were not many bright spots for USD on a night where they shot just 24 percent, which was not their worst performance of the year on their home court (19 percent vs. St. Mary's). Sophomore 6-2 guard Olin Carter was the only player in double figures for the Tritons finishing with 15 on 6-of-16 shooting. He worked hard offensively trying to find cracks in the Bulldog defense but mostly had to settle for contested jump shots. When given good looks he can knock down shots consistently, but those opportunities were rare on this night. Brett Bailey leads the team averaging 15.6 points but he was held in check tonight. The 6-6 forward out of Spokane could not find his stroke going just 3-of-11 for seven points. He created a few scoring opportunities using his ability to put the ball on the floor against the bigger defenders but was unable to finish around the rim.
The Bulldogs proved once again that they are in the national title hunt with this dominating performance. According to Synergy Stats they are No. 2 in offensive points per possession and No. 1 in defensive points per possession. They are big, athletic, deep, unselfish and play with poise and purpose on both ends of the floor. They are going to be a tough out in March. Gonzaga will host BYU on Saturday and try and finish the regular season undefeated. San Diego will host Portland, also on Saturday.
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