Valparaiso 74, Missouri State 45
VALPARAISO | Defense wins championships. It's a saying as old as the games themselves. Some agree, some disagree. The people that disagree are generally the ones who refer to defensive struggles as boring. Pitchers' duels are sleep-inducing and a 6-3 football game is one step away from a coma. People that like defense hate the way Carmelo Anthony plays, and rightfully so.
Valparaiso plays defense. Not only that, the Crusaders excel on the defensive side of the court. Missouri State came into Saturday afternoon averaging 70 points per game and the Bears left the Athletics-Recreation Center with a season-low 45 points.
Missouri State struggled from everywhere on the floor, hitting just 17 shots and going 1-of-10 from the 3-point line. When the dust finally settled, the Crusaders were ranked just behind Purdue and Oklahoma in the KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency rankings.
That's right...Valparaiso's defense is one of the best in the country and as we've already discovered, defense wins championships.
What it means: Don't get it twisted, the Crusaders are pretty good on the offensive side of the ball as well and Saturday showed just how big of an impact Tevonn Walker can make. The sophomore scored a season-high 18 points, grabbed two offensive rebounds and dished out two assists. Walker and Alec Peters combined for 37 points and six 3-pointers while four other players knocked down perimeter shots. With the defense locking down on one side of the court, the offense was running on all cylinders on the other side.
One reason to be excited: Keith Carter delivered another masterful performance while running the offense on Saturday. The senior point guard registered seven assists while knocking down two key 3-pointers in the early stages of the game. With Peters and Walker drawing plenty of defensive attention Carter is allowed to sit back and wait for his opportunity to strike. His stat line may not always jump off the page, but Carter is every bit as important to the success of Valparaiso's offense as the rest of his teammates.
One reason to panic: Jubril Adekoya and David Skara, two of the steadiest players on the team, combined to shoot just 2-of-10 on Saturday while turning the ball over three times. Fellow reserve Shane Hammink added three more turnovers and missed a dunk that would've been a highlight-reel play.
Ouch: Valparaiso got Tevonn Walker (knee) back on Saturday but is now without E. Victor Nickerson (wrist) for the foreseeable future. Bryce Drew said during Friday's media session that Nickerson had a hairline fracture in his wrist and mentioned the senior being out for a week. A hairline fracture certainly seems like something that would require a longer time on the sidelines, particularly when its from someone who had surgery on his wrist over the summer. It's a situation worth monitoring.
Quotable: "They dominated us in every area of the game. Mentally, physically, x's and o's, they just outplayed us in every way." -- Missouri State coach Paul Lusk
What's next: The Crusaders (10-2) get another lengthy break for Christmas before returning to the court on Monday, Dec. 28 at Belmont. Valparaiso beat the Bruins 61-57 on Dec. 3 and the Crusaders were without Tevonn Walker for the game. Belmont has had a rough go of it recently, losing back-to-back road games to Middle Tennessee and Cleveland State this past week. The Bruins (7-6) have played just two Division I home games this year and are undefeated at the Curb Event Center.