Game No. 3
Illinois 64, Valparaiso 52
The Crusaders got to within two points with less than seven minutes to play on Wednesday night, but the Illini closed with force and scored 13 of the next 14 points to take a commanding lead. Valparaiso never led during the game after falling behind by double digits early in the contest.
Game Ball -- Valparaiso's three key freshmen (Alec Peters, Clay Yeo, Lexus Williams) didn't have exceptional efforts on Wednesday night, but the newcomers certainly belonged on the court. Peters was second on the team with 30 minutes and Williams was right behind with 26 minutes off the bench. The trio struggled with their shot (5-of-20), but combined for 11 rebounds. More importantly, the freshmen didn't turn the ball over once. On a night when the seniors combined for 12 turnovers, it was the freshmen who looked poised and ready to handle the pressure of playing in a Big Ten environment. If this class stays together for the next four years, it won't even be fair to the rest of the Horizon League.
Air Ball -- 3:13, 4:50, 5:59, 4:58, 6:12. Those were the lengths of various field goal droughts for the Crusaders on Wednesday night. Considering those numbers it's shocking to think that Valparaiso was within two points late in the game on the road against a high major opponent. Now it's not as if the Crusaders didn't score during those stretches. The team was 11-of-20 from the free throw line. (The misses we've covered before and I'm sure we'll cover again) Going through long stretches without a field goal is nothing new for Valparaiso. One needs to look no further than last season's Big Ten game against Nebraska. The Detroit game at the ARC is another great representation of Valparaiso's tendency to shut down offensively for minutes at a time. Getting Keith Carter eligible should help with the ability to create shots, but right now it looks like a program issue. Two completely different teams, one big problem.
Medical Report -- Valparaiso senior guard LaVonte Dority suffered a sprained ankle midway through the first half. He played just four more minutes before halftime and then went into the locker room at the break to receive some treatment. The senior played 14 minutes in the second half, scoring eight points, but he was in obvious discomfort throughout the game. Dority was walking fine after the game and he shouldn't miss any time.
Quotable -- "If he's going to go to war for us, then we're going to go to war for him." -- Valparaiso senior Jordan Coleman on Bryce Drew's technical foul late in the game
Block Party -- With at least 29 more games remaining, Alabama transfer Moussa Gueye is on pace to shatter the single-season blocked shots record at Valparaiso. The big man added three blocks on Wednesday night and is now on pace to top Raitis Grafs (67, 2000-01) by nearly 20 blocks.
Up Next -- The Crusaders (2-1) travel to Athens to take on Ohio on Sunday afternoon. Valparaiso last played the Bobcats on Nov. 23, 2010 and sophomore Ryan Broekhoff scored a then-career high 24 points in a 78-75 loss. Ohio opened the season with an 11-point victory over Northern Iowa and a 10-point loss to No. 10 Ohio State.