Game No. 16
Valparaiso 87, UIC 72
Bryce Drew accomplished a first on Thursday night: he won a Horizon League opener for the first time in his three-year coaching career. The Crusaders struggled through a frustrating first half only to right the ship early in the second half and ride the momentum to a convincing 15-point victory over UIC. The win extended Valparaiso's winning streak over the Flames to nine games.
Game Ball -- Keith Carter shined in his first game at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The sophomore guard came off the bench for the first time in four games and he immediately made his presence felt. Carter stole the ball and drove to the basket for a layup on his first possession in the game. The St. Louis transfer had a career-high 19 points in 24 minutes while knocking down all five of his shots in the second half.
Air Ball -- Valparaiso again struggled in the first 20 minutes of the game. The halftime deficit (eight points) wasn't as bad as it's been in recent outings, but the play was just as sloppy. The Crusaders had nine turnovers in the first half and just one steal. They forced the Flames to work deep into the shot clock on several possessions, but UIC responded with a variety of impressive baskets that only added to Valparaiso's frustration.
Quotable -- "We told (the younger guys) that (conference play) was going to be like this every night. We have a quick turnaround. We'll celebrate this one tonight, but then we need to forget it and move on to Oakland." -- Valparaiso senior Jordan Coleman
Rotation Watch -- Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew has been known to shorten his rotation once conference play begins. He did this quite a bit last year, flipping between Ben Boggs and Jordan Coleman in the lineup with seven other players. Drew switched the starting lineup yet again on Thursday night, inserting Lexus Williams, Coleman and Vashil Fernandez for Carter, Moussa Gueye and Jubril Adekoya. Carter and Adekoya each played 20+ minutes off the bench while Bobby Capobianco played 17 minutes despite being the last reserve to enter the game in the first half. Clay Yeo and David Chadwick didn't play while Nick Davidson played the final minute. Gueye was limited to seven minutes while Fernandez tallied just 16 in his first career start. The offense moved considerably better with just one "big" on the floor.
Up Next -- Valparaiso travels to Oakland on Saturday in hopes of capturing its second road win of the season. The Crusaders have had a interesting rivalry with the Grizzlies over the years and that continued even after Valpo left the Mid-Continent Conference. Oakland is led by long-range bomber Travis Bader, who has his eyes set on the NCAA all-time 3-point shooting mark. Oakland fell 76-64 to Wright State on Thursday night.