CHICAGO | Coming off a dominant victory over Green Bay on Wednesday night, it would’ve been normal to expect Valparaiso to have a bit of a letdown against UIC on Saturday.
Not in Lavonte Dority’s hometown.
The Valparaiso senior guard returned to Chicago and dropped a career-high 33 points on the Flames, hitting shots from all over the floor and essentially clinching a spot on All-Horizon League First Team as the Crusaders rolled to a 70-46 victory over UIC.
Dority's 33 points marked the sixth time in the last eight games he topped 20 points.
“This was a big test for us to see if we would come in satisfied or come in still hungry,” Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew said. “Lavonte leads that charge with his hunger and the rest of the guys followed.”
Dority scored seven of Valparaiso’s first nine points and then helped blow open the game with nine of the last 10 points of the half, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that gave the Crusaders a 36-23 halftime edge. Dority went into the locker room with 22 points.
“My main focus was just to get a win,” Dority said. “I just play within the offense. My teammates did a great job setting screens to free me up and they were getting passes right on the money.”
As impressive as Dority was on offense, it was his defense on UIC’s Kelsey Barlow that might have been the real story of the afternoon. Drew threw various defenders at Barlow, but it was Dority who took truly embraced the task of locking down the Purdue transfer.
Barlow finished with just eight points and missed on all five of his 3-point attempts.
“That’s my first job,” Dority said. “Stopping their best player, it’s something I sacrifice for the team, putting my body on the line. I knew he was a great player. We just wanted to make it tough for him and contest all of his shots.”
Drew took a moment after the game to give credit to UIC coach Howard Moore and break down just how a blowout like Saturday’s win may have ended up going in the other direction. The Flames (5-18, 0-9) have been in most of their Horizon League games this season.
“Lavonte made some tough shots while Barlow missed ones he normally makes,” Drew said. “As a coach all you can do is draw up the plays. If Barlow is hitting those shots and Lavonte is the one missing, then it’s probably a completely different game.”
The Flames shot just 26.8 percent and a big reason was the presence of Vashil Fernandez. The Valparaiso junior tied a program record with seven blocks and the Jamaican big man added seven rebounds.
“My mindset is just doing what’s best for the team,” Fernandez said. “I’m just going out there and getting whatever stops we need. We put on the board every day that we need three more stops, so I keep that as something in my head that we need to do.”
Chicago native Lexus Williams had nine points and four rebounds for the Crusaders (14-10, 6-3) while Alec Peters knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and grabbed five rebounds. Barlow was one of three UIC players to lead the Flames with eight points. Valparaiso native Hayden Humes missed his second straight game with an eye injury.
The UIC senior is expected to miss 2-to-4 weeks.
“Hayden is a guy that can stretch the floor and we can play him at various positions,” UIC coach Howard Moore said. “We miss Hayden, but at the same time it has to be the next man up. We still have other guys.”