VALPARAISO | Lavonte Dority swears he doesn’t have a Superman cape under his uniform when he takes the floor against UIC. The Valparaiso senior has plenty of highlight tape against the Flames during his career that would suggest otherwise.
Dority, named first team all-Horizon League on Monday afternoon, has averaged 19.5 points and 3.5 assists in four meetings with UIC. If the No. 4 Crusaders are going to make a deep run in the Horizon League tournament, they’ll need Dority to equal those numbers against not only the No. 9 Flames, but the rest of the league as well.
“There isn’t really a difference for me when I play against UIC,” Dority said. “It’s not really a special game. I know some of those guys from home, but we’re at the point now where we need to look at every game as important.”
Valparaiso opens the conference tournament at the Athletics-Recreation Center against UIC tonight. With a victory, the Crusaders would advance to Green Bay to play the winner of No. 5 Milwaukee/No. 8 Detroit on Friday night. Despite UIC’s 1-15 conference record, Dority and his teammates aren’t taking anything for granted after a disappointing finish to the regular season.
“We’re not taking those guys lightly by any stretch,” Dority said. “They can be a very dangerous team. We need to focus on getting this win and take that first step toward our goal.”
The Crusaders (17-14) swept UIC this season, winning both games by an average of nearly 20 points. Dority scored a career-best 33 points at the UIC Pavilion last month, but the number that has really helped Valparaiso against the Flames has been the lack of turnovers. The Crusaders, coming off two games this week in which they turned the ball over a combined 38 times, had just 21 total miscues against UIC this season, their lowest mark against a conference opponent.
“We’re stressing the turnovers and we need to get shots up,” Drew said. “I want the players to stay aggressive and if they’re going to make mistakes, I want them to be aggressive mistakes.”
Dority is second on the team in turnovers with 65 this season, trailing only Moussa Gueye (70). The Crusaders finished the regular season with 472 miscues, more than 130 than their opponents. Drew said following Saturday’s loss to Cleveland State that it was too late in the season to expect a culture shift and Dority echoed those thoughts on Monday.
“There’s nothing you can really do about the turnovers,” Dority said. “We just need to continue to play our brand of basketball. I’m going to go out there and play my hardest. I’m going to ask my teammates to play their hardest. We’re giving it our all and we’re focusing on moving to the next round however we have to do it.”