Valparaiso (19-9) at Loyola Marymount (17-10)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, February 17th, 9:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Gersten Pavilion (4,156) -- Los Angeles, California. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Valpo 11-2, LMU 8-7. Away Record: Valpo 8-7, LMU 9-3. Neutral Record: Valpo 0-0, LMU 0-0. Conference Record: Valpo 12-4, LMU 10-4. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: Leaders in the Horizon League standings, the Crusaders of Valparaiso take a break from the norm as they challenge the Lions of Loyola Marymount at Gersten Pavilion this evening as part of the annual BracketBusters event.
Valpo last took the floor on Valentine's Day and showed little love towards Illinois-Chicago, as the Crusaders captured a 74-65 win at home. The victory was the fifth in the last six outings for the program as it moved to 12-4 in league play and 19-9 overall.
As for the Lions, they matched up against 21st-ranked Saint Mary's-CA on Wednesday night on the road but refused to back down as they came away with a huge 75-60 win at McKeon Pavilion. It was the third win of the season over a ranked opponent and now with a record of 10-4 in West Coast Conference action, LMU has its most conference victories since it made the Elite Eight following the 1989-90 campaign. Overall, the victory was the fifth in the last six outings for the group.
This bout marks the first-ever meeting between these two schools on the hardwood.
Scoring 11 points upon his return to the starting lineup, Kevin Van Wijk was one of three players to reach double figures for the Crusaders as they extinguished the Flames of UIC at home on Tuesday night. Richie Edwards, who filled in for Van Wijk while he was ailing, stepped up with 19 points in just 18 minutes off the bench, followed by another reserve, Matt Kenney, who dropped in 14 points, grabbed seven rebounds and handed out five assists, not to mention blocked a pair of shots for the favorites. Edwards has led the team in scoring in three of the last four contests and even though he is averaging a mere 17.0 minutes per game, he is quickly becoming a key figure on offense with his 9.5 ppg. But make no mistake, this is a Valpo team that still takes its cues from Ryan Broekhoff (15.0 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and Van Wijk (14.3 ppg), the pair combining to make 216 of the unit's 439 conversions at the free-throw line.
Drew Viney led the offensive attack for the Lions on Wednesday night as he tallied 17 points in the win over Saint Mary's, snapping what had been a 16- game home win streak for the Gaels. Anthony Ireland contributed 16 points and seven assists, Jarred DuBois tallied 15 points off the bench and Ashley Hamilton chipped in 11 for the visitors, as they held SMC to just 38.6 percent shooting from the field and 6-of-28 behind the three-point line, including a mere 1-of-13 out on the perimeter in the second half when the Gaels were desperate to keep up. Ironically enough, LMU is now 9-3 on the road this season, but just 8-7 in front of the hometown fans, so hopefully the Lions can get that straightened out for tonight. Viney and Ireland have been the two guiding lights for the Lions this season, averaging 16.3 and 15.4 ppg, respectively, with the latter also handing out 129 assists in an effort to get his teammates involved in the action. Not only is Viney a solid rebounder with close to five and a half boards per game, he is also hitting three-pointers at a 46.0 percent clip which makes him a tough defensive matchup.
Even though the Lions might have a let-down looming, the fact that they'll have a supportive home crowd cheering them on tonight is reason enough to think they can take care of Valpo.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Loyola Marymount 71, Valparaiso 63
02/17 10:35:12 ET