Valparaiso (8-5) at UCF (7-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, December 22, 2:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: CFE Arena (9,993) -- Orlando, Florida. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Valpo 6-2, UCF 6-1. Away Record: Valpo 1-3, UCF 1-2. Neutral Record: Valpo 1-0, UCF 0-0. Conference Record: Valpo 0-0, UCF 0-0. Series Record: Valparaiso leads, 3-1.
GAME NOTES: After both teams registered wins in Saturday night's opening round, the Valparaiso Crusaders and the host Knights will close out the UCF Holiday Classic at CFE Arena on Sunday afternoon.
Outside of a three-game losing streak in mid-November, Valpo has played very well this season, sporting an 8-5 record. The Crusaders made easy work of Southeastern on Saturday, 86-46, for their third win in the past four games.
UCF has gotten off to an impressive 7-3 start to the season, which includes a 6-1 mark on its home floor. The Knights opened up their holiday tournament on Saturday afternoon by dismissing Rio Grande, 86-58, for their fourth consecutive victory.
Valpo owns a 3-1 series lead over UCF, including a 85-70 home victory earlier this season on Nov. 26.
The Crusaders dominated on both ends of the floor on Saturday. Not only did they shoot 55 percent from the field, including an incredible 15-of-24 from beyond the arc, but they held Southeastern to just 26.7 percent from the floor and nearly keep it to as many field goals (16) as turnovers (15). LaVonte Dority paced the squad with 18 points, doing so on 4-of-5 from long distance. Alec Peters was the only other player in double figures with 16 points, but eight others contributed at least five points with 37 points coming off the bench.
Valpo has gotten used to outstanding offensive performances this season, as it shoots 49.7 percent from the field (including 40.6 percent from 3-point range) on its way to 82.8 points per game, 14 points more than it allows on the other end. Dority (15.7 ppg) and Peters (15.3 ppg) are neck-and-neck for the team- lead in points, and the duo have combined for 57 3-pointers. Jordan Coleman brings 11.1 points per game to the table, while the deep team has seven others who score at least 3.8 points per game.
The Knights had very little problem taking care of business against Rio Grande in the event's opener, as they shot 50 percent from the field, including an outstanding 13-of-24 from 3-point range, while holding their opponent to just 3-of-27 from beyond the arc. Kasey Wilson was the catalyst in the 32-point victory, registering 19 points and nine rebounds. Daiquan Walker was the only other player in double figures, scoring 11 points on 3-of-3 from 3-point range, but Tristan Spurlock, Eugene McCrory and Matt Williams each netted nine points.
On the season, UCF has made a habit of piecing together these well-rounded type of games. It makes good on 47.5 percent from the field for 79.1 points per game while allowing opponents to shoot just 42.5 percent from 67.7 points per tilt. The team is far from flawless, however, as it shoots just 56.3 percent from the free-throw line and boasts a -1.2 turnover margin. Calvin Newell in the top scoring threat with 15.6 points per game, while Isaiah Sykes (14.3 ppg) is right on his heels. Spurlock (13.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg) is a force in the paint, and Wilson (11.6 ppg) rounds out the double-digit scorers.
Valpo got the best of the Knights earlier this season, but that was with its home crowd on its side. The Crusaders' shooting prowess will keep them in the game wire-to-wire, but expect UCF to return the favor this time around as it defends its home court and closes out its tournament in style.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UCF 75, Valparaiso 72
12/22 10:37:38 ET