Valparaiso (13-10) at Illinois-Chicago (5-17)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 1, 4 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: UIC Pavilion (8,000) -- Chicago, Illinois. Television: CSN-CHI, ESPN3.com. Home Record: Valpo 9-3, UIC 2-8. Away Record: Valpo 3-7, UIC 1-7. Neutral Record: Valpo 1-0, UIC 2-2. Conference Record: Valpo 5-3, UIC 0-8. Series Record: Illinois-Chicago leads, 29-19.
GAME NOTES: After taking down the streaking Green Bay Phoenix earlier this week, the Crusaders of Valparaiso try to keep the good times rolling this afternoon as they suit up against fellow Horizon League foe Illinois-Chicago.
Winners of four of the last five outings, the Crusaders made a major statement three nights ago when they toppled Green Bay, a squad that had won 12 straight games, by a score of 75-60 at home. Valpo is now 5-3 in conference play as a result.
Meanwhile, the Flames continue to burn out every time they take the floor. The program has posted just two overall wins since the end of November, only one of those coming against a Division I opponent. On Wednesday, the team was snuffed out by Detroit on the road in a 74-68 decision, leaving the Flames winless in league play after eight games and slipping away on an 11-game slide overall.
The Crusaders won the first meeting of the season against UIC at home by a score of 87-72 early last month, closing the gap in the all-time series which currently favors the Flames, 29-19. While UIC has 10 more victories overall, since Valpo joined the Horizon the momentum has been claimed by the Crusaders who have won 10 of the last 13 matchups.
Valpo lucked out against the Phoenix who were without one of their star players in the paint on Wednesday, allowing the team to connect on a staggering 70.8 percent from the field in the first half and 58.7 percent for the game. LaVonte Dority was responsible for a game-high 26 points, followed by Jubril Adekoya with 12 points, helping the squad to overcome an unsightly 19 turnovers.
Dority, a 48.1 percent shooter from the floor overall who is 44.4 percent accurate behind the 3-point line these days, leads the team in scoring with 16.6 ppg and is also one of the top passers for the group as well with 54 assists, trailing only Lexus Williams (7.4 ppg) who has seven more dishes. Alec Peters checks in with 12.0 ppg and 5.0 rpg for a group that is beating the competition by 7.3 rpg on the glass.
UIC led by as many as five points midway through the first half in a game that featured nine ties and five lead changes, but in the end the Flames could not keep up the pace on the road where they are now just 1-7. Marc Brown gave it his all with 24 points and six rebounds, followed by Kelsey Barlow and Jake Wiegand with 18 and 13 points, respectively, while combining for 15 rebounds in the setback.
Barlow, who is getting by with just 40.4 percent shooting from the floor and 32.7 percent behind the 3-point line, is someone the Flames cannot do without, seeing as how he leads the program in scoring (15.4 ppg), rebounding (5.2 rpg) and assists (86), a rare feat these days in college basketball. Brown, the only player on the roster to have started every game, checks in with 12.6 ppg.
At some point the odds say that UIC will have to break through in conference play, but given the amount of confidence the Crusaders gained from their most recent win, that's not likely to happen this weekend.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Valparaiso 72, Illinois-Chicago 61
02/01 10:18:05 ET