Saint Louis (7-2) at Valparaiso (6-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 7, 8:05 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Athletics-Recreation Center (5,432) -- Valparaiso, Indiana. Television: None. Home Record: St. Louis 4-1, Valpo 5-1. Away Record: St. Louis 2-0, Valpo 1-3. Neutral Record: St. Louis 1-1, Valpo 0-0. Conference Record: St. Louis 0-0, Valpo 0-0. Series Record: Valparaiso leads, 5-3.
GAME NOTES: The Valparaiso Crusaders return to the ARC for a brief two-game homestand starting on Saturday night, as they clash with the Billikens of Saint Louis.
Saint Louis had been losers of two of three prior to its latest contest, falling against a pair of nationally-ranked teams in Wisconsin (63-57) and Wichita State (70-65), but it got back on track on Tuesday night with an easy 68-43 win over Rockhurst. The Billikens are now an impressive 7-2 this season, including 2-0 in true road games.
Valparaiso, meanwhile, has played very well in recent weeks, as it bounced back from a three-game losing streak in mid-November to win four of five, climbing to 6-4 in the process. The Crusaders made a sojourn to Indiana-rival Ball State on Wednesday and dismissed the Cardinals in a 69-50 final.
The Crusaders lead the all-time series, 5-3, but after winning the first five games, Saint Louis has claimed three in a row, including last season at home, 62-49.
The Billikens did not have their best shooting performance last time out, as they hit less than 42 percent from the floor (including 4-of-15 from 3-point range), but they more than made up for it with their defensive pressure, as they held Rockhurst to a meager 28.3 percent shooting. Leading the charge was Dwayne Evans, who netted 17 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field and 7- of-8 from the free-throw line. Jordair Jett and Jake Barnett each scored 12 points, while Grandy Glaze came off the bench to rip down 12 rebounds. Saint Louis has been playing lock-down defense all season, as its opponents shoot field goals at just 39 percent efficiency for 57.7 points per game, which helps its rather modest offensive output (.437, 71.4 ppg). Evans makes 51.1 percent of his field goal tries for a team-high 15.1 points per game, while Jett (10.6 ppg, 4.2 apg) and Mike McCall, Jr (10.3 ppg, 1.9 spg) are also actively involved.
Similar to Saint Louis, the Crusaders shined at the defensive end in their latest game, as they held Ball State to just as many field goals as turnovers (14), while shooting an impressive 48.2 percent from the field themselves. As he has been all season long, LaVonte Dority was the catalyst in the win, as he shot 3-of-7 from 3-point range on his way to a game-high 16 points, which allowed him to improve upon his season average (15.5 ppg). Jubril Adekoya was a steady source of production in the paint with 12 points and eight rebounds. Typically, Valpo is used to much more impressive offensive outputs, as it shoots a lofty 51.5 percent from the field (12th-best in the nation) for 84.3 points per game. In addition to Dority, Alec Peters has also been strong to start the season with 14.5 points per game on 21-of-45 from 3-point range. Jordan Coleman (12.0 ppg) has done a large portion of his damage from the free-throw line (37-of-46, .804).
Valpo has defended its home floor very well in the early going, which will give it a strong shot at knocking off Saint Louis in this one, but the Billikens' defensive game plan should be enough to stifle the Crusaders en route to a strong road win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saint Louis 68, Valparaiso 65
12/07 10:37:23 ET