In the 2017-18 season opener for the Valpo men’s basketball team, the Crusaders blew out the North Park Vikings 88-46 on Friday night.
Sophomore Micah Bradford led the team in points with 20 in the 16 minutes he played coming off the bench. Redshirt sophomore Derrik Smits also had a good game, scoring 14 points and getting the start at center for Valpo.
“I thought Derrik [Smits] was fantastic [starting the game],” said head coach Matt Lottich. “He probably had some first game jitters a little bit, but he got us going offensively.”
Smits got Valpo going by sinking a couple free throws to get the Crusaders on the board early and placed the Crusaders in double digits with a dunk in the fifth minute of play. Valpo started the game with a 15-0 run until North Park finally hit a 2-point jumper with less than 10 minutes to go in the first half.
“We did have a sense of keeping them scoreless for a long time,” Smits said. “[The game] went from somewhat close to opening it up pretty quickly.”
Lottich was loving what he saw from his defense in the first 10 minutes of the game.
“I’d love to pitch some shutouts,” Lottich said. “I thought [the defense] rushed some stuff, but they were able to get comfortable and execute.”
After his 20-point game, Bradford commented on how he’s able to step up more in this year’s team compared to last year’s team, especially after losing a scorer like Alec Peters, who graduated last spring.
“I’m more comfortable going into the game ready to attack with a scorer’s mindset,” Bradford said.
Redshirt sophomore Markus Golder showed off his ability to not only score points for Valpo with 12 on the game, but also his ability to get up and get rebounds with 10 of them for the night.
“The first two [exhibition] games, I went and talked to my coaches, and they said that I’m slacking on the rebounds a little bit,” Golder said. “I took that as I need to go out and get better at something else and add something to my game. Tonight, it was a main focus for me to go out and get some rebounds.”
Sophomore John Kiser returned to the lineup for Valpo on Friday, coming off of a broken nose. He was wearing a mask during the game and had eight points and four rebounds in the 23 minutes of playing time he got off the bench. Kiser also had a dunk late in the game.
“I thought he kind of struggled (with the dunk),” Golder jokingly said. “Before the game, we were talking about him getting one since it was his first game back from his injury. It was just good to see that from Kiser.”
With Valpo joining the Missouri Valley Conference, they have been paying attention to other MVC opponents they will have to face later this season, most notably on Indiana State, who blew out Indiana at Assembly Hall 90-69 on Friday night.
“I’m excited [to face MVC teams],” Lottich said. “We’re in a major league, and it’s not surprising that Indiana State had some success in the preseason. It’s a tough place to win at Assembly Hall to win by double digits like that, but we’re excited, and it’s great to see teams in our league win non-conference games like that.”
Valpo followed up their win on Monday with another victory over Trinity Christian.