Divi­sion II step

VU aims to re­group af­ter ex­hi­bi­tion loss

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - Sports - By Michael Osipoff Post-Tri­bune

“There were a cou­ple of forced shots, but we didn’t take a lot of bad shots. The shots that we took, we just didn’t make.”

In the af­ter­math of Val­paraiso’s 60-57 loss to In­di­anapo­lis on Thurs­day night, coach Matt Lot­tich spent more time than usual with his team.

The game at the Ath­let­ic­sRe­cre­ation Cen­ter was only an ex­hi­bi­tion, but the Cru­saders’ re­sult against the Divi­sion II Grey­hounds gave rea­son for pause.

“We talked about the re­al­i­ties,” Lot­tich said more than a half-hour af­ter the con­clu­sion. “The re­al­ity is, we lost. The other re­al­ity is, it doesn’t count. We all ex­pected to win; ev­ery­one ex­pected us to win.

“But we have a choice now. We can take a game that doesn’t count and let that de­fine us, or con­tinue to work. All the guys in that locker room want to work.”

Lot­tich praised In­di­anapo­lis, cau­tion­ing against overem­pha­siz­ing the Divi­sion II sta­tus “be­fore peo­ple start maybe not be­liev­ing in this (Val­paraiso) team.”

Still, the Cru­saders failed to put away the Grey­hounds de­spite lead­ing by as many as nine points early in the game and eight mid­way through the sec­ond half.

Val­paraiso lim­ited In­di­anapo­lis to 34.5 per­cent shoot­ing (19for-55), but shot 34.9 per­cent (22-for-63), in­clud­ing 3-for-19 from 3-point range.

“We had a very, very hard time mak­ing shots,” Lot­tich said. “There were a cou­ple of forced shots, but we didn’t take a lot of bad shots. The shots that we took, we just didn’t make.”

With In­di­anapo­lis lead­ing 58-57, ju­nior for­ward/guard Ryan Fazekas missed the po­ten­tial goa­head shot with 4.3 sec­onds left. The Mar­quette grad­u­ate, who sat out last sea­son af­ter trans­fer­ring from Prov­i­dence, had two points. He shot 1-for-11, in­clud­ing 0-for-5 from 3-point range.

“I know there’s a lot of ex­pec­ta­tions from ev­ery­one,” Lot­tich said of Fazekas. “But when we look at a young man com­ing into his home­town to play and there are ex­pec­ta­tions like that, some­times that can be tough at the age Ryan is.

“I would en­cour­age ev­ery­one (to know) Ryan’s been play­ing

— Matt Lot­tich, Val­paraiso coach

great in prac­tice. We ex­pect him to be a very key part of what we’re do­ing go­ing for­ward. He just had a re­ally, re­ally tough night.”

In­di­anapo­lis made two free throws and Bakari Eve­lyn’s long 3-pointer missed as time ex­pired.

Fresh­man guard Daniel Sackey and ju­nior cen­ter Der­rik Smits were Val­paraiso’s bright­est spots. Fresh­man guard Javon Free­man also showed the ma­tu­rity of his all-around game.

Sackey seemed poised to use his quick­ness to carry the Cru­saders to a win. He had nine sec­ond-half points, shoot­ing 4-for-5.

“There’s go­ing to be up and down mo­ments for a fresh­man,” Lot­tich said. “But the one thing I know from Daniel, he’s go­ing to pro­vide a lot of en­thu­si­asm and a lot of en­ergy and a lot of fight and a lot of fire. He re­ally lifted us.”

Smits had 13 points, shoot­ing 5-for-12, and nine re­bounds against the un­der­sized Grey­hounds. He came off the bench be­hind Mer­ril­lville grad­u­ate Mileek McMil­lan af­ter hav­ing started last sea­son’s fi­nal 16 games.

“Der­rik has been great of­fen­sively,” Lot­tich said. “There were some shots he should’ve fin­ished late that he didn’t. But he’s a load in there, and he re­bounded bet­ter (Thurs­day).”

Val­paraiso play­ers were un­avail­able for com­ment.

The Cru­saders have un­til Tues­day to re­group as they open the reg­u­lar sea­son against Con­cor­dia Chicago.

“If it doesn’t get their at­ten­tion, they don’t have a pulse,” Lot­tich said. “I do be­lieve we have guys who want to be very good and we’re tal­ented enough to be good. We have to find our way when shots aren’t go­ing.”

KYLE TELECHAN/POST-TRI­BUNE

Ju­nior cen­ter Der­rik Smits (21) led Val­paraiso with 13 points and nine re­bounds in an ex­hi­bi­tion loss to In­di­anapo­lis on Thurs­day.

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