Division II step
VU aims to regroup after exhibition loss
“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.”
Junior center Derrik Smits (21) led Valparaiso with 13 points and nine rebounds in an exhibition loss to Indianapolis on Thursday.