Friday, December 30, 2016

Valparaiso 70, UIC 59: Peters' double-double streak extends to five games

                                                               Photo Credit: Geno Green

CHICAGO— On the eve of New Year's Eve, Valparaiso Crusaders phenom Alec Peters put together another typical double-double effort seen eight times this season— 18 points and 11 rebounds, in a 70-59 win over the UIC Flames (7-6, 0-1 Horizon League) to open conference play.

For most players in college basketball, recording a double-double can be a significant achievement, but Peters has done it with ease in the last five games for Valparaiso (11-3, 1-0 Horizon).

Despite being held to seven points in the first half and scoreless for the first 12:18 of the second, Peters came alive and scored 11 points in the final 7:42 to help Valparaiso pull away from UIC.

UIC coach Steve McClain threw a series of players on Peters, but eventually made impact in the paint and gave credit to the senior for making adjustments.

"The last five minutes, Alec Peters took over in the game and that was the difference," McClain said. "We kept Alec off the free throw line for most of the game, but [Matt] got him in positions where he could score."

Another star performance came courtesy of another Crusdaer starter, Tevonn Walker. After being a non-factor for most of the first half due to foul trouble, Walker finished with a season-high 23 points, on eight-of-nine from the field in 29 minutes, highlighted by a personal 8-2 run in the second half.

"I felt good about it, despite some of the shots not falling initially," Walker said. "They harp on me all the time about being aggressive every time on the floor and tonight, everything clicked."

Valparaiso coach Matt Lottich believes playing against some of the top guards in the country prepared Walker for moments like the league opener.

"I have told Tevonn before that there are not a lot of guards that are better than you," Lottich said. "He has gone up against the likes of Malik Monk from Kentucky and when aggressive, there is nothing that can stop [Tevonn]."

UIC center Tai Odiase, who came into the game tied for 24th in Division I with 2.46 blocks per game, finished with a game-high four, to go along with 11 points and seven rebounds and gave Peters problems for the most of the game with his help defense.

The script did not begin as planned for Valparaiso as Peters lost a contact lens on his right eye at the 16:29 mark and ran straight to the dressing room to get another one as Valpo trailed UIC, 7-3.

In the process, UIC maintained its lead before Peters sprinted back onto the court 1:52 later and made his presence known in a different format— penetrating to the paint and reading UIC's double team and distributing the ball to Max Joseph for a layup to help spearhead a Valpo 10-0 run over 3:59 to go ahead 19-14.

Peters accomplished another milestone at the 6:01 mark as he moved into second on the Crusaders' all-time career rebounds list.

The Crusaders maintained the lead through the remainder of the first half going into the locker room ahead of the Flames 31-24, despite enduring foul trouble as starters Walker and Shane Hammink, who scored a game-high 22 points vs Chicago State on Dec. 28, sat at various points with two fouls each.

Hammink's second foul made the most impact as it doubled as a technical after being called for traveling violation, which he reacted with choice words to the official and was benched as a result.

The foul bug passed on to Peters as he picked up his second and third personal fouls in a 1:44 stretch to begin the second half as Valparaiso maintained a 38-30 lead with its star player still on the court.

The Flames began to take advantage of Peters playing more off-ball defense to avoid a fourth foul as they went on a 7-0 run over a 1:24 stretch.

Clinging to a 51-46 lead with 6:30 left in regulation and in need of a spark, Hammink’s inbounds pass helped set up Peters at the left baseline as he collected the ball and delivered his first triple of the game after going 0-for-4 beforehand.

Peters’ offensive spark would be the edge Valparaiso needed as it led by as many as 12 points with 1:39 left in regulation and pulled away for its fourth win in the last five games.

Social Media:

Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.