Although the temperatures reached the negatives in Valparaiso on Thursday night, the Crusaders made the ARC the hottest spot on campus and cruised to a 85-56 victory over the UIC flames. The Crusaders dominated in every aspect of the game on a frigid Thursday night against the UIC Flames as they earned their second Horizon League win in a row.
Valpo entered the game without guard Keith Carter, who was out with a displaced toe, and had to battle against former teammate Jay Harris.
“We’re out there playing basketball,” said Valpo forward Vashil Fernandez, who played with Harris during the 2011-12 season. “We’re friends off the court, but we’re on opposite teams now.”
Fernandez and the rest of the Crusaders froze the highly dangerous Harris on offense. Harris, who averaged 19 points in the past two conference games, only scored eight points on 3-for-9 shooting.
“I was happy to be back in Valpo, but it hurts that we didn’t get the win,” Harris said. “It was nice to see some of my friends. [Valpo coach] Bryce Drew showed his respect and love.”
Fernandez, on the other side, had his best game of the year as he was a perfect 6-for-6 from the field and went 3-for-4 from the free throw line, tallying to 15 points.
“(Vashil) was really effective early,” UIC coach Howard Moore said. “Hans (Christian Lauer) who is from Germany and is living his dream by playing college basketball, gave us all we could ask for. Vashil was an absolute monster.”
Although Fernandez stole the show, he had a lot of help from his teammates. Four other Crusaders scored in double figures.
The Walker brothers, Tevonn and Darien, combined for 24 points, and Alec Peters added a solid 11.
“We had a really great couple of days of practice,” Drew said. “I was very pleased in our effort, it was excellent all around.”
It was the points in the paint that really stood out on the score sheets as the Crusaders finished with 50 while UIC score 56 points in total.
The Crusaders also shot 70 percent from inside the arc and finished with a 60 percent total shooting percentage.
The Crusaders have averaged around 25.5 three point attempts per game during the brief conference season, but only shot 13 tonight.
With Keith Carter sitting out, there were six active players who played for high school powerhouses in Chicago. A few of the schools include Proviso East, Simeon and Whitney Young.
“I know a lot of these guys through AAU,” sophomore Jubril Adekoya said. “We were talking back and forth throughout the game. It was a fun experience.”
When asked about their next opponent, undefeated in conference Cleveland State Vikings, Drew said, “We are just enjoying this moment right now.” Well, enjoy the 29-point victory over a conference rival. It doesn’t happen often.