Of all the early entrants to enter the NBA Draft earlier this spring, Valparaiso forward Alec Peters likely had the most interesting set of choices. Of course there was the matter of whether or not to remain in the draft. But in the case of Peters, as a player graduating with a season of eligibility remaining, there was also the question of whether or not he’d use that year at Valpo or another school had he decided to return to college.
Monday afternoon it was reported that Peters, who just before last week’s deadline withdrew his name from the NBA Draft, will in fact return to Valparaiso for his senior season. News of Peters’ decision was first reported by CBSSports.com. That means he won’t reunite with Bryce Drew, who coached Peters the last three years before taking the Vanderbilt job earlier this spring.
As a result of Peters’ decision a player who would have been in high demand as a graduate student (he graduated in three years) will be the focal point of new head coach Matt Lottich’s first team at Valpo. With Horizon League POY Kahlil Felder leaving Oakland, Peters will be the clear favorite for league player of the year honors next fall.
As a junior the 6-foot-9 Peters averaged 18.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game for the Crusaders, who won 30 games, the Horizon League regular season title and reached the championship game of the Postseason NIT. Peters’ ability to score in an efficient manner from anywhere on the court makes him not only the top returnee in the Horizon League but also one of the top seniors in college basketball heading into next season.
In spite of some key personnel losses, most notably defensive stalwart Vashil Fernandez, the Crusaders will return three of their top four scorers (Peters, Shane Hammink and Tevonn Walker). That will help Lottich as he looks to pick up where his boss left off.
Thursday night’s Postseason NIT championship matchup featured two teams, No. 1 seed Valparaiso and No. 4 seed George Washington, that began this season with hopes of playing in the NCAA tournament. Things didn’t work out as either team would have hoped, with the Crusaders falling in the Horizon League tournament and the Colonials not getting the wins needed to earn an at-large bid out of the Atlantic 10, but both had the chance to return home with a championship trophy.
And it was Mike Lonergan’s team that would accomplish that goal, pulling away in the second half to beat Valparaiso by the final score of 76-60.
Kevin Larsen led four Colonials in double figures with 18 points, with Patricio Garino adding 14 points, Joe McDonald 13, eight rebounds and four assists and tournament Most Outstanding Player Tyler Cavanaugh 12 points. Leading by one at the intermission, George Washington outscore Valparaiso 44-29 in the second half with the Crusaders struggling to make shots.
Bryce Drew’s team finished the game 8-for-28 from three, with forward Alec Peters being their lone double-digit scorer with 15 points. Valparaiso shot 39 percent from the field, and the reliance on perimeter shots was one reason why they were outscored 22-6 from the foul line. That margin was the biggest difference, and as a result George Washington is headed home with their first postseason tournament title.
The Colonials join Columbia (CIT) and Old Dominion (Vegas 16) as winners of postseason tournaments thus far. Nevada hosts Morehead State in Game 3 of the CBI Finals Friday night.
GAME OF THE DAY: Albany at Stony Brook, 9:00 p.m.
Stony Brook’s reached the last two America East tournament finals, only to have the Great Danes eliminate them and earn the league’s automatic NCAA tournament bid. Friday’s meeting is the first of two this season, and with the higher seed getting home court in each round of the conference tournament these match-ups take on even greater importance. Forward Jameel Warney and guard Carson Puriefoy lead the way for Steve Pikiell’s Seawolves, who are currently 5-0 in conference play. As for the Great Danes, Peter Hooley’s back to lead as a senior with Will Brown’s team boasting a 4-1 league mark.
THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: Saint Peter’s at Iona, 7:00 p.m.
With Monmouth losing at Manhattan Thursday night, John Dunne’s Peacocks enter this matchup in sole possession of first place in the MAAC. As usual Saint Peter’s has been stout defensively, but they’ve also been better offensively in league play than they were during non-conference play. Freshman Antwon Portley has been one of the MAAC’s best newcomers, averaging 15.3 points per game to lead three SPC players averaging in double figures. Scoring isn’t a problem for Iona, which is led by senior guard A.J. English, but being engaged defensively for 40 minutes has been at times. Tempo will be key here; SPC will be best in a half-court game, while the Gaels will look to ramp things up.
OTHER NOTABLE CONTESTS
- Already two games behind first-place VCU in the loss column, the game between Rhode Island and George Washington (3:00 p.m.) is a critical one with both at 3-2 in Atlantic 10 play. Keep an eye on how often the Colonials head to the foul line. URI hasn’t done the best job of keeping opponents away from there, and those points could prove to be the difference.
- Valparaiso looks to maintain its lead atop the Horizon League as they visit second-place Wright State (7:00 p.m.). Billy Donlon’s Raiders have done a good job defending the three as well as knocking them down at a solid clip, but they’ll have to be better offensively if they’re to knock off a Valpo team led by forwards Alec Peters and Vashil Fernandez.
- The top two teams in the MAC West meet in DeKalb as Northern Illinois hosts Toledo (7:00 p.m.). Mark Montgomery’s Huskies are 4-1 in conference play and their defense is a big reason why, with opponents shooting less than 44 percent inside of the arc. Tod Kowalczyk’s Rockets have been good offensively for most of the season, but they’ve had issues stringing together stops at times.
THE REST OF FRIDAY’S SCHEDULE
- Duquesne at George Mason, 2:00 p.m.
- UIC at Northern Kentucky, 7:00 p.m.
- Fairfield at Marist, 7:00 p.m.
- Yale at Brown, 8:00 p.m.