EditorsNote: editing throughout
Peters pours in 27, Valparaiso stuns No. 21 URI
Matt Lottich scored the first signature victory of his Valparaiso coaching career and his players scored a signature win for the program Tuesday night.
It had been 18 years since Valparaiso defeated Mississippi State in the 1998 NCAA Tournament. Tuesday, on the 40th try since against a ranked opponent, the Crusaders scored a mild home upset with a 65-62 win over No. 21 Rhode Island at Valparaiso, Ind.
"It's a big win for us. We're very grateful that they came here," Lottich, in his first season replacing Bryce Drew, said after the Rams (5-2) became the first ranked team to visit Valparaiso in six years. "I'm thankful for them to do that.
"For us, we talk about the process and keep taking positive steps forward. It's a great victory. We're going to celebrate it, but we want to keep moving forward. We have some long-term goals, and every day we're working toward those goals."
Alec Peters scored 27 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked Jarvis Garrett's 3-pointer at the buzzer as the Crusaders (7-1) matched the program's best eight-game start since 1949-50.
"We always talk about not shying away from the moment," Lottich said. "It's very evident Alec wants the ball in those moments. He's not afraid to take those shots and we rely on him to take and make those shots."
Peters, the Horizon League preseason player of the year (the Crusaders were picked to win the conference), came in averaging 25.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game and reached both numbers thanks to going 10-for-10 from the foul line.
"He was great today," said Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley of Peters. "He looked locked in, efficient. He's very calm. He's such a veteran player. You can't say enough good things about him. We were prepared to start trapping in the post, and then he stepped away from the basket and drove us. Man, he's a heck of a player.
"What a tremendous performer, an All-American-type performance here. He made all the big plays down the stretch. That was the story of the game. We need more of our guys to play well."
Valparaiso had an eight-point lead with 8:55 left in the game but Rhode Island wouldn't go away -- and was able to take advantage of a Peters turnover and missed layup by Shane Hammink to have a chance on the final possession.
After a timeout, the Rams turned down the layup and the ball went back to Garrett, whose desperation shot was blocked by Peters.
Jubril Adekoya had 13 points and Hammink and Tevonn Walker 10 apiece for the Crusaders. Hammink was below his scoring average but also responsible for great defense on E.C. Matthews, whose late tip-in gave him just six points for the night.
Hurley was guilty of a second-half technical foul with his team down one, Peters hitting two free throws to key an 11-4 run -- Valparaiso was 7-for-7 from the foul line during the spurt and went 18-for-21 for the game.
Jared Terrell led the Rams with 21 points while Hassan Martin, coming off a career-high 31 points against Belmont, had 16 points and six rebounds and Garrett added 10 points.
NOTES: Rhode Island came into the game leading the Atlantic 10 in 3-point field goal defense at 27.4 percent and Valparaiso was just 3-for-10 from behind the arc. ... Valparaiso, which won 30 games last season, was the preseason favorite to win the Horizon League. ... F Hassan Martin, who scored a career-high 31 points in the win over Belmont, became the first Ram to register 14 field goals in the same game since Dawan Robinson did it in 2005. ... Rhode Island's only previous win in four games against Valparaiso came in 1998 NCAA Tournament. Last year, the Crusaders won at URI in a 10 a.m. game as part of ESPN's full day of basketball. ... Valparaiso hosted a ranked team for the first time in six years. ... URI has now gone from No. 23 to 21, back to 23 and back to 21 in the rankings. ... The Rams play rival Providence at the Dunkin Donuts Center -- PC's home floor -- on Saturday, while the Crusaders are off until a Dec. 7 date at No. 1 Kentucky.