BOZICH | Valpo's Peters, nation's #2 scorer, salutes Kentucky fr - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Valpo's Peters, nation's #2 scorer, salutes Kentucky freshmen

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Malik Monk was one of many Kentucky defenders to slow Valpo's Alec Peters Malik Monk was one of many Kentucky defenders to slow Valpo's Alec Peters

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) — The word was that 27 NBA scouts gathered at Rupp Arena Wednesday night. In addition to watching John Calipari’s latest, greatest collection of freshmen they had a more pressing assignment:

Take a serious look at Valparaiso forward Alec Peters, the nation’s second-leading scorer, a player some believe can creep into the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft.

This is what they saw: Kentucky made Peters look a guy who doesn’t belong in the first or second round — or in Calipari’s starting five.

How bad did it get for Peters, a 6-foot-9 forward, during Kentucky’s 87-63 victory?

Several NBA scouts found their way out of Rupp midway through the second half. Brad Calipari, the UK walk-on guard, made as many three-point shots as Peters — one. Calipari used multiple defenders to slow Peters, often doubling him in the post. It worked.

"They're not freshmen," Peters said. "They don't look like it and they don't play like it. They're tough. They're good. They were ready. Coach Cal had them ready. You could tell from the beginning of the game they were coming out and not looking to drop two in a row at home. We tried to withstand their punches, but it helps them when we're not making shots.

"We just didn't respond well at the beginning. To beat a team like this you have to make shots. We didn't do that at the beginning. We let them get out in transition, which they're the best at. They're the best in the country at that."

Sure, Peters finished with 23, but many were scored after Calipari started experimenting with a variety of lineups.

With about 12 1/2 minutes to play in the first half, Valpo coach Matt Lottich watched Peters miss shot after shot after shot. It was Kentucky 15, Valpo 4 when Lottich called timeout.

Before he moved to the huddle, Peters grabbed the basketball and launched a practice shot three feet from the rim

He missed.

And kept missing. 

Peters missed his first six shots. Valpo missed 14 in a row. Kentucky hung 21 straight points on the Crusaders blowing a 4-4 game into a 25-4 laugher that enabled Calipari to play 10 guys in the first half.

"We got sped up by their (defensive pressure)," Peter said.

In a game that the wise guys in Las Vegas expected the Wildcats to win by 20, Kentucky led by 28 with more than five minute to play in the first half. Valpo labored to make 34 percent of its 67 field-goal attempts, turning the ball over 19 times.

Valpo, now 7-2, is not a team that opposing coaches schedule for a laugher. The Crusaders were ranked 77th nationally by Ken Pomeroy. Bryce Drew led Valpo to a runner-up finish in the 2016 National Invitation Tournament before he departed to take the job at Vanderbilt.

Even without Drew, Valpo is the team to beat in the Horizon League, the conference that Butler used to dominate. Don’t be surprised to see Valpo deliver a first-round upset in the NCAA Tournament.

Who played well for Kentucky?

I’d start with Derek Willis. He took good shots — and made five of nine, including two from distance for a dozen points in 15 minutes.

Bam Adebayo was strong and determined around the rim. Credit him with 16 points and seven rebounds. De’Aaron Fox was selfless and careful with the basketball. He had his usual staff-stuffing performance — nine points, seven rebounds, five assists, with one turnover in 29 minutes.

Mychal Mulder surfaced from the bench for one of his stronger performances — nine points and seven rebounds in 16 minutes.

Peters did not get his average — 25.4, second to the 31.4 that Marcus Keene averages for Central Michigan. 

He had scored at least 20 in every game and looked as if he was not going to finish with 23 after he retreated to the Valpo locker room after injuring his right leg after a dunk. He had 13 with 14 minutes to play.

He returned to score 10 more, but Peters needed 20 shots to get his 23 points.

Valpo beat Alabama by eight and Brigham Young by three on neutral courts. Did the Crusaders pay for the five-point loss that the Wildcats suffered here against UCLA last Saturday?

It certainly seemed like it — even on a night when the Wildcats turned it over on seven of their first 10 possessions.

Before Wednesday, the only team to beat Valpo was Oregon, a team that started the season ranked in the top five. How do the Wildcats compare with the Ducks?

"The same type of transition athleticism," Peters said. "They're throwing lobs to everybody in transition. It's very comparable in terms of how they want to score. The environments are pretty similar. This was was incredible, just the crowd, the energy their team feeds off with the crowd."

Up next for the Wildcats? A weekend trip to New York City for a Sunday afternoon game against Hofstra at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

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