Valparaiso at #23/20 Butler - Saturday, December 5 - 6 p.m. CST
The Matchup: Valparaiso continues its challenging early-season stretch of games Saturday, as the December league weekend brings about a trip to nationally-ranked in-state rival Butler. It will be the third game already this season in which the Crusaders have taken on one of the nation’s top-25 teams.
Last Weekend: Valparaiso posted a 2-1 record in action at the Statesboro Subregional, defeating host Georgia Southern and Arkansas-Fort Smith while falling to 2009 postseason participant Troy. Brandon Wood was named to the All-Tournament Team after averaging 23.3 ppg and 6.7 rpg while shooting at a 60% clip from the field on the weekend, including a Legends Classic-record and Valpo Division I-high 39 points on 13-of-18 shooting against Georgia Southern. Cory Johnson added 17.0 ppg and 7.3 rpg on 57.1% shooting, with a season-best 26 points on 12-of-16 shooting in the finale against the Lions.
Series History: The most-common opponent in Crusader men’s basketball history, Valpo has taken on Butler on the hardwood 96 times since the initial meeting in 1934-35. The Bulldogs hold a 64-32 lead in the all-time series, including most recently a 59-51 victory in Indianapolis on Jan. 30, 2009 when Butler entered as the 13th-ranked team in the nation. Valpo earned its first lead of the game with just over six minutes to play, and following 11 straight Butler points, fought back to within two points with 90 seconds to play, but could not forge back into a tie. Urule Igbavboa led the Crusaders nearly across the board with 15 points, eight rebounds, five assists and four blocks, while Logan Jones added ten points off the bench.
Following the Crusaders: Saturday’s game, as always, can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WLPR, 89.1 FM, Lowell). Veteran broadcaster Todd Ickow returns for his 19th season on play-by-play for the Crusaders, while Valpo alumnus Andy Viano will handle the color commentary. WVUR, Valpo’s student station, will also be broadcasting the game over its airwaves with Mike Targonski and Neal Janssen calling the action. Video for the game will be available through the Horizon League Network, while links for VSRN audio, video and live statistics can be found at www.valpoathletics.com.
Division I Scoring Record: Since Valparaiso made its move to the Division I ranks in the late 1970’s, the Crusaders have had a number of players who could fill up the scoring column. Names like Lubos Barton, David Redmon, Casey Schmidt, Tracy Gipson, Raitis Grafs, Dan Oppland and of course Bryce Drew reside atop the Crusaders’ career points and points per game charts. None of them, however, have scored as many points in a single game as Brandon Wood did Friday at Georgia Southern. Wood connected on 13-of-18 from the floor, including three 3-pointers, and 10-of-12 from the foul line to score a Valpo Division I record 39 points, also setting a new Legends Classic single-game scoring mark.
Finding Offense: This year’s Crusader squad has been filling up the basket in the early going, averaging a league-best 77.1 points per game through their first seven games. After scoring 78 or more points just twice all last season, both against non-Division I competition, Valpo has already dropped at least 78 points five times this year, including three times against D-I opponents.
Big Individual Efforts: In the past three seasons combined, Valpo has had 25-point scoring explosions from a player just six times. Through seven games this year, however, the Crusaders have had individuals lighting up the scoreboard, as Valpo has already received five efforts of at least 25 points from three different players. Wood scored 25 at Ball State and 30 at #6/4 North Carolina to go along with his 39-point outburst at GSU, while Brandon McPherson dropped on 25 on IU-South Bend and, most recently, Cory Johnson scored 26 against Arkansas-Fort Smith. Entering this season, the last time the Crusaders had a 25-point scorer in three consecutive games (as Wood and McPherson did in the season’s first three games) was Jan. 20-27, 1997, when Bryce Drew scored 34 at Oral Roberts and 38 against Western Illinois before Tony Vilcinskas dropped 28 on Northland.
Handling the Basketball: Valpo’s success on offense early this year has been in large part due to sharing the basketball and not turning it over. The Crusaders lead the league in assists (17.1/game), assisting on 62.5% of their made baskets, and are averaging just 12.9 turnovers/game. Valpo’s assist/turnover ratio of 1.33 also ranks atop the league and ranks 32nd nationally.
Looking at the Schedule: This year’s Crusaders will be extremely battle-tested prior to hitting the heart of Horizon League play. Valpo played its second game of the season at #6/4 North Carolina and followed one week later with a game at #2/2 Michigan State to open Legends Classic play. The opening weekend of Horizon League play sees Valpo play at #23/20 Butler, while four days from now, there’s another road game at #4/6 Purdue. In all, of the Crusaders’ first 13 games, eight are true road games with a pair of neutral-site contests as well.
Tri-Captains: Head coach Homer Drew has appointed a trio of Crusaders to serve as captains for the 2009-2010 season. Fifth-year senior Brandon McPherson, redshirt-junior Cory Johnson and junior Howard Little will represent the Crusaders in that capacity this year. For McPherson, it is the fourth straight season he has been tabbed a captain.
BWood Gets Buckets: Redshirt sophomore guard Brandon Wood has quickly etched his name among the most talented scorers to wear a Valpo uniform. Wood broke the Crusaders’ Division I single-game scoring record on Friday evening, scoring 39 points in a winning effort over Georgia Southern. He went on to earn Legends Classic Statesboro Subregional All-Tournament accolades after averaging 23.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game while shooting 60% over the three games. On the season, Wood leads all Horizon League players with 23.0 PPG, which ranks 15th nationally, and has increased his average to 27.4 PPG against Division I opposition.
Joining an Elite Group: Wood’s 39-point effort at GSU was his second 30+ point output of the year, joining a 30-point show at North Carolina. The sophomore is just the third Crusader in the last 15 years to score 30 or more points multiple times in his career, joining Bryce Drew (5x) and Dan Oppland (2x), and needed just five games into his Crusader career to accomplish the feat.
Johnson Keeps Producing: Redshirt junior Cory Johnson posted the top scoring output of his career Sunday in Valpo’s win over Arkansas-Fort Smith, hitting 12-of-16 attempts from the floor for 26 points. Johnson, who averaged 17.0 points and 7.3 rebounds per game on the weekend, has reached double figures in six of Valpo’s seven games this season and currently ranks fifth in the Horizon League in scoring (15.9 PPG), rebounding (7.1 RPG) and field goal percentage (.530).
McPherson Connects From Downtown: Fifth year senior Brandon McPherson has always been among the Crusaders’ most potent threats from behind the 3-point line, but has been closer to unconscious than normal from deep this year, hitting 20-of-37 from behind the arc. His 3-point percentage of .541 leads the Horizon League and ranks 16th nationally, and is a large reason for his average of 14.1 PPG this year. McPherson, who also ranks among the league’s top free throw shooters with an .826 mark from the charity stripe, has also done a tremendous job handling the ball as the Crusaders’ point guard, carrying a 1.60 assist/turnover ratio into Saturday’s action.
Young Guards Handling the Pressure: McPherson isn’t the only Valpo guard to boast a stellar assist/turnover ratio at this point in the season, however. A trio of Crusader freshmen guards all have standout numbers in the category as well. Ryan Broekhoff has tallied eight assists vs. just three turnovers, while Tommy Kurth has also handed out eight assists while committing just one turnover. Matt Kenney has racked up 19 assists against just five turnovers this year, highlighted by a seven-assist, zero-turnover performance against Ark.-Fort Smith on Sunday.
Quickly: Broekhoff (14 at GSU) and Kenney (11 vs. Troy) both hit double digits in scoring for the first time in their respective careers last weekend ... only Johnson and Wood have started all seven games this year for Valpo ... Howard Little scored ten Sunday against Ark.-Fort Smith, his third double-figure effort of the year ... Johnson, Kenney, Little, McPherson and Wood played together for 12:32 on Sunday, the most any five-man lineup has played together in a single game all season ... the 12:32 includes a stretch of 8:03 without a sub in the second half ... Valpo announced Wednesday that Erik Buggs would sit out the remainder of the season in anticipation of applying for a Medical Hardship Waiver after the season’s conclusion.