Valparaiso at IPFW - Tuesday, December 22 - 6 p.m. CST
The Matchup: Valparaiso leaves town Tuesday evening for its first of two games on a brief road swing prior to Horizon League play, taking on IPFW. Valpo carries a two-game winning streak into the contest against the Mastodons.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso exemplified the giving spirit of the holiday season on Saturday evening as the Crusaders handed out 27 assists on 33 baskets in an 83-57 victory over Concordia (Wis.) at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Valpo put together a 27-5 run over the mid to late stages of the first half to pull away from the Falcons for good. Brandon Wood paced Valpo with 21 points while also tallying six rebounds and a game-high six assists. Cory Johnson scored 20 on 9-of-13 shooting from the floor, while Ryan Broekhoff set new career highs with 17 points and a game-high eight rebounds in just 17 minutes of the action. Michael Rogers chipped in 11 points off the bench to round out four Crusaders in double figures in the scoring column.
Series History: The Crusaders and Mastodons have met on the hardwood every year since 2003-2004, including a pair of mettings in 2006-2007. Valpo holds a 7-1 lead in the all-time series, but IPFW earned its only victory at the ARC last season on Dec. 10, leading start to finish in a 63-46 victory over the Crusaders. Valpo connected on just 31.1% of its field goal attempts on the game, with Howard Little the only Crusader to reach double figures in scoring with 11 points. David Carson paced three Mastodons in double digits with 16 points.
Following the Crusaders: As always, Tuesday’s game can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WLPR, 89.1 FM, Merrillville). 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. Links for the VSRN audio and live statistics can be found at www.valpoathletics.com.
Finding the Defense: The Crusaders were giving up an average of 81.7 points per game in their first nine games of the season, but in the last two games have stepped up the intensity on the defensive end of the floor. Valpo has given up just 106 points total in its last two games, wins over Toledo and Concordia, and held the two squads to just 33.7% shooting from the floor.
Enjoying Easy Wins: Valpo enjoyed two very easy victories in its last two outings, beating Toledo by 32 and Concordia by 26. It marks the first time since January 2/7, 2006, when the Crusaders downed Oakland by 31 and Longwood by 32, that Valpo has beaten back-to-back opponents by at least 25 points. In addition, the 32-point win over Toledo matched the largest win by a Crusader squad over another D-I school in the last eight seasons.
Helping Each Other Out: The Crusaders found each other all over the court for open shots against Concordia on Saturday, tallying 27 assists on their 33 baskets. The 27 helpers marked the most by a Valpo squad since the Crusaders totaled 27 assists at Chicago State on Feb. 5, 2007. It also increased their season average to 17.1 assists/game, by far the most in the league and among the top-25 in the nation. Despite 19 turnovers, Valpo’s assist/turnover ratio increased to 1.25 as well, also tops among Horizon League teams.
Multiple Threats: The Crusader offense, which leads the Horizon League with an average of 75.7 points/game, features three players averaging at least 12 PPG, and against Concordia, two of them scored at least 20 points, the third time that has happened this season. Brandon Wood, who leads the league with 20.3 PPG, went for 25 in the season opener at Ball State and was joined by Cory Johnson, who is fifth in the league in scoring at 15.8 PPG, with 21 points. Wood then dropped 30 on #6/4 North Carolina while Brandon McPherson, averaging 12.0 PPG, scored 20 as well versus the Tar Heels. Most recently, Wood tallied 21 points and Johnson 20 on Saturday.
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 Nov. 27 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.
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.
Wood Scores in Bunches...: Redshirt sophomore guard Brandon Wood has proven to be among the most prolific scorers the Crusaders have seen in their D-I history, scoring 30 or more points twice already to join Bryce Drew and Dan Oppland as the only players in the last 15 years to score 30 multiple times in a career. Wood, who currently paces the Horizon League with 20.3 points/game and also ranks second in the league in field goal percentage, also has reached at least 20 points on four other occasions, including a game-high 21 against Concordia.
...and Fills Up the Stat Sheet: But the sophomore has showcased his ability to do more than just score recently. Wood pulled down a team-high nine rebounds at #5/5 Purdue before tallying five rebounds and six assists against Toledo and six rebounds and six assists versus Concordia. In fact, over the last three games, he is averaging 18.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. On the year, he is second on the team in rebounding (4.7 RPG) and third in assists (2.1 APG).
Johnson Works Down Low: Redshirt junior Cory Johnson has been a consistent force in the paint so far for the Crusaders, pacing Valpo on the glass in seven games and reaching double figures in scoring on ten occasions. Most recently, Johnson was an efficient 9-for-13 from the floor to go for 20 points against Concordia while also pulling down five rebounds in just 21 minutes of action. He currently leads the league in field goal percentage (.570) and also ranks among the league’s top-five in scoring (15.8, 5th) and rebounding (6.6, 4th).
Thief on the Loose: Johnson totaled six steals in Valpo’s first three games of the season before going the next five-and-a-half games without a theft. But since coming out of the locker room for the second half against Purdue, Johnson has registered ten steals, coming up with five in the final 20 minutes against the Boilermakers before tallying three in the win over Toledo and two most recently against Concordia.
Broekhoff Bombs Away: Freshman guard Ryan Broekhoff enjoyed the best game of his young career against Concordia on Saturday. Broekhoff played 17 minutes off the bench in the win over the Falcons and hit six shots from the field, including a quartet of 3-pointers, to set a new career best with 17 points. The freshman also pulled down a game-high eight rebounds. On the year, Broekhoff is averaging 5.8 PPG and is seventh in the HL in 3-point pct., connecting on 43.8% from behind the arc.
Quickly: Junior guard Michael Rogers reached double figures in scoring for the second time this season with 11 points against Concordia ... junior guard Howard Little and senior guard Brandon McPherson each set new season highs in rebounding in Saturday’s win as Little pulled down six boards and McPherson five ... the Crusaders came up with a season-best 45 rebounds as a team Saturday, including a season-high 16 on the offensive end ... Little also set a new career high with five assists ... freshman guards Matt Kenney and Tommy Kurth each handed out four assists while committing just one turnover each against Concordia ... Kurth set a new career best with four steals against the Falcons as well ... Valpo posted 48 points in the paint in Saturday’s win.