Valparaiso (11-5, 3-1 Horizon)
Game #17: Sunday, Jan. 9 - 1:35 p.m. CST
Cleveland State (15-2, 4-1 Horizon)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso closes out its first home league weekend of the season with a Sunday afternoon matinee, hosting a fellow one-loss team in Cleveland State to the ARC. With a win, the Crusaders would exit the weekend in a tie for first place in the Horizon League standings.
Last Time Out: A game-high 26 points from fifth-year senior Cory Johnson led the charge Friday evening as Valparaiso opened home Horizon League play with a solid 79-55 victory over Youngstown State at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Valpo led by just five at the half, but a 20-4 run to start the second stanza cemented the win.
Following the Crusaders: Every game this season will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with Sunday's game broadcast live on WAKE (1500 AM, Valparaiso), WEFM (95.9 FM, Michigan City) and WJOB (1230 AM, Hammond). Todd Ickow is back for his 19th season on play-by-play, while Adam Amin will handle the color commentary Sunday. The live audio will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com, with live video on the Horizon League Network and live stats available through the official Crusader website as well.
Head Coach Homer Drew: One of only a handful of coaches at the Division I level coaching on a floor named in his honor, head coach Homer Drew is the seventh-winningest active coach in D-I men’s basketball. Drew enters Saturday's game with a 359-298 record in 21 seasons at the helm of the Crusader program and a 628-420 record in 32 years overall as a head coach.
Series Notes: Cleveland State owns a 27-8 advantage in the all-time series over Valpo, including a 12-5 edge in Valparaiso. The Crusaders won the last time the two teams met at the ARC as the two squads split the season series last year, with CSU most recently earning an 80-71 win in Cleveland on Feb. 11, 2010. Brandon McPherson led the Crusaders with 17 points in that game, while Brandon Wood added 14 and Michael Rogers 12.
The Road Ahead: Valpo returns to the road next weekend, playing at Wright State on Friday evening (available at ESPN3.com) and at Detroit Sunday afternoon. The Crusaders come back to the ARC on Friday, Jan. 21, kicking off a three-game homestand against Milwaukee at 6 p.m.
Scouting CSU: Cleveland State started the season on a 12-game winning streak and is now 15-2 overall and 4-1 in Horizon League action, most recently falling at Butler Friday night. Norris Cole leads the league in scoring (21.2 ppg) and steals (2.4 spg) and is second in assists (4.7 apg), leading a Viking squad which outscores opponents by over 11 ppg and forces 16.6 turnovers per contest.
Returning Home: Friday’s win over Youngstown State was the first home game of the 2010-2011 Horizon League slate for the Crusaders. Valpo was the last team to open home league action, but entered the weekend tied for second in the HL standings despite playing its first three league contests on the road.
Home Court Advantage: Sunday’s game is the second of two straight games at the Athletics-Recreation Center for Valpo, the first time this season it will play back-to-back home games. Valpo is currently 5-1 at the ARC this year, with its only loss coming to a top-25 Purdue squad, and is now 230-101 (.695) all-time at the ARC, including a 184-42 (.814) mark over the last 17-plus years at home. Valpo has also finished above .500 in each of the last 17 seasons at home.
Winning With Defense: Valpo has improved its defensive efficiency from 109.4 points per 100 possessions (304th nationally) a year ago to 97.9/100 possessions (113th nationally) this year, a big key to their 11 early-season wins. Four times this year, the Crusaders have held a D-I opponent under 60 points, including Youngstown State on Friday, and they are a perfect 10-0 on the year when holding opponents under 70 points.
Early Runs Key: Valpo was on the wrong end of early runs Jan. 1 at Butler, giving up a 21-5 run over the first 9:30 to start the game and then surrendering eight straight points over the first 4:00 of the second half, a combined minus-24 in a game the Crusaders lost by 17. But Valpo turned the tables on YSU last time out, starting the game up 15-5 in the first eight minutes and then out-scoring the Penguins 20-4 over the first seven minutes of the second half.
Dominating Defensively: While defense has keyed most of the Crusaders' victories this season, Dec. 11's win over IPFW was easily the most dominant performance on the defensive end of the court by Valpo this year. The Crusaders held the Mastodons to just 13 field goals on 26% shooting and limited IPFW to just 47 points overall. In addition, Valpo held IPFW to just three 3-pointers on the evening and limited the Mastodons to just three assists, the fewest by a Valpo opponent since Dec. 30, 1999.
4 Wins x 2: Valpo’s win over Ball State Dec. 28 gave the Crusaders their second four-game winning streak of the 2010-2011 campaign, something that has only happened one other time for the Crusaders in the last seven years. The 2007-2008 Valpo squad featured an eight-game winning streak during November-December and then won six in a row spanning late February and early March.
10 Wins Before the New Year: The Crusaders’ win over the Cardinals assured Valpo of heading into the 2011 calendar year with a 10-4 record, matching a program record for most wins prior to January 1. The 2001-2002 team also posted a 10-4 mark prior to New Year’s Day 2002, while the 2007-2008 Crusaders went 10-3 in the 2007 portion of the schedule.
A Look at RPI: The NCAA’s first official RPI release of the season came out early this week, and Valpo was one of three Horizon League schools within the RPI’s top-75. The Crusaders were rated 71st in the Jan. 4 RPI release, joining Cleveland State and Butler within the top-75.
103-102: The antithesis of most of the Crusaders’ games this season was the 103-102 win in regulation at Oakland Dec. 21 to capture the Lou Henson Award Tournament. Some notes regarding that victory can be found on page six of this release.
There Was Defense Too?: Talking about defense in a 103-102 game might seem counter-intuitive, but the Crusaders completely shut down last year's Mid-Major Player of the Year and Naismith Award nominee Keith Benson in the win over Oakland. Valpo held Benson to just 1-of-2 shooting, five points, one rebound and no blocked shots. The five points was his fewest since Nov. 29, 2008 and his one rebound his fewest since Nov. 23, 2008. Also, Benson's streak of 26 games with a blocked shot was also snapped.
Crusaders Match Attendance Record: Welcoming a top-20 team in Purdue to the ARC proved to be a formula for a packed house on Dec. 7. The game officially sold out four days in advance, and the attendance was announced at 5,432, matching the all-time attendance record at the ARC, first set on Feb. 5, 2008 when Valpo hosted a top-10 Butler squad.
Breaking Out the New Gear: The Crusaders unveiled their new uniform design Dec. 7 against Purdue, and also debuted gray uniforms in the nationally-televised contest. The grays will serve as alternate uniforms, mainly for use on special occasions, while Valpo will continue to wear white jerseys at home and gold uniforms on the road.
A Big Victory: Valpo easily handled Purdue North Central Nov. 18, limiting the Panthers to just 44 points in a 98-44 victory. The 54-point margin of victory ties for the sixth-highest differential in program history, matching the winning margin in a 66-12 win against Chicago Tech back in the 1920-1921 season.
Offensive Explosion...: The Crusaders lit up the scoreboard throughout their season opener against IU Northwest, scoring 59 first-half points and adding 52 second-half points. A short-range flip up and in by Cory Johnson with 5:49 to play put Valpo over the century mark as it utilized the third digit on the scoreboard for the first time since a 105-73 win over Longwood on Jan. 7, 2006. The 111 points matched the most the Crusaders have scored in the last 15 seasons as well.
Valpo Tabbed Fourth in Preseason Poll: Valparaiso was picked to finish in fourth place in the Horizon League preseason poll conducted of the league’s coaches, sports information directors, and media members. The Crusaders tallied 312 points in the polling. Butler, the reigning national runner-up and last season's regular season and tournament champions, was a unanimous selection atop the league standings. Detroit edged out Cleveland State as the second pick, while Milwaukee and Wright State were picked fifth and sixth, respectively. Green Bay, Loyola, UIC and Youngstown State rounded out the polling.
A Look Back at 2009-2010: Valparaiso improved throughout the 2009-2010 season, closing the year with 15 wins. The Crusaders went 10-8 in league play, finishing in a tie for fourth place in the Horizon League regular season standings. It marked the second time in Valpo’s first three seasons as a Horizon League institution that it had finished in the top half of the standings.
A Lot of Production Returns: Having lost just one regular and three players in all from last year’s squad, Valparaiso returns the vast majority of its production from last season. The 10 letterwinners, including four starters, who return for the Crusaders in 2010-2011 comprised 82.8% of the team’s scoring and 91.2% of the team’s rebounding from a year ago.
Wood Named Preseason First Team All-League: Redshirt junior guard Brandon Wood was one of five players named to the preseason Horizon League First Team All-League squad as announced in mid-October. Wood, the league’s Newcomer of the Year and a Second Team All-League honoree in 2009-2010, led the circuit in scoring at 17.7 ppg a year ago, while his 565 total points tied for ninth-most in a single season in Valpo history. Also an NABC All-District 12 Second Team choice, he ranked among the league's best as well in 3-pointers per game (1.8, 6th) and free throw percentage (.813, 7th).
Johnson a Second Team Honoree: Fifth-year senior forward Cory Johnson also earned a spot on the preseason All-League Second Team after receiving Second Team and All-Newcomer Team honors last year in his first year with the Crusaders. Johnson averaged 15.6 ppg and 5.8 rpg a year ago, good for fourth and eighth among Horizon League players, respectively. He connected at a 55.6% clip from the floor, second-best in the league and 20th nationally, and hit better than half of his three-point attempts as well.
Oh Captain My Captain: The Crusaders will have a pair of captains for the 2010-2011 season. Cory Johnson and Howard Little will serve in the role, each for the second straight year.
Sun, Fun and Basketball: This year’s Crusader squad got the chance to bond as a team with a preseason foreign trip to Cancun in August, the first time Valpo has taken advantage of the chance to take a preseason trip. The Crusaders got 10 days of practice in Valpo before taking off for Cancun with all 13 players, including newcomers Jay Harris and Kevin Van Wijk. While down in Cancun, Valpo won all four games, including a come-from-behind 102-84 win over Pioneros de Quintana Roo, which finished third in the 20-team LNBP last year.
Johnson Earns MVP Honors: Fifth-year senior forward Cory Johnson was named the MVP of the Lou Henson Award Tournament following his career-best 33-point performance on 12-of-13 shooting in the title game against Oakland. Despite missing a game earlier this year, Johnson has scored in double figures in a team-best 13 games this season, including a string of seven straight after most recently going 10-of-16 from the floor and 6-of-7 from the free throw line for a game-high 26 points in Friday’s win over YSU, his second-highest output of the year. The senior currently ranks fourth in the league in scoring (16.5 ppg) and is seventh in field goal percentage (.520).
Wood Fills Up the Sheet: Redshirt junior guard Brandon Wood has also been a consistent double-figure scorer for the Crusaders this year one season after leading the league in scoring, scoring in double digits 12 times, including nine of the last ten contests. But Wood has contributed all over the place for Valpo this season, currently ranking second on the team in rebounding (4.8 rpg) and leading the way in assists (3.9 apg) and steals (1.6 spg). Wood had what has become a standard game for himself in Valpo’s win Friday over YSU, going for 17 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocked shots, tying season-bests in rebounding and steals. Wood finds himself among the league leaders in a number of categories as well, ranking sixth in scoring and fourth in assists, steals and assist/turnover ratio (1.75).
Harris’ Breakout Game(s): Freshman guard Jay Harris entered the Jan. 1 game at Butler with just one double-figure scoring effort on the season and averaging just 4.5 ppg. But Harris, who averaged better than 28 ppg as a high school senior, showcased that scoring punch in a spurt while nearly single-handedly bringing the Crusaders back into the ballgame. The rookie scored 14 points in a stretch of just 5:32, helping to erase what had been as much as a 19-point deficit and getting Valpo to as close as five points. Harris hit 4-of-5 from the floor during the run, including 3-of-4 from behind the arc, and also drained a trio of free throws. Then, last time out against YSU, Harris knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to give Valpo the lead for good late in the first half.
Broekhoff Does It All: Sophomore guard Ryan Broekhoff showed his 3-point shooting ability as a freshman and it has carried over into his second season, as he currently ranks second in the league with a .443 3-point percentage, helping him to average 10.5 ppg so far this year. But Broekhoff ranks among the league’s best in a number of other categories as well, including assist/turnover ratio (2.00, t-2nd), field goal percentage (.536, 4th) and blocked shots (1.3, 6th). Last time out against YSU, Broekhoff grabbed a Valpo season-best 10 rebounds, all of which came on the defensive end. Most notably, despite averaging better than 28 minutes/game so far this season, the sophomore has turned the ball over just 15 times in 16 games and has just three turnovers in the last eight games.
Buggs With the Boards: Redshirt sophomore guard Erik Buggs is often the shortest player on the court at 5’10”, such as he was Dec. 28 against Ball State. But that didn’t stop Buggs from grabbing a game-high and new career best eight rebounds in the win over the Cardinals. The sophomore also played a season-high 31 minutes while matching his season-best with seven points and also handing out four assists. Last time out, Buggs again hit the boards, pulling down five defensive rebounds in the win over YSU.
Doing the Little Things: Senior guard Howard Little showcased his ability to contribute in a number of ways with a career-high seven assists in the win over Ball State Tuesday while also scoring 11 points and grabbing five rebounds. Little went for 10 points and five rebounds most recently in the win over YSU, reaching double figures in the scoring column for the ninth time this year. The senior, who leads the Crusaders in rebounding (4.9 rpg), hit 5-of-7 against the Penguins, lifting his field goal percentage to .566, second-best in the Horizon League.
Cracking the Career Charts: A number of Crusaders have already cracked Valpo’s career charts in different categories or are on pace to do so very soon. Little needs four more steals to reach 130 for his career, which would move him into the top-10 in the category, while the senior continues to be on pace to set the program record for career games played, barring injury. Broekhoff’s career 3-point percentage of .393 is tenth-best in Valpo history. Wood is just two games shy of the minimum 50 needed to qualify for the career points per game chart, where he would currently rank ninth at 17.1 ppg, while Johnson is three games shy and would be 11th at 15.9 ppg. Johnson is also just five field goal attempts shy of the 500 needed to rank in field goal percentage, where his .543 clip would currently place him in fourth position.
Quickly: Junior Cameron Witt made his season debut Friday, playing the last three minutes and scoring four points, grabbing two rebounds and registering an assist ... all 11 Crusaders who dressed saw action ... Valpo was called for just 10 team fouls, their lowest total against a D-I opponent since picking up just nine fouls against Cleveland State on Feb. 14, 2008 ... Johnson and Wood each recorded a pair of dunks Friday after the Crusaders totaled just six as a team in the season’s first 15 games ... Valpo out-rebounded YSU by a 47-24 margin Friday, its biggest advantage in the category over an opponent since out-boarding Southern Utah by 23 on Feb. 15, 2003 ... the Crusaders also held a 52-20 advantage in points in the paint Friday.