Valparaiso (15-5, 7-1 Horizon)
Game #21: Sunday, Jan. 23 - noon
Green Bay (10-10, 4-4 Horizon)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso puts first place on the line yet again, as well as a season-best five-game winning streak, as the Crusaders welcome Green Bay to the ARC Sunday afternoon. The game against the Phoenix concludes the first half of the Horizon League slate.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso held Milwaukee without a field goal for the game’s first 13:46 Friday evening at the Athletics-Recreation Center and rode the advantage all the way to the final buzzer, earning a 60-43 victory. Michael Rogers scored 10 of his team-best 14 points in the game’s first nine minutes, while four Crusaders in all ended the game in double figures. Valpo won despite the absence of leading scorer Brandon Wood due to injury, while third-leading scorer Ryan Broekhoff played just three minutes due to injury as well.
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) and WEFM (95.9 FM, Michigan City). 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, as well as live video through the Horizon League Network and live stats.
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 Sunday's game with a 363-298 record in 21 seasons at the helm of the Crusader program and a 632-420 record in 32 years overall as a head coach.
Series Notes: Green Bay leads the all-time series with Valpo by a 23-15 margin, but the Crusaders own a 10-8 advantage over the Phoenix at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The two teams split their two contests last year, with each team winning on the other’s home court. In their most recent matchup, Valpo claimed an 84-79 victory in Green Bay on Jan. 31, 2010, led by 26 points from Brandon Wood and 20 points from Cory Johnson.
The Road Ahead: The Crusaders conclude their three-game homestand, their longest of the season, next Saturday as they host Butler in the Horizon League Game of the Week. Valpo then returns to the road, making the Cleveland State/Youngstown State road trip on Feb. 3 and 5, respectively.
Scouting Green Bay: The Phoenix come to Valpo at 10-10 overall and 4-4 in Horizon League action this season after suffering a six-point loss at Butler Friday evening. Senior guards Rahmon Fletcher and Bryquis Perine lead Green Bay with 16.8 and 12.1 ppg, respectively, and also are tops on the team in assists. Alec Brown chips in 9.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg (second-most on the team) and also blocks better than two shots per contest.
First Place: With their win against Milwaukee Friday, the Crusaders remained in first place all by themselves with a 7-1 record. The seven wins in the first eight league games continue Valpo's best start in league action since making the move to the HL prior to the 2007-2008 season.
The Last 10: Valpo enters Sunday on a season-best five-game winning streak and has earned wins in nine of the last 10 games. Over that span, the Crusaders have outscored opponents by nearly 10 points per game (72.0-62.8) and are shooting 51% from the floor, led by a 64.7% clip from Kevin Van Wijk and a 60.5% clip from Michael Rogers.
Home Court Advantage: Valpo has taken full advantage so far this year of the opportunities it has had to play in front of home fans at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Valpo is currently 7-1 at the ARC this year, with its only loss coming to a top-25 Purdue squad, and is now 240-107 (.692) all-time at the ARC, including a 187-42 (.817) 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 94.4/100 possessions (69th nationally) this year, a big key to their 15 wins so far this year. Seven times this year, the Crusaders have held a D-I opponent to 60 points or fewer, including four of their last five league games, and they are a perfect 14-0 on the year when holding opponents under 70 points.
How Improved It Is: Last year, the Crusaders surrendered a league-worst 74.3 points per game and gave up 71.8 ppg in league play only, which ranked ninth among the ten Horizon League squads. So far this year, it has been a 180 in terms of the defensive output, as Valpo is giving up just 64.4 ppg overall, which is good for third in the league. The defense has been even better in league play so far, as the Crusaders have allowed a league-best 60.2 ppg against league foes.
A Look at RPI: The Crusaders enter Sunday as one of three Horizon League teams in the top-50 in the nation in RPI in the latest NCAA report. Valpo sits at #45 following the Detroit win, joining Butler (#25) and Cleveland State (#36) among the nation's best.
Who Needs Rally Caps?: Valpo erased double-figure deficits earlier this month in back-to-back wins over Cleveland State and Wright State, a common occurence this year for the Crusaders. In fact, the Crusaders are now above .500 this year in games where they have trailed by 10 or more points at any juncture, going 5-4 in such contests, while on the flip side, they are 14-1 in games where they have led by 10 or more points.
Sharp Shooters From Inside: Valpo has cemented itself as one of the best shooting teams in the nation this year, entering Sunday ranked 18th nationally with a .483 field goal percentage. The Crusaders have been especially proficient inside the arc, hitting at a .564 clip from two-point range, and have hit at least half of their two-point attempts in ten of their last 11 games, only failing to do so at Butler (12-of-27). Among Valpo’s nine-man rotation, seven players are hitting at least 50% from inside the arc this season.
Snapping Home Winning Streaks: The Crusaders have also started to make it a habit of breaking opponents' extended home-court winning streaks when on the road so far this year. Earlier this year at Oakland, Valpo's win snapped a 16-game home winning streak for the Grizzlies, and last Friday at Wright State, Valpo broke the Raiders' 14-game winning streak at the Nutter Center.
4 Wins x 3: Valpo’s win over Detroit last Sunday gave the Crusaders their third four-game winning streak of the 2010-2011 campaign, something that has not happened for Valpo since the 2001-2002 season. That year’s Crusader squad won seven straight between November and December, captured nine straight wins in the heart of Mid-Con play and then won five consecutive games entering the NCAA Tournament.
10 Wins Before the New Year: The Crusaders’ win over Ball State Dec. 28 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.
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 high-scoring victory can be found on page six of this release.
Dominating Defensively, Part 2: Valpo’s performance on the defensive end against Milwaukee last time out was one of its best of the year. The Crusaders didn’t surrender a field goal to the Panthers until 13:46 into the game and ended up limiting UWM to 28.3% (13-of-46) shooting, including 9.5% (2-of-21) from outside the 3-point line. Valpo also forced 16 turnovers while giving up just 43 points, its best performance since holding Detroit to 41 on Jan. 8, 2009.
Dominating Defensively: Dec. 11's win over IPFW was right up there with the Milwaukee game for the best defensive effort 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.
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.
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.
Valpo Tabbed Fourth in Preseason Poll: Valparaiso was picked to finish in fourth place in the Horizon League preseason poll, tallying 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.
Wood Named Preseason First Team All-League: 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: 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.
Players of the Week: Valparaiso has claimed three Player of the Week honors from the Horizon League already this season. Brandon Wood earned the Crusaders’ first honor of the year, sharing Player of the Week accolades after he averaged 28.0 ppg en route to All-Tournament honors at the Lou Henson Award Tournament. Two weeks ago, Cory Johnson was tabbed as the league’s Player of the Week after averaging 23.0 ppg in two league victories for the Crusaders, and then last week Wood was again honored after tallying 21.5 ppg in a pair of league road wins.
Wood Leads the Way: Redshirt junior guard Brandon Wood, who missed the Milwaukee win due to injury, has been a consistent double-figure scorer for the Crusaders this year one season after leading the league in scoring, scoring in double digits 14 times, including 11 of his last 13 contests. Last weekend, Wood led the way for Valpo, scoring 24 of his game-high 26 points at Wright State over a stretch of 12 minutes spanning the two halves, helping Valpo to erase a 12-point deficit and go ahead by six points. The junior then scored 10 early points en route to a team-high 17 at Detroit to go with a career-high four steals . Wood has contributed all over the place for Valpo this season, currently leading the team in scoring (16.1 ppg), assists (3.6 apg) and steals (1.7 spg) and ranking second in rebounding (4.5 rpg). Wood finds himself among the league leaders in a number of categories as well, ranking fourth in scoring and steals, fifth in assists and seventh in assist/turnover ratio (1.64).
Johnson Keeps Producing: Fifth-year senior forward Cory Johnson has been a solid presence inside for the Crusaders this year, ranking second on the team and sixth in the league in scoring (15.7 ppg) while scoring in double figures 16 times this year. 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. Then Jan. 10, he was named Horizon League Player of the Week after scoring 26 points (his second-best effort of the year) against Youngstown State and 20 points against Cleveland State in a pair of victories. After a 5-of-7 performance in the win over Milwaukee, Johnson sits fifth in the league in field goal percentage (.519) and is hitting at a .594 clip inside the arc this year.
Big Boarding by Little: Senior Howard Little continues to lead the Crusaders on the boards, averaging 5.3 rpg on the year, ranking just outside the league’s top-10. Little has had six efforts of at least seven rebounds this year, including a game-high seven caroms last time out against Milwaukee. The senior also chipped in 12 points in the win over the Panthers and is averaging 9.0 ppg on the season.
Welcome Back Matt: Sophomore Matt Kenney missed a trio of games earlier this month due to injury, but has come back a stronger player, putting up big performances in each of his last two outings. Kenney posted 16 points and matched his career high with eight rebounds Sunday at Detroit, and then got the starting assignment in place of Wood Friday versus Milwaukee and went for 11 points, six rebounds and matched a season-best with five assists.
Bench Production: Valparaiso's bench has outscored the opposition in each of its last seven games in Horizon League play, including a 26-9 edge in points off the bench last time out in the win over Milwaukee. The Crusader reserves are averaging 21.4 ppg in league action, led by 7.0 ppg from freshman Jay Harris and 6.5 ppg in a reserve role from Kenney. Against the Panthers, it was senior Michael Rogers’ turn to lead the way off the bench, as he scored 10 early points en route to a team-best 14 points to go along with six rebounds.
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. Against Milwaukee, Little moved into a tie (with Jake Diebler) for tenth place on the career steals chart with his 130th career theft, while the senior also continues to be on pace to set the program record for career games played, barring injury. Broekhoff’s career 3-point percentage of .398 is tenth-best in Valpo history. Wood and Johnson both have accumulated 50+ games played for their careers, allowing them to be ranked ninth (17.1 ppg) and 11th (15.6 ppg) on the scoring average chart. Johnson also moved onto the career field-goal percentage chart earlier this month, surpassing 500 career attempts, and currently ranks fourth, shooting at a .541 clip for his career.
Quickly: Harris handed out five assists while committing just one turnover in 30 minutes in the win over Milwaukee ... he also has knocked down multiple 3-pointers in five of Valpo’s last six games ... junior Cameron Witt played 14 minutes against the Panthers after playing just three minutes in the season’s first 19 games, chipping in two points, three rebounds and one blocked shot ... the last time the Crusaders started 15-5 or better through the season’s first 20 games was the 1998-1999 campaign ... the Crusaders announced Jan. 12 that Virginia Tech transfer Ben Boggs has enrolled at Valparaiso and will be joining the Crusader basketball program. Boggs appeared in 25 games as a freshman at VT and played in four games this year before making the decision to transfer. Boggs, a two-time All-State, All-Region and All-District honoree out of Hidden Valley [Va.] H.S., joins previously-signed Richie Edwards (6’8”, F, Hillsborough [Fla.] C.C.) as new members of the Crusader roster for next season.