#-/RV Valparaiso (16-6, 8-2 Horizon)
Game #23: Thursday, Feb. 3 - 6 p.m. CST
at #RV/RV Cleveland State (20-3, 9-2 Horizon)
Wolstein Center (8,500) - Cleveland, Ohio
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso takes on the squad its tied with in the loss column, as the Crusaders face off with Cleveland State in a battle for first place Thursday evening in Cleveland, Ohio.
Last Time Out: It took extra time Saturday afternoon, but Valparaiso finished the job in overtime, getting a pair of huge baskets in the last two minutes of the extra session by senior Howard Little to help close out an 85-79 victory over Butler in front of a sellout crowd at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Ryan Broekhoff, Cory Johnson and Matt Kenney all scored 16 points in the winning effort, while Brandon Wood returned from injury to put up 15 points.
Following the Crusaders: Every game this season will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with Thursday'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 Aaron Leavitt will handle the color commentary Thursday. 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 364-299 record in 21 seasons at the helm of the Crusader program and a 633-421 record in 32 years overall as a head coach.
Series Notes: Cleveland State owns a 27-9 advantage in the all-time series over Valpo, including a 14-3 advantage in Cleveland. The Crusaders have come out with wins in two of the last three matchups, however, including a 64-58 win at the ARC earlier this year on Jan. 9. Valpo overcame an 11-point first-half deficit and led by as many as 15 en route to the win. Cory Johnson paced the Crusader effort with 20 points, while Howard Little grabbed 11 rebounds.
The Road Ahead: The Crusaders’ swing through northeastern Ohio continues Saturday evening as Valpo heads to the Beeghly Center to take on Youngstown State. Valpo then returns home, where it will play five of its last seven games, to host Detroit on Feb. 10 and Wright State on Feb. 12.
Scouting Cleveland State: The Vikings enter Thursday’s game atop the league standings by a half-game, owning a 20-3 overall record and a 9-2 mark in Horizon League play. Norris Cole leads CSU and the league in scoring (20.1 ppg), assists (5.2 apg) and steals (2.4 spg), while Trevon Harmon averages 13.8 ppg and Jeremy Montgomery chips in 11.1 ppg.
BracketBuster Matchup: The Crusaders learned Monday that they had earned another national TV appearance as part of the BracketBusters event, as Valpo will host Missouri State live on ESPN2 at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 19. This marks the second time the Crusaders have made a national TV appearance for the BracketBusters game, joining the 2007-2008 squad which hosted Miami (Ohio) on ESPN Classic.
National Poll Watch: For the first time in almost nine years, the Crusaders are receiving votes in one of the two major national polls. Valpo picked up two points in this week’s edition of the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll to be listed among the others receiving votes. Valpo last made an appearance in one of the national polls in March of 2002, accumulating five points in the last poll prior to the NCAA Tournament that season.
Mid-Major Poll Watch: Meanwhile, on the mid-major scene, the Crusaders continue to rise in the Mid-Major Top 25. After checking in at #22 last week, Valpo ascended to a season-best #18 in this week’s poll following the win over Butler.
All-Access With Valpo: The Crusaders are currently featured on the CollegeInsider.com All-Access series. The All-Access piece contains conversations with head coach Homer Drew, associate head coach Bryce Drew and a number of players, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at a Crusader practice.
Beating Butler: Saturday’s win over the Bulldogs came in the 100th meeting on the hardwood between the two institutions, and was Valpo’s first over Butler since December of 1993. The victory also broke a seven-game losing streak against the Bulldogs since the Crusaders joined the Horizon League prior to the 2007-2008 season.
Fight For First Place: The Crusaders enter this week’s road trip tied in the loss column with Cleveland State and one-half game back of the top spot in the Horizon League standings. Valpo and CSU are both two games up in the loss column over third-place Wright State, and the Crusaders have continued their best start to league play since joining the Horizon League.
Winning With Defense: Valpo has improved its defensive efficiency from 109.4 points per 100 possessions (304th nationally) a year ago to 94.7/100 possessions (64th 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 seven league games, and are 14-1 on the season when holding their opposition 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 65.0 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 just 62.4 ppg against league foes, also third-best.
A Look at RPI: The Crusaders enter this week as one of three Horizon League teams in the top-60 in the nation in RPI in the latest NCAA report. Valpo sits at #55 heading into this week’s action, joining Cleveland State (#29) and Butler (#42) 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 14-2 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 this week ranked 21st nationally with a .480 field goal percentage. The Crusaders have been especially proficient inside the arc, hitting at a .558 clip from two-point range, and have hit at least half of their two-point attempts in 11 of their last 13 games, only failing to do so at Butler (12-of-27) and against Green Bay (14-of-34). Among Valpo’s nine-man rotation, seven players are hitting at least 50% from inside the arc this season.
4 Wins x 3: Valpo’s win over Detroit Jan. 16 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 Friday 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: Valparaiso has sold out a pair of games this year - its Dec. 7 game against Purdue and Jan. 29 against Butler - and matched the ARC all-time attendance record in both contests. The attendance of 5,432 for both games tied the mark set on Feb. 5, 2008 when the Crusaders welcomed a sellout crowd for 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. Cory Johnson was tabbed as the league’s Player of the Week Jan. 10 after averaging 23.0 ppg in two league victories for the Crusaders, while Wood was again honored the next week 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 and Green Bay games due to injury, returned to the lineup against Butler and played a big role in the Crusaders’ win, scoring 11 of his 15 points in the second half against the Bulldogs. Wood has been a consistent double-figure scorer for the Crusaders this year one season after leading the league in scoring, scoring in double digits 15 times, including 12 of his last 14 contests. Wood has contributed all over the place for Valpo this season, currently leading the team in scoring (16.0 ppg), assists (3.5 apg) and steals (1.8 spg) and ranking second in rebounding (4.6 rpg). Wood finds himself among the league leaders in a number of categories as well, ranking third in steals, fifth in scoring, seventh in assists and ninth in assist/turnover ratio (1.59).
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 (15.8 ppg) while scoring in double figures a team-high 18 times this year. Johnson, the MVP of the Lou Henson Award Tournament and Horizon League Player of the Week earlier this year, has paced Valpo in the scoring column eight times this year, including most recently tying for team-high honors with 16 points in the win over Butler. The senior also ranks among the league’s best in field goal percentage (.504, t-7th).
Broekhoff Bombs Away: After playing just three minutes against Milwaukee due to injury, sophomore Ryan Broekhoff stepped up Jan. 23 against Green Bay, connecting on 5-of-6 3-point attempts, including a pair in the final 10 seconds to give Valpo a shot at the win. Then last time out against Butler, the sophomore tied for team-high honors with 16 points, 14 of which came in the final 25 minutes of play, including a 4-of-5 performance from behind the arc in the second half and overtime. Broekhoff, who averages 10.1 ppg, now leads the league in 3-point shooting at a .488 clip and is connecting at a .595 clip from behind the arc in league play.
Kenney Steps Up: Sophomore Matt Kenney has put together a run of stellar performances since returning from injury. Looking at the last four games (Detroit, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Butler), Kenney is averaging 14.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Last time out against Butler, the sophomore tied for the team high with 16 points, 12 of which came after halftime. In fact, Kenney entered the second half just 3-of-35 from behind the arc on the season, but canned a pair of big 3-pointers to help the Crusader cause.
Little With Big Shots: Senior Howard Little had scored just four points in the first 43 minutes of the Butler game last Saturday. But the senior came up with a pair of huge baskets as the shot clock was running down, first knocking down an 18-foot fadeaway with a hand in his face with 1:32 to play in overtime to give the Crusaders a four-point lead. Then, Little found himself 28 feet from the basket with the shot clock nearing zero on the next trip, but his heave rattled in for a 3-pointer that extended the lead to seven points with 37 seconds left.
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 ranks tenth in Valpo history with 132 career steals, while he also continues to be on pace to set the program record for career games played, barring injury. Broekhoff’s career 3-point percentage of .420 is seventh-best in Valpo history. Wood and Johnson both have accumulated 50+ games played for their careers, allowing them to be ranked ninth (17.0 ppg) and 11th (15.7 ppg) on the scoring average chart. Johnson also moved onto the career field-goal percentage chart last month, surpassing 500 career attempts, and currently ranks fifth, shooting at a .534 clip for his career.
Quickly: Freshman Jay Harris knocked down all six of his free-throw attempts in the final 30 seconds of overtime Saturday, the third time this year he has connected on six free throws in a game ... Valpo hit just 1-of-8 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes of the Butler game, but went 9-of-14 from downtown in the second half and overtime ... the Crusaders’ ten total 3-pointers matched a season high, achieved four times now ... Valpo is now 2-1 on the season in overtime games (won at UIC and against Butler, lost at Toledo).