#-/RV Valparaiso (19-7, 11-3 Horizon)
Game #27: Wednesday, Feb. 16 - 7 p.m.
at Milwaukee (15-11, 10-5 Horizon)
U.S. Cellular Arena (10,783) - Milwaukee, Wis.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso looks for its 20th win of the 2010-2011 campaign on Wednesday evening, as the Crusaders hit the road to take on Milwaukee. Valpo enters Wednesday’s game atop the Horizon League standings with just four league games remaining.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso won its 11th Horizon League game, the most in a season since the Crusaders joined the league, and maintained its spot atop the league’s standings in tight fashion, earning a 58-56 victory over Wright State Saturday evening at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Howard Little paced Valpo with 17 points as the Crusaders improved to 10-2 at home this year.
Following the Crusaders: Every game this season will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with Wednesday'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 Wednesday. 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 367-300 record in 21 seasons at the helm of the Crusader program and a 636-422 record in 32 years overall as a head coach.
Series Notes: Valpo leads the all-time series with Milwaukee by an 11-8 margin and owns a 4-3 edge over the Panthers since joining the Horizon League prior to the 2007-2008 campaign. In their first meeting this year, back on Jan. 21 at the ARC, the Crusaders held UWM without a field goal for the first 13:46 of the ballgame en route to a coast-to-coast 60-43 win. Michael Rogers paced Valpo with 14 points as four Crusaders ended the night in double figures.
The Road Ahead: Valpo returns home Saturday afternoon for a showdown with Missouri State as part of the Sears BracketBusters event, live on ESPN2. The Crusaders then turn right around and head up to Green Bay for a Monday night game before returning to the ARC to close out the regular season next Thursday and Saturday against Loyola and UIC, respectively.
Scouting Milwaukee: The Panthers enter Wednesday’s game on a six-game winning streak, having not lost since falling to the Crusaders on Jan. 21, and are 10-5 in Horizon League play and 15-11 overall. Anthony Hill leads Milwaukee with 14.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, while Tone Boyle averages 12.5 points per game and Tony Meier chips in 11.3 points per game.
Controlling Their Own Destiny: After losing to Cleveland State on Feb. 3, the Crusaders found themselves 1 1/2 games back of the Vikings in the HL standings. But since that point, Valpo has rebounded with three wins in a row, while Cleveland State has lost twice, leaving the Crusaders alone in first place entering the next-to-last weekend of the regular season. Valpo, which is a half-game up on CSU and 1 1/2 games up on Butler and Milwaukee, is the only team remaining with just three league losses and will take the regular season title if it wins out. With Saturday’s win, the Crusaders have already clinched at worst the fifth seed for the Horizon League Championship.
BracketBuster Matchup: The Crusaders learned late last month that they had earned another national TV appearance as part of the Sears 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. On the call of Saturday’s game will be Dave O’Brien (PBP) and Dick Vitale (color commentary).
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 four points in this week’s edition of the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll to be listed among the others receiving votes for the third consecutive week. 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 year.
Earning League Wins: With four more Horizon League games remaining, the Crusaders have already assured themselves of their best season in league play. Valpo has now won 11 Horizon League contests this year, surpassing the 10 they won a season ago.
Just Win, Baby, Win: Valpo has already accumulated 19 wins this season, the second-most by a Crusader squad in the last eight years. Only the 2007-2008 team, which won 22 games, has won more in that time frame. With just one more victory, Valpo would win 20 games for the tenth time under head coach Homer Drew.
Winning With Defense: Valpo has improved its defensive efficiency from 109.4 points per 100 possessions (304th nationally) a year ago to 95.3/100 possessions (68th nationally) this year, a big key to their 19 wins so far this year. Eight times this year, the Crusaders have held a D-I opponent to 60 points or fewer, while they are 15-1 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 66.0 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 65.5 ppg against league foes, also third-best.
Fast and Slow: Valpo showcased its ability to go at any pace to win ballgames last weekend to remain atop the Horizon League standings. Against Detroit, the Crusaders racked up 72 possessions, third-most against a D1 team this season, in a fast-paced game that ended in their favor, 82-74. Valpo then had just 60 possessions, tied for its fewest in a game this year, in Saturday’s win over Wright State. In fact, the Crusaders registered just 38 field goal attempts in the win over WSU, their fewest in a game since tallying the same number Dec. 30, 2004 against UNI.
A Look at RPI: The Crusaders enter this week as one of three Horizon League teams in the top-50 in the nation in RPI. According to the latest NCAA RPI report, Valpo sits at #49 heading into the Milwaukee game, joining Cleveland State (#37) and Butler (#45) among the nation's best.
Who Needs Rally Caps?: Valparaiso has flipped a number of games in its favor this season after trailing by double digits. In fact, the Crusaders are above .500 this year in games where they have trailed by 10 or more points at any juncture, going 6-5 in such contests, while on the flip side, they are 16-2 in games where they have led by 10 or more points. In addition, Valpo has overcome nine-point deficits in a pair of games in the last three weeks as well.
Sharp Shooters From Inside: Valpo has cemented itself as one of the best shooting teams in the nation this year, entering this week ranked 20th nationally with a .477 field goal percentage. The Crusaders have been especially proficient inside the arc, hitting at a .555 clip from two-point range, good for fifth nationally. Valpo has hit at least half of their two-point attempts in 13 of its last 16 games, only failing to do so in its three losses in that stretch. Among Valpo’s nine-man rotation, seven players are hitting at least 50% from inside the arc this season.
Stop, Thief!: The Crusaders lead the league and rank 32nd nationally with an average of 8.3 steals/game this season, and have proven very consistent as pickpockets throughout the year. In 25 of 26 games, Valpo has tallied at least six steals, with the only exception being when the Crusaders registered just four at Kansas. Valpo’s streak of 24 straight games with at least six steals currently leads the nation, while the Crusaders have stepped it up recently as well, tallying double-digit thefts in four of their last six contests.
Working Extra Time: Two of Valpo’s last four league wins (Butler, @YSU) has required an overtime session to decide, moving the Crusaders’ record to 3-0 in league play and 3-1 overall this season when playing extra time. Valpo’s four overtime games this year are the most in a single season by a Crusader squad since the 1992-1993 team played eight overtime games, tied for the NCAA single-season record.
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 Jan. 21 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.
Pair of Crusaders on Preseason All-League Squads: Valpo was represented by a pair of players on the Horizon League’s preseason All-League teams. Redshirt junior Brandon Wood was named to the First Team, while fifth-year senior Cory Johnson earned a spot on the Second Team.
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 has scored in double figures in 18 of his 24 games this season and is tied for fifth in the league, averaging 16.0 points per game. Last weekend, Wood helped Valpo to two wins, scoring 17 points while also pulling down five boards against Detroit and then chipping in 10 points in the win over Wright State. Wood has contributed all over the place for Valpo this season, currently leading the team in scoring, assists (3.4 apg) and steals (1.8 spg) and ranking third in rebounding (4.4 rpg). The junior finds himself among the league leaders in a number of categories outside scoring as well, ranking second in steals and seventh in assists.
Little Quietly Produces: Senior Howard Little has quietly been a solid presence on both ends of the floor for the Crusaders recently, scoring nine or more points in each of Valpo’s last eight contests. Last time out, he stepped up in a big way though, leading the Crusaders with 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting in their two-point win over Wright State. The senior, who averages 9.7 points and a team-best 5.0 rebounds per game, continues to rank among the league’s most accurate shooters, currently ranking third with a .541 field goal percentage.
Johnson Bounces Back: After failing to score in double figures in back-to-back games for the first time in his Crusader career, fifth-year senior forward Cory Johnson came back on Thursday against Detroit with a team-high 19 points. The senior hit 8-of-11 from insde the arc and also tied for team-high honors with five rebounds. After scoring 10 points in the win over Wright State Saturday, Johnson now ranks second on the team and eighth in the league, averaging 15.0 ppg while connecting at a 57.9% clip from inside the arc.
Broekhoff Does It All: Sophomore Ryan Broekhoff has been huge from behind the arc for the Crusaders recently, going 17-of-28 from 3-point range in Valpo's last six games. But the sophomore proved to be more than just a sharpshooter on Thursday against Detroit, stuffing the entire stat sheet, going for 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including 3-of-5 from downtown, and tying for team-high honors with five rebounds. He matched his career high with five assists, set a new career standard with a game-high five steals and also blocked three shots. Broekhoff, who currently leads the team in blocks (1.2 bpg), is second in rebounding (4.8 rpg) and third in scoring (10.3 ppg), is pacing the Horizon League, shooting at a .490 clip from behind the arc, where he has raised his percentage to .566 in league games.
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 surpassed Tracy Gipson against Detroit for ninth place all-time in steals and, with 141 career steals, is now just one theft shy of Raitis Grafs in eighth place. Little also is now tied for fifth in career games played (124) and continues to be on pace to set the program record, barring injury. Broekhoff’s career 3-point percentage of .426 is tied for fifth-best in Valpo history. Wood and Johnson both have accumulated 50+ games played for their careers, allowing them to be ranked ninth (16.9 ppg) and 11th (15.3 ppg) on the scoring average chart. Johnson also ranks fifth in career field goal percentage, shooting at a .529 clip.
Quickly: The Crusaders scored just 58 points Saturday in their win over Wright State, their fewest in a win since beating Milwaukee 55-54 on Dec. 31, 2009 ... Valpo out-rebounded the Raiders, 26-21, despite having no single player with more than four rebounds, the third time this year the Crusaders’ leaders on the boards have picked up just four caroms (Northern Colorado, at Butler) ... the Crusaders also tallied 13 assists on 20 baskets against WSU despite no player having more than two helpers.