ValpoAthletics.com
Crusaders Return Home to Take On Youngstown State
Cory Johnson is among the league leaders in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage. (Sabrina Short)
Cory Johnson is among the league leaders in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage. (Sabrina Short)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Youngstown State at Valparaiso - Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010 - 7:05 p.m.

The Matchup: Valparaiso (6-11, 1-4 Horizon) looks to get back on the winning track in its return to the Athletics-Recreation Center on Thursday evening as the Crusaders host Youngstown State (7-8, 2-4 Horizon).

Last Time Out:
Valparaiso held a 57-48 lead with 7:09 to play Sunday afternoon in Horizon League action in Dayton, Ohio, but Wright State scored the game’s final 11 points, including a long jumper by Vaughn Duggins with 4.7 seconds to play, to steal a 59-57 victory from the Crusaders.  Fifth-year senior Brandon McPherson scored five straight points for the Crusaders on a triple and a layup, the latter of which extended Valpo’s lead to 57-49 with just over seven minutes remaining.  But the Crusader offense would get just three shot attempts over the final seven minutes, missing them all while turning the ball over four times as well.  Cory Johnson finished the game with 17 points while also pulling down a team-best nine rebounds, and Michael Rogers connected on four of his six attempts from behind the arc for a season-best 12 points.

Series History: A rivalry that dates back to when both teams were members of the Mid-Continent Conference, Valpo holds a 20-7 advantage in the all-time series, including wins in each of the four meetings since the Crusaders joined the Horizon League.  Most recently, Valpo defeated the Penguins in its regular season finale at the ARC on Feb. 28, 2009, 67-59, rallying from a four-point halftime deficit thanks in large part to 62.5% shooting from the floor in the second half.  Five Crusaders finished the game in double figures, led by 13 points from Howard Little.  Urule Igbavboa, Michael Rogers and Cameron Witt each chipped in 12 points.

Following the Crusaders:  Thursday’s game, as always, can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City).  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.  Video for the game will be available through the Horizon League Network, while links for VSRN audio, video and live statistics can be found at www.valpoathletics.com. 

Back Home at the ARC: While Valpo dropped its last home game back on the 2nd to Green Bay, the Crusaders are 4-1 overall at the Athletics-Recreation Center this year, right in line with their home dominance in the recent past.  Since the start of the 1993-1994 campaign, Valpo boasts a stellar 174-38 (.821) record at the ARC, and has finished above .500 on its home hardwood in each of those 16 seasons.

Change of Pace: The start of Horizon League play has brought a different style of play for the Crusaders to contend with.  In non-league action, Valpo averaged over 70 possessions per game and scored 74.6 PPG while giving up 75.8 PPG.  But in the Crusaders’ five league games so far, they have averaged just 61.8 possessions per game.  The lower number of possessions is a big part of the reason for the reduction in scoring for Valpo in league action, as the Crusaders are averaging just 60.8 PPG and giving up just 67.6 PPG within the league.

Hitting Shots from the Floor: The Crusaders lost a pair of close games at Detroit and at Wright State last week despite solid performances shooting the basketball, a trend for the Valpo team all season long.  Valpo shot at a 51.0% clip (26-of-51) against the Titans, including 7-of-15 from behind the arc, and then went on to connect on 48.9% (22-of-45) of its shots at Wright State, including 9-of-18 from downtown.  On the season, the Crusaders lead the Horizon League with a 46.7% field goal percentage and are second among league teams with a 38.8% 3-point percentage.

Turnovers Key:
With fewer possessions, each one becomes that much more important, a theory which has played out in each of Valpo’s Horizon League games.  Against Milwaukee, the Crusaders forced 19 turnovers while committing just 15 and held a 24-13 edge in points off turnovers, with every point proving important in their one-point win.  But in Valpo’s four league losses, it has committed more turnovers than it has forced, averaging 16.0 turnovers/game while forcing just 11.0 turnovers/game.  Most recently at Wright State, the Crusaders gave the ball up 19 times and forced just 12 turnovers, as the Raiders held a 16-7 edge in points off turnovers in their two-point win.

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.

Johnson Has Big Weekend: Redshirt junior forward Cory Johnson stood out for the Crusaders last weekend in their pair of road games.  In front of a national TV audience on ESPNU, Johnson poured in a career-best 31 points at Detroit, going 10-of-16 from the floor and 8-of-10 from the free throw line.  He then registered team highs of 17 points and nine rebounds in Sunday’s game at Wright State.  On the year, Johnson ranks fifth in the league in scoring (16.1 PPG), seventh in rebounding (6.2 RPG) and second in field goal percentage (.583).

Another Deep Threat:
Johnson was just 0-of-4 from behind the 3-point line in Valpo’s first 15 games of the season, but showed his touch from downtown last weekend, connecting on all three of his 3-point attempts at Detroit before going 2-of-2 from deep at Wright State.  His long-range ability adds another threat to a Crusader squad that leads the Horizon League in league-only games, hitting at 42.5% from behind the arc.

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 19.0 points/game and also ranks third in the league in field goal percentage (.485) and 3-point percentage (.451), also has reached at least 20 points on six other occasions, including a game-high 22 points in Valpo’s thrilling Horizon League win over Milwaukee.

...and Rebounds as Well: Not to be overlooked, the redshirt sophomore has also been a force on the glass in recent games.  Over the last nine outings, Wood has pulled down a team-best 5.7 rebounds/game and has corraled at least five caroms in eight of those games.  Overall, Wood is second on the team this season with 4.9 rebounds/game.

Rogers Hits From Downtown: The Crusaders hit 9-of-18 shots from 3-point range last time out at Wright State, thanks in large part to the effort of junior guard Michael Rogers, who set a new season-high with four made triples as he went 4-of-6 from behind the arc.  The four trifectas was just one off of his career best, also posted against Wright State during his freshman campaign.  On the year, Rogers is among the league’s top-ten 3-point shooters, hitting at a 40.9% clip, and has improved to 52.9% from deep in league-only games.

Quickly: The Crusaders gave up just 12 points in the paint Sunday to Wright State after entering the game allowing 27.5 PPG in the paint ... despite tallying six turnovers Sunday, freshman guard Matt Kenney still leads Valpo with a 2.67 assist/turnover ratio on the season ... Valpo was outrebounded by Wright State, 32-31, and has now been outrebounded in all five league games to date ... the Crusaders are only averaging two rebounds/game less (30.8-32.8) than their opponents in league play, however ... Rogers hit 500 career points with his first triple against the Raiders ... fifth-year senior guard Brandon McPherson is just 28 points shy of reaching the 1,000 point milestone.