IU-South Bend at Valparaiso - Thursday, November 19 - 7:05 p.m.
The Matchup: Valparaiso takes to the court at the Athletics-Recreation Center for the first time during the regular season as the Crusaders host IU-South Bend Thursday. Valpo has faced the Titans three times in program history, all in the last 16 years, and has won all three meetings.
Last Time Out: Valpo took to the court at defending national champion #6/4 North Carolina Sunday afternoon and acquitted itself well, trailing by just seven points at the half and cutting a 24-point second half deficit to just nine points late before falling, 88-77. Brandon Wood dropped in 30 points for the Crusaders in just his second game in a Valpo uniform, including 20 second-half points, while Brandon McPherson added 20 points of his own.
Last Meeting: Valpo registered the second-highest margin of victory in program history and set a new team record for assists in a single game in a 111-41 victory over IU-South Bend on Nov. 28, 2005. The Crusaders’ 70-point victory margin only trailed a 79-point victory over Western Ontario in 1964. Valpo tallied the single-game record of 36 assists on just 45 baskets, led by eight assists from Ali Berdiel off the bench. Berdiel also tallied ten points, one of five Crusaders to reach double figures in the scoring column. Dan Oppland scored 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting, 20 of which came in the first half, while Ron Howard contributed 16 points and seven assists.
Following the Crusaders: Thursday’s game 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. WVUR, Valpo’s student radio station, will also be broadcasting the game live over its airwaves. Live video for Thursday’s contest will also be available through the Horizon League Network. Links for live audio of the VSRN call and the HLN video feed, as well as a live stats link, will be available at www.valpoathletics.com.
Back-to-Back With Two 20+ Scorers: The Crusaders have received some standout offensive individual performances early this year, as Brandon Wood scored 25 points and Cory Johnson 21 against Ball State, while Wood dropped 30 along with Brandon McPherson’s 20 points at UNC. Prior to this season, the last time two Crusaders had scored 20 or more in a regulation game was Dec. 22, 2006 against Charlotte, when McPherson scored 24 to go along with 21 points from Samuel Haanpaa. The last time Valpo accomplished the feat in back-to-back games was Feb. 7 & 9, 2002, as Lubos Barton scored 24 points and Stalin Ortiz 21 points against Chicago State, followed two days later by 23 from Barton and 22 points from Milo Stovall against Southern Utah.
Newcomers Playing Minutes: Both Wood and Johnson were appearing in their first regular season contest as a Crusader on Friday, two of six Crusaders to make their Valpo debuts against Ball State. A seventh newcomer, sophomore Milos Milosevic, debuted for Valpo at North Carolina on Sunday. Valpo’s newcomers ended up playing 58% of the total team minutes against the Cardinals and took the court for 53.5% of the minutes against the Tar Heels.
Helping Hands: Valpo has been extremely efficient with the basketball as a team in their first two games of the season. The Crusaders handed out 18 assists on 27 made field goals while committing just nine turnovers Friday against Ball State. The 18 assists was more than the Crusaders had in all but one game last year against D-1 competition, while Valpo also surpassed a 2-to-1 assist/turnover ratio just once last season. Valpo followed with 14 assists against just nine turnovers Sunday against North Carolina. It was the first time the Crusaders had kept their turnover totals to single digits since a three-game stretch against Centenary, Southern Utah and IUPUI in February of 2006.
Looking at the Schedule: This year’s Crusaders will be extremely battle-tested prior to hitting the heart of Horizon League play. Valpo played Sunday at #6/4 North Carolina, the first of four top-10 squads that the Crusaders take on in early-season action. This coming Sunday, it’s #2/2 Michigan State that the Crusaders travel to take on. The one weekend of Horizon League play in early December sees Valpo play at #11/10 Butler, while four days later, there’s another road game at #7/7 Purdue. In all, of the Crusaders’ first 13 games, eight are true road games with a pair of neutral-site contests as well.
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.
Tabbed Eighth: The Crusader men’s basketball team has been picked to finish eighth in the Horizon League for the 2009-2010 season, according to polling of the league’s head coaches, sports information directors and media members. Butler has been tabbed the preseason favorite with 43 of the possible 46 first-place votes. Wright State was picked second with defending tournament champion Cleveland State projected third. Milwaukee, Green Bay, Detroit and Youngstown State were picked fourth through seventh, respectively, while UIC and Loyola rounded out the polling.
Wood Stands Out in First Weekend: Brandon Wood made his first regular season games as a Crusader standout efforts. The redshirt sophomore dropped 25 points on Ball State in Valpo’s season opener, the most points by a Crusader in their debut since Lubos Barton scored 27 against South Carolina on Nov. 7, 1998. Wood then one-upped himself, going for 30 points, including six 3-pointers, against North Carolina in the Smith Center on Sunday.
More on Wood: The 55 points Wood combined for in his first two outings is the most by any Valpo player since Bryce Drew scored 59 in a two-game stretch Feb. 25 and Mar. 2, 1998. Wood also became just the ninth Crusader in the last 15 years, dating back to the start of the 1994-95 season, to score 30 or more in a single game, joining Shawn Huff, Samuel Haanpaa, Dan Oppland (2x), Lubos Barton, Raitis Grafs, Bryce Drew (5x), Anthony Allison and Chris Ensminger.
McPherson Makes His Return: Fifth year senior Brandon McPherson made his return to the Crusader lineup better than ever this past weekend after playing just five games last year. McPherson put up 11 points and six assists in Valpo’s season opener against Ball State, and then went for 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including 4-of-6 from behind the arc, at North Carolina on Sunday.
Johnson Working Underneath the Basket: Redshirt junior Cory Johnson had a stellar Crusader debut as well on Friday at Ball State, connecting on 9-of-14 shots from the field en route to 21 points. Johnson also tied for game-high honors by pulling down nine rebounds and also came up with a game-best three steals. Then on Sunday at UNC, the Iowa State transfer worked for seven points and team-high totals of five rebounds and four assists.
Freshmen Contributing Early: Valpo has also gotten big contributions from a number of true freshmen in the season’s opening weekend. Tommy Kurth played 21 minutes against Ball State, handing out five assists without committing a turnover. At UNC on Sunday, Matt Kenney saw 24 minutes of action, scoring eight points to go with three rebounds, three assists and two steals, while Ryan Broekhoff scored seven points in just 11 minutes of playing time.
Quickly: The Crusaders picked up 12 and ten steals in their first two games, the first time they have registered double digits in the category in back-to-back D-I games since Mar. 9-10, 2003 ... Valpo lowered its turnover total against UNC from 25 in last year’s matchup to just nine this year ... McPherson shot a pair of technical free throws Sunday at UNC, the first technical freebies he has attempted since Dec. 23, 2006.