Green Bay at Valparaiso - Saturday, January 2, 2010 - 7:05 p.m.
The Matchup: Valparaiso looks to carry over the momentum from Thursday’s win over Milwaukee into the 2010 calendar year, as the Crusaders host Green Bay Saturday evening in Horizon League action at the ARC.
Last Time Out: Trailing by one with 3.8 seconds to play, Brandon McPherson intercepted an inbounds pass just inside halfcourt and took it all the way to the rim, laying it in with 0.9 seconds remaining to give Valparaiso an improbable 55-54 victory over Milwaukee on New Year’s Eve evening at the ARC. Valpo, which had led most of the game, found itself down by one point in the waning seconds after the Panthers’ Ja’Rob McCallum connected on his sixth 3-pointer of the game. Brandon Wood led all scorers on Thursday evening with 22 points, his eighth effort of 20 or more points on the season. The redshirt sophomore also tied with Cameron Witt and Cory Johnson for game-high honors with five rebounds. Matt Kenney scored ten critical points off the bench in 26 minutes of action as well.
Series History: Green Bay holds a 22-14 advantage in the all-time series over Valpo, a series that dates back to the 1981-1982 campaign. In their most recent meeting, the Crusaders trailed by just one at the half in Green Bay, but the Phoenix converted ten second-half Valpo turnovers into 19 points en route to a 76-61 win. Urule Igbavboa paced the Crusaders with 15 points, while Cameron Witt matched his career high with seven rebounds.
Following the Crusaders: As always, Saturday’s game can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WLPR, 89.1 FM, Merrillville). 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. The game will also be broadcast live on Lakeshore Public Television throughout Chicagoland, and is also available through the ESPN Full Court package, as well as online on the Horizon League Network and ESPN360.com. Links for the VSRN audio and HLN Video, as well as live statistics, can be found at www.valpoathletics.com.
Finding a Way to Win: Valparaiso, which entered the game as the highest-scoring offense in the Horizon League, scored just 55 points Thursday night, its lowest scoring output of the season. It was the lowest-scoring effort in a win by a Crusader team since Jan. 4, 2005, when Valpo edged Western Illinois in Mid-Con play, 54-51.
Defense Keys Victory: With the offense struggling a bit, the Crusader defense rose to the forefront with one of its best efforts of the year. The game-winning play by McPherson began with a steal, one of nine Valpo steals on the night as the Crusaders forced 19 turnovers and converted them into 24 points. Valpo also held Milwaukee to 40.4% shooting from the floor and, perhaps most importantly, only sent the Panthers to the foul line 11 times on the night, a season-low by a Crusader opponent.
Game-Winning Shot: McPherson’s game-winner was Valpo’s first deciding basket on its final possession since March 1, 2008 against Wright State. The game against the Raiders saw Jarryd Loyd feed Shawn Huff for a 3-point play with 1.6 seconds to play in overtime, giving the Crusaders a 75-73 victory.
Home Sweet ARC: The Crusaders extended their homecourt winning streak to five games and are a perfect 4-0 at the ARC this season after Thursday night’s victory over the Panthers. Each of Valpo’s first three home wins this season came by double figures as well. With this year’s four wins, Valpo has improved to 174-37 (.825) at the ARC over the past 17 seasons, a stretch in which it has finished above .500 at home every year.
Multiple-Threat Offense: The Crusader offense, which leads the Horizon League with an average of 72.6 points/game, features three players averaging at least 10.8 PPG, and four times this season Valpo has had two of those three guys score 20 or more in the same game. Brandon Wood, who leads the league with 20.4 PPG, went for 25 in the season opener at Ball State and was joined by Cory Johnson, who is sixth in the league in scoring at 15.1 PPG, with 21 points. Wood then dropped 30 on #6/4 North Carolina while Brandon McPherson, averaging 10.8 PPG, scored 20 as well versus the Tar Heels. Most recently, Wood tallied 21 points and Johnson 20 against Concordia, and the duo went for 23 and 22 points, respectively, at IPFW.
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.
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 20.4 points/game and also ranks fifth in the league in field goal percentage, also has reached at least 20 points on six other occasions, most recently stepping up with a game-high 22 points in Valpo’s thrilling win over Milwaukee.
...and Fills Up the Stat Sheet: But the sophomore has showcased his ability to do more than just score recently. Wood has been a force on the boards the past six games, ripping down at least five rebounds in each of the last five outings and averaging 6.0 rebounds/game over that stretch to increase his season average to 4.9 rebounds/game, second on the team. Wood also registered a pair of six-assist games in victories over Toledo and Concordia.
39:59.1: That’s how long it took fifth-year senior Brandon McPherson to connect on his first field goal of the game Thursday against Milwaukee, as after missing his first four attempts, McPherson became the hero with his last-second steal and subsequent game-winning layup, the first game-winner of his collegiate career. McPherson, who is third on the team with 10.8 points/game, handed out three assists Thursday and now has 252 career assists, 15th in Crusader history.
Johnson Works Down Low: Despite an off game against Milwaukee Thursday (five points, five rebounds), redshirt junior Cory Johnson has been among the Crusaders’ most consistent players this season, pacing Valpo on the glass in nine games and reaching double figures in scoring on 12 occasions. On the year, Johnson ranks second in the league in field goal percentage (.569), sixth in scoring (15.1 PPG) and sixth in rebounding (6.3 RPG).
Kenney Steps Up: Freshman guard Matt Kenney played a career-high 26 minutes against Milwaukee last time out and made the most of his PT, connecting on 4-of-5 shots from the field, including a pair of triples, en route to ten big points. The freshman has been superb this year at handling the basketball, dishing out 31 assists through 14 games while committing just nine turnovers, an assist/turnover ratio of 3.45. His ratio is tied for ninth-best nationally among all players averaging at least two assists/game. In fact, over the last eight games, the freshman has handed out 19 assists and only totaled four turnovers.
Quickly: The Crusaders continue to lead the league in field goal percentage (.469) and assists (15.1 APG) in addition to scoring offense ... junior guard Michael Rogers made just his fourth start of the season Thursday, scoring eight points ... eight different Crusaders have now started at least four games this year, with Johnson the only player to start every contest ... Valpo tied a season high with five blocked shots on Thursday, getting one rejection from five different players ... the Crusaders enter Saturday’s game having won five of their last six games starting a calendar year.