Valparaiso at UIC - Thursday, January 21, 2010 - 7 p.m.
The Matchup: Valparaiso (8-11, 3-4 Horizon) looks to extend its winning streak to three games on Thursday evening as the Crusaders take the first of two trips in a three-day span to Chicago to face off against UIC (5-12, 1-6 Horizon).
Last Time Out: Valparaiso used an 11-0 run midway through the first half to take the lead for good, never letting Cleveland State get closer than three points in the second stanza in a 78-71 victory at the ARC Saturday afternoon in the HLN Game of the Week. Senior guard Brandon McPherson scored his 1,000th career point to cap the run, becoming the 29th player in Valpo history to reach the milestone. Four Crusaders finished the game in double figures in the scoring column, led by McPherson, who hit 8-of-11 from the floor for a game-high 22 points, his second straight 20+ scoring effort. Brandon Wood added 17 points, while Cory Johnson finished with 15 points. Ryan Broekhoff came up with an outstanding effort off the bench, going for 13 points, a team-high eight rebounds, three assists and three blocks in 23 minutes of action.
Series History: UIC holds a 29-10 edge in the all-time series over the Crusaders, including a 16-1 advantage in Chicago, where the only Valpo win came on Feb. 6, 1993, a 101-94 double-overtime triumph. In the two teams’ last meeting, the Crusaders were unable to outgun the Flames, falling 83-76 at the ARC on Feb. 15, 2009. Valpo led by as many as nine in the second half and was still up three with 2:40 to play after a Jake Diebler 3-pointer, but UIC ended the game on a 10-0 run. Diebler hit six triples to score 18 points, while Urule Igbavboa scored 20 to go with seven rebounds and Michael Rogers added 19 points. Robo Kreps and Josh Mayo tied for game-high honors with 25 points apiece.
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.
Hoping to Reverse the Trend: The Crusaders are hoping that the momentum they carry into this weekend from the pair of wins last weekend helps reverse their lack of success in Chicago over the years. Valpo is just a combined 3-30 against UIC and Loyola on their home courts in program history, with the aforementioned double-overtime victory over UIC in 1993 its only road win over the Flames. The Crusaders are just 2-14 at Loyola as well, and the last win came 35 years ago, a 69-60 triumph on Feb. 3, 1975.
Connecting From Downtown: The Crusaders have been by far the Horizon League’s best 3-point shooting team in league play thus far. Valpo has connected on 50-of-118 (42.4%) attempts from behind the arc through seven league games, nearly two percentage points better than second-place Butler and seven percentage points above third-place Green Bay. In fact, Valpo has made two more 3-pointers than its opponents in league play (50-48) despite taking 31 fewer attempts (118-149).
Pick Up the Pace: After playing a much slower pace through their first five league games than they did in the non-league slate (61.6 possessions/game vs. 70.4 possessions/game), the Crusaders averaged 67.0 possessions/game in their two victories last week. Combined with stellar shooting performances, Valpo utilized the higher number of possessions to average 74.0 points/game for the weekend. The Crusaders also scored 70+ points in back-to-back games for the first time since Dec. 12-22, when they scored at least 70 in three straight against Toledo, Concordia and IPFW.
Explosive Scoring Performances: Last weekend saw Brandon McPherson posted a pair of 20+ scoring games in the Crusaders’ two victories, continuing a season-long trend of Valpo’s top-three scorers putting up big numbers. McPherson (4), Cory Johnson (5) and Brandon Wood (9) have combined for 18 outings of 20 or more points this season, already more 20+ point games than the Crusaders have had in a single season since 2005-2006. That year saw Valpo players combine for 23 performances of 20 or more points, led by 15 such games from Dan Oppland.
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.
McPherson Gets to 1,000: Fifth-year senior guard Brandon McPherson became the 29th player in Crusader basketball history to reach the 1,000 point milestone on Saturday afternoon with a leaner from the baseline midway through the first half in the victory over Cleveland State. McPherson scored just 46 points as a freshman before putting up 350 and 363 points in his sophomore and junior years, respectively. After a truncated inital senior season with 46 points, he has scored 210 points to date this year for a career total of 1,015 points. If he maintains his current scoring pace of 11.1 PPG this year, he will finish right around 20th on Valpo’s all-time scoring chart.
Back in the Groove: McPherson had struggled for a stretch of time prior to last weekend’s games, scoring just 6.1 PPG on 34.1% FG and 22.2% 3PT shooting in the seven games from Concordia through Wright State while not reaching double figures once. But the senior posted back-to-back strong games, leading all players against YSU with 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting and again pacing everybody versus CSU with 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting.
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 18.9 points/game and also ranks third in the league in field goal percentage (.484) and in 3-point percentage (.451), also has reached at least 20 points on seven other occasions, including 20 points in Valpo’s win Thursday over Youngstown State. Most recently, Wood posted 17 points and four rebounds in the Crusader win over the Vikings.
Johnson Remains Steady in the Post: Redshirt junior forward Cory Johnson has been a model of consistency down low this year for a mainly perimeter-based Crusader team. Johnson most recently went for 15 points and seven rebounds in Saturday’s win over Cleveland State, right around his season averages of 15.7 PPG and 6.2 RPG. The redshirt junior, who has scored in double figures in 17 of Valpo’s 19 games and has paced the Crusaders in rebounding 11 times, is fifth in the league in scoring, sixth in rebounding and second in field goal percentage (.570).
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 has showcased his touch from downtown over the last four games, going 8-of-10 from deep since the start of the Detroit game. His long-range ability adds another threat to a Crusader squad that is connecting at a 39.1% clip overall and 42.4% clip in league play from 3-point range on the season.
Quickly: Freshman guard Ryan Broekhoff enjoyed a tremendous game in Valpo’s win Saturday, matching a career high with eight rebounds while scoring 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting ... Broekhoff also added three assists and three blocked shots ... junior guard Howard Little and freshman guard Tommy Kurth each tied their career high with five assists against the Vikings ... the Crusaders committed a season-low 12 fouls in Saturday’s win ... Valpo has yet to out-rebound a league opponent, but has also not been out-rebounded by more than five caroms in league play.