Valparaiso at Green Bay - Sunday, January 31, 2010 - 1 p.m.
The Matchup: Valparaiso (10-12, 5-5) looks to end its four-game road trip on a winning note as the Crusaders take on Green Bay (15-8, 7-4) in a Sunday afternoon matinee.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso’s Brandon McPherson canned his fifth 3-pointer of the game with 27 seconds to play to tie Friday night’s game at Milwaukee at 82 apiece, but Ricky Franklin answered with a 25-footer with 2.4 seconds remaining to give the Panthers an 85-82 victory over the Crusaders. The loss snapped Valpo’s four-game winning streak. Franklin’s final triple ruined a solid second-half effort by the Crusaders, who twice rallied back from double-figure deficits in the final 20 minutes. Cory Johnson paced the Crusader effort with 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting while also grabbing seven rebounds. McPherson knocked down five 3-pointers on his way to 17 points, while Brandon Wood put up 12 points and game-highs of eight rebounds and six assists. The Crusaders connected at a 47.5% clip from the field for the game and handed out 18 assists while committing just eight turnovers.
Series History: Green Bay holds a 23-14 advantage in the all-time series over Valpo. The Crusaders are just 2-4 against the Phoenix since joining the Horizon League, and are looking for their first win in Green Bay since Jan. 24, 1991. In their last meeting, the Phoenix connected on 10-of-12 free throws down the stretch to capture an evenly-matched game over the Crusaders, 64-58. Valpo trailed by eight points with 12:10 to play, but went on a 10-0 run over the next seven minutes to regain the lead before Green Bay eventually prevailed. Wood paced the Crusaders with 18 points and eight rebounds, while Johnson chipped in 14 points, including an 8-of-9 effort from the charity stripe. Howard Little was the third Crusader in double figures, closing the night with ten points, five rebounds and three steals.
Following the Crusaders: Sunday’s game will be shown live on Lakeshore Public Television, and 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. The game can also be seen live online on the Horizon League Network. Links for the VSRN audio and HLN Video, as well as live statistics, can be found at www.valpoathletics.com.
Breaking Droughts: Valpo will be attempting Sunday to snap its third long road drought in the past two weekends. Prior to last weekend, the Crusaders had not won at UIC since the 1992-1993 campaign and had not won at Loyola since the 1974-1975 season, but came out with victories in both games. Today, Valpo is looking for its first victory at Green Bay since Jan. 14, 1991, a game in which the Crusaders came out on top by a 58-55 count.
Winning on the Road: While winning two straight road games doesn’t sound like much, the Crusaders’ road sweep last weekend was the first time they had won back-to-back road games since beating Milwaukee (Feb. 25, 2008) and Washington (Mar. 19). It also marked Valpo’s first time sweeping a league road weekend since its first weekend of Horizon League play, when it defeated both Wright State (Dec. 6, 2007) and Detroit (Dec. 8). Prior to last weekend, the Crusaders had won just two of their previous 24 road contests.
How Much Did We Win By?: Saturday’s 19-point win at Loyola was memorable just for the sole fact of the final margin of victory. Prior to their last outing, it had been over eight years since the Crusaders had won a road game by that much, a 70-50 victory at Northern Illinois on Nov. 27, 2001. It takes going back three more seasons before finding the last time Valpo had won a league road game by at least 19 points, a 74-42 win at Chicago State on Jan. 21, 1999.
R-E-B-O-U-N-D: Valpo entered last weekend having not outrebounded a Horizon League opponent this year, but dominated the boards in both contests. At UIC, the Crusaders held a 41-33 edge on the boards, including pulling down a season-best 19 offensive caroms. More impressively, Valpo went to Loyola, which entered the game as the league leader in rebounding margin, and thrashed the Ramblers on the boards, 43-23, led by a Valpo season-best 14 rebounds by 6’3” guard Howard Little. It was the highest rebounding margin against a D-I school by a Crusader squad since Jan. 17, 2004, when Valpo out-caromed Western Illinois, 48-27.
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.
Connecting From Downtown: The Crusaders have easily been the best team in the league shooting the ball from behind the arc this season. Valpo has connected on 77-191 (40.3%) attempts from behind the arc through nine league games, nearly three percentage points better than second-place Butler and nearly five percentage points above third-place Cleveland State. In fact, Valpo has made more 3-pointers than its opponents in league play (77-76) despite taking 33 fewer attempts (191-224). Valpo also boasts five of the top-11 3-point shooters by percentage in league-only play.
Tough Start: With the Crusaders just two wins shy of hitting the .500 mark for the first time this year, it’s worth noting the struggles Valpo faced early on this season. The Crusaders took on four teams ranked in the nation’s top-25 at the time of the game, all on the road, within the first nine games of the season, part of a stretch that saw Valpo play 10 of its first 13 games away from home. In addition, Valpo came into the year with the second-least experienced team in the league (based on Ken Pomeroy’s Experience statistic) and features three freshmen and two sophomores within the regular rotation.
McPherson Back on Track: Fifth-year senior guard Brandon McPherson became the 29th player in Crusader basketball history to reach the 1,000 point milestone with a leaner from the baseline midway through the first half in the victory over Cleveland State Jan. 16. After failing to reach double figures in the seven-game stretch from Concordia through Wright State, McPherson has hit double figures in each of the last five 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. Most recently, the senior connected on a career-high five 3-pointers for 17 points at Milwaukee.
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, including a Valpo D-I record 39 at Georgia Southern earlier this year. Wood, who currently paces the Horizon League with 18.3 points/game and also ranks among the league’s best in 3-point percentage, also has reached at least 20 points on seven other occasions, including 20 points in Valpo’s win Jan. 14 over Youngstown State. Most recently, despite struggling from the floor, Wood posted 12 points, eight rebounds and six assists at Milwaukee.
Johnson Contributes Every Time Out: Redshirt junior forward Cory Johnson has been a model of consistency down low this year for a mainly perimeter-based Crusader team. Most recently, Johnson went 8-of-11 from the floor, including 2-of-3 from behind the arc, en route to a team-best 21 points at Milwaukee. The redshirt junior, who has scored in double figures in 19 of Valpo’s 22 games and has paced the Crusaders in rebounding 12 times, is fifth in the league in scoring, sixth in rebounding and second in field goal percentage.
Little Doubles Up: Two days after scoring his 500th career point, junior guard Howard Little exploded against Loyola last Saturday. The 6’3” junior matched his career high and doubled his season best with an incredible 14 rebounds, the best single-game effort by a Crusader this year. He also went 7-of-11 from the floor for a season-high 15 points and chipped in three assists and three steals. On the year, he is fourth on the team in scoring (6.5 PPG), third in rebounding (4.4 RPG) and tops in steals (1.4 SPG).
Rowdy Has Big Weekend: Freshman guard Ryan Broekhoff has stepped up his game of late and had a pair of big performances last weekend. Thursday at UIC, the freshman showcased his ability to hit the glass, grabbing nine rebounds in just 17 minutes of action in the Crusader win. Then Saturday, Broekhoff showed his shooting stroke, connecting on 6-of-8 3-point attempts for a career-best 20 points in Valpo’s win over Loyola. Over the last four games, he is averaging 11.3 PPG and 6.3 RPG.
Quickly: Johnson’s field goal percentage (56.6%) ranks among the top-20 nationally ... Valpo lost at Milwaukee despite shooting better than its opponent for the third time this year (at IPFW, at Wright State) ... Friday marked the first time the Crusaders lost despite scoring 82 or more points in regulation since Jan. 26, 2006 (L 95-89 at Oakland) ... following the Green Bay game, five of Valpo’s final seven Horizon League games will be played at the ARC.