Detroit at Valparaiso - Saturday, Feb. 6, 2010 - 1 p.m.
The Matchup: Valparaiso (11-13, 6-6 Horizon) plays the middle game of a three-game homestand Saturday afternoon as the Crusaders host Detroit (14-9, 7-5 Horizon) in the HLN Game of the Week. Saturday is also the Valparaiso University Athletics Hall of Fame 2010 induction ceremony, with the four former Crusaders that will be inducted this year being honored at halftime of the game.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso struggled shooting the ball from the floor Thursday night at the Athletics-Recreation Center, eventually falling in Horizon League action to Wright State, 75-71. The Crusaders managed to overcome a ten-point halftime deficit, taking the lead with 12:30 to play, but the Raiders reclaimed the lead for good just over two minutes later. Valpo, which entered the game leading the league in 3-point percentage, suffered through one of its worst shooting nights of the season from downtown, ending the game 4-of-22 (18.2%). Brandon Wood led the Crusader effort with 18 points and nine rebounds, while Brandon McPherson scored 17 and Cory Johnson 16. Ryan Broekhoff set a new career best, leading all players with 13 rebounds.
Series History: The Crusaders trail the all-time series against the Titans, 10-6, and dropped the last meeting in Detroit on Jan. 8, 77-67. Valpo led by ten at the half, but the Titans blitzed the Crusaders with 53 second-half points to earn the victory. Cory Johnson knocked down ten of 16 attempts from the floor en route to a career-high 31 points. Included among his ten field goals were his first three 3-pointers of the season, as the redshirt junior was a perfect 3-for-3 from behind the arc. Johnson also stepped up at the free throw line, hitting 8-for-10 from the foul stripe.
Following the Crusaders: Saturday’s game can be seen locally on Comcast SportsNet Chicago as part of the HLN Game of the Week package, with Will Haskett and Damon Lewis on the call. As always, it can also be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WLPR, 89.1 FM, Lowell). 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.
A Rare Home Loss...: With four of its final six league games at home, the Crusaders have a chance to move up the league standings thanks to their homecourt advantage, one of the most pronounced in the Horizon League. Valpo did suffer a home loss last time out to Wright State, just its second loss at the ARC this season. The Crusaders are now 6-2 at the ARC this year and 176-39 (.819) over the past 17 seasons. In addition, the Crusaders need just one more home win to clinch their 18th consecutive season above .500 at home.
...Follows Rare Road Success: For the first time since Jan. 2006, Valparaiso found itself playing four consecutive true road games over the past two weekends. But despite being away from home, the Crusaders excelled, winning three games and coming two seconds away from overtime in the other. It was the first time in Valpo’s D-I history it has won three games in a road trip of four or more consecutive true road games, and the first time since Feb. 2003 it won three true road games in a single road trip.
Off Night from Downtown: Valparaiso struggled mightily with the 3-pointer last time out against Wright State, hitting just 4-of-22 (18.2%) from behind the arc while losing by just four points. It was quite the deviation from the norm for a Crusader squad which entered the game leading the league in 3-point percentage both overall (.393) and in league play (.413). It was just the fourth time this year the Crusaders had been held to four triples in a game and was Valpo’s worst shooting performance from behind the arc since a 4-of-23 effort at Michigan State.
Welcome Back, Offense: Despite their shooting woes, the Crusaders still put up 71 points Thursday, including a 50-point second half, continuing a recent trend of offensive production. Valpo had scored 82 or more points in each of their previous three outings prior to Wright State, averaging 84.0 PPG over that stretch, the first time since Dec. 29, 2005-Jan. 7, 2006 (Centenary, Oakland, Longwood) that Valpo had scored 82 or more in three straight regulation games. Over the last four games, the Crusaders have four players averaging 11.3 PPG or better and are hitting at nearly a 50% (109-of-220) clip from the floor.
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.
Crusaders to Take On BG: Valparaiso found out its final non-league opponent of the regular season on Monday, as the Crusaders will face off against Bowling Green on Saturday, Feb. 20 as part of the BracketBusters series. The Crusaders are in their sixth season participating in the BracketBusters series and are 3-2 over the past five years in the event. As part of the BracketBusters contract, Bowling Green will come to Valparaiso for a game at the ARC either during the 2010-2011 or 2011-2012 campaigns.
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.
Wood Leads the Way: 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 18.6 points/game and also ranks among the league’s best in all three shooting percentages, also has reached at least 20 points on eight other occasions. Most recently, Wood tied for game-high honors Thursday night with 18 points against Wright State, while also matching his career best with nine rebounds.
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 seven games, including a pair of 20+ point games in wins over YSU and CSU. McPherson’s streak looked like it might end last time out against WSU when he went into halftime scoreless, but the senior came out and scored 17 second-half points to help the Crusader cause.
Johnson Showcases His Versatility: Redshirt junior forward Cory Johnson has made himself known as one of the league’s premier post threats, one of just two league players that rank in the top-ten in both scoring and rebounding. But Johnson has stepped out behind the arc over the last month and showcased his shooting ability, as after going 0-of-4 over the season’s first 15 games from downtown, he is 14-of-22 from deep over the last nine contests. None of his triples were bigger than his third one Sunday at Green Bay, which gave Valpo the lead for good in the win and capped a 20-point day. Last time out, Johnson scored Valpo’s first ten points of the game and ended the night with 16 points.
Broekhoff Continues to Produce: Freshman guard Ryan Broekhoff has enjoyed a stellar six-game stretch of production off the bench since the start of the Cleveland State game. After reaching double figures just twice in the season’s first 18 games, Broekhoff has scored ten or more points three times in the last six, including a season-best 20 on six 3-pointers at Loyola. Over the six-game stretch, the freshman is averaging 10.3 PPG and 7.0 RPG. Most recently, Broekhoff pulled down a new career-best 13 rebounds while also chipping in seven points against Wright State.
Quickly: Johnson’s field goal percentage (.576) ranks 13th nationally ... Valpo out-rebounded Wright State Thursday night, 40-28, just the third Horizon League the Crusaders have held the rebounding edge in this season ... the Raiders hit 50% (10-of-20) of their 3-point attempts Thursday, matching the highest 3-point % by a Crusader opponent this season ... Valpo has forced just 9.3 turnovers/game over its last four games after forcing 14.2/game over the season’s first 20 contests.