February 20, 20101st2ndFinal
Bowling Green493887
Stats at a GlanceVALPOBGSU
FG Percentage.464 (26-56) .545 (30-55)
3P FG Percentage.300 (6-20) .500 (3-6)
FT Percentage.800 (12-15) .857 (24-28)
Offensive Rebounds1012
Defensive Rebounds1821
Total Rebounds2833
Bench Points328
PointsMcPHERSON - 16
BROWN - 20
ReboundsLITTLE - 6
AssistsMcPHERSON - 7
StealsJOHNSON - 3
BlocksKENNEY - 2
Valpo Takes Break From HL Play to Face BGSU
Friday, February 19, 2010
Valpo Takes Break From HL Play to Face BGSU
Brandon Wood continues to lead the Horizon League in scoring at 18.2 PPG. (Andy Keilen)

Valparaiso at Bowling Green - Saturday, Feb. 20, 2010 - 1 p.m. CST

The Matchup: Valparaiso (15-14) takes one last breather from Horizon League action on Saturday as the Crusaders travel to the east to face off against Bowling Green State University (13-12).  Valpo, which has won nine of its last 12 games, would secure at least a .500 overall mark for the season with a victory.

Last Time Out: Freshman guard Matt Kenney scored a career-best 27 points off the bench Wednesday, leading a 52-point night from Valparaiso’s reserves as the Crusaders led by as many as 20 in an 84-73 win over Loyola at the ARC.  With the win, the Crusaders secured a first-round home game in the Horizon League Championship.  Kenney, who had previously set his career high in points last time out at Youngstown State with 15, rolled right past that mark with over 14 minutes to play en route to his 27 points.  The freshman connected on 9-of-13 shots from the field, including 3-of-5 from behind the arc, and hit 6-of-7 from the foul line on the night.  Kenney was just one of three reserves for Valpo who finished the night in double figures, however, as junior Howard Little scored 15 points and freshman Ryan Broekhoff added ten of his own.

Series History: The Crusaders and Falcons have met just seven times in program history, with BGSU owning victories in all seven previous meetings.  However, the two squads have not faced off in over three decades, with the last meeting a 60-59 Bowling Green win in Valparaiso at Hilltop Gym on Dec. 17, 1979.

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, Lowell).  Veteran broadcaster Todd Ickow returns for his 19th season on play-by-play for the Crusaders, while the voice of Valpo basketball on Lakeshore Public Television, Dick Harlan, fills in on color commentary.  Links for the VSRN audio and live statistics can be found at www.valpoathletics.com.

Crusaders In the BracketBuster Pool: This year marks Valparaiso’s sixth as part of the ESPN BracketBusters event pool.  Valpo has been selected to participate in the actual BracketBusters event just once (2008 vs. Miami [Ohio]) and is 3-2 overall in games arranged from the BracketBuster pool and 2-3 in the following return games.
  2/19/05 at Butler - L 72-69 (11/29/06 - L 60-47)
  2/18/06 Niagara - W 88-82 (11/18/06 - W 70-58)
  2/17/07 at Western Michigan - L 89-80 [ot] ( 11/28/07 - W 77-65)
  2/23/08 Miami [Ohio] - W 99-94 [2ot] {ESPN Classic} (12/13/08 - L 62-50)
  2/21/09 Akron - W 74-66 (12/27/09 - L 77-57)

The HL Race: While Saturday is a step away from league play, the jockeying for position in the Horizon League standings is still forefront on everyone’s mind.  Wednesday’s win secured no worse than a fifth-place tie for the Crusaders and locked up a home game in the first round of the HL Championship on Tuesday, March 2.  While Valpo still can finish tied for second, it cannot earn the two seed and are guaranteed to earn a seed between third and sixth.  The Crusaders, whose ten league wins are their highest total since joining the Horizon prior to the 2007-08 season, will enter the final week of league play just one-half game out of third place.

Dramatic Endings: Valpo has consistently given its fans their money’s worth this year with 40 exciting minutes of basketball.  In league play, 13 of the Crusaders’ 17 games have been decided by single digits.  And of the 13 single-digit games the Crusaders have contested in league play, nine of those games have been within one possession in the final 15 seconds, including six of Valpo’s last eight games.

Offense Produces: The Crusader offense has continued to be the key to the team’s resurgence in the win/loss column these past few weeks.  Valpo, which boasts the top scoring offense in the Horizon League at 73.2 PPG, has now scored 70 or more points in each of its last nine games and 11 of the last 12 outings after failing to reach the plateau in its first five league games.

Individual Scoring Performances: Matt Kenney scored 27 points Wednesday against Loyola, becoming the fifth different Crusader to put up at least 20 in a game this season.  Valpo has combined for 24 individual 20+ scoring performances, led by 11 from Brandon Wood.  Cory Johnson has reached 20 points on seven occasions, while Brandon McPherson has dropped 20 or more four times and Ryan Broekhoff added one game of 20 points.

What a Difference a Year Makes: Just one year ago, the Crusaders closed the year at 9-22 overall and 5-13 in HL play.  This year, however, Valpo has turned things around.  The Crusaders already own 15 wins this year, including ten league victories.  With a win Saturday, Valpo would clinch at least a .500 record this year.

Tough Start...: With the Crusaders above the .500 mark , 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, 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.

...Turns Into Solid Season:
After starting the season just 3-6 and then 6-11, Valpo has already recovered to above .500 at 15-14.  Likewise, the Crusaders started the Horizon League slate 1-4 and now sit at 10-7 in league action.  The Crusaders averaged just 70.5 PPG in the opening 6-11 stretch, but are up to 77.0 PPG in the last 12 games.  Over this most recent stretch, Valpo is holding its opponents to lower efficiency from the floor (42.5% FG; 46.7% over first 17 games), is getting to the foul line nearly as often (1.9 fewer FTA/game; 6.7 fewer/game over first 17 games) and has owned the boards (+1.2 rebounding margin; -2.0 over first 17 games).

Kenney On a Roll: Freshman guard Matt Kenney has had easily the two best games of his Crusader career the last two times out.  At Youngstown St. last Saturday, Kenney registered 15 points, including six straight in the final minute to put Valpo in the lead, eight rebounds and five steals off the bench, while also handing out five assists and committing just one turnover.  Then last time out against Loyola, he one-upped himself, smashing his career high with 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting.  He also chipped in six rebounds, three assists and two steals.

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 hit double figures in each of the next ten games before failing to reach the mark at Youngstown State and against Loyola.  But he still has helped lead the Crusader offense, handing out eight assists without a turnover against the Penguins and six assists most recently in the win over the Ramblers.

One of Valpo’s Best: McPherson is also moving up a number of the Crusader career charts.  Heading into the Bowling Green game, he is just one game shy of matching and two away from passing Raitis Grafs for the Valpo career games played record.  McPherson is also seventh all-time in 3-point percentage (41.9%), eighth in 3-pointers made (157) and 11th in assists (303).  At 1,139 points, he is also just 43 points shy of Valpo’s all-time top 20 in points scored.

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 18.2 points/game and also ranks among the league’s best in all three shooting categories, also has reached at least 20 points on nine other occasions.  Most recently, he put up double figures for the 12th straight game, scoring all ten of his points in the second half in Wednesday’s win over Loyola.

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 16-of-27 from deep over the last 14 contests.  None of his triples were bigger than his third one on Jan. 31 at Green Bay, which gave Valpo the lead for good in the win and capped a 20-point day.  Johnson, who averages 15.1 PPG, scored 11 last time out in the win over Loyola, his 25th double-digit performance of the year.

Quickly: Junior Howard Little matched his season high against Loyola with 15 points, his second straight double-digit performance and ninth of the season ... freshman Ryan Broekhoff reached double figures for the seventh time this year with ten points on Wednesday ... Valpo, which leads the league at 47.3% from the field this year, hit 50% against Loyola, its 13th time this year hitting at least half its shots from the floor ... the Crusader bench combined for 52 points Wednesday, it’s highest total since putting up 55 against IU-South Bend on Nov. 28, 2005.