Valparaiso (2-2, 0-0 Horizon)
Games #5-6: at Las Vegas Invitational -
Orleans Arena (7,471) - Las Vegas, Nev.
Friday, Nov. 26 - 4 p.m. CST - vs. Northern Colorado
Saturday, Nov. 27 - 1:30/4 p.m. CST- vs. Texas A&M-CC OR Bethune-Cookman
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso travels to Las Vegas, Nev. to take part in the second half of the Las Vegas Invitational at the Orleans Arena. The Crusaders start play in Vegas against Northern Colorado on Friday afternoon and then will face either Texas A&M-Corpus Christi or Bethune-Cookman on Saturday afternoon.
Last Time Out: Valpo overcame a 15-point first-half deficit with a 16-0 run to take a one-point lead into the break and then went back and forth with Ohio in a second half in which neither team gained more than a four-point lead, but the Crusaders’ lasst-second attempt at the tying basket came up just short as the Bobcats earned the 78-75 win Tuesday evening in Athens, Ohio.
Following the Crusaders: Every game this season will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with Friday's game broadcast live on WAKE (1500 AM, Valparaiso), WEFM (95.9 FM, Michigan City) and WJOB (1230 AM, Hammond), while Saturday’s contest will be carried live on WAKE and WEFM. Todd Ickow is back for his 19th season on play-by-play, while Aaron Leavitt will handle the color commentary. The live audio will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com, with live stats available through the official Crusader website as well. Live video is available for a fee through IBN Sports at www.ibnsports.com.
Head Coach Homer Drew: One of only a handful of coaches at the Division I level coaching on a floor named in his honor, head coach Homer Drew is the seventh-winningest active coach in D-I men’s basketball. Drew enters this weekend with a 350-295 record in 21 seasons at the helm of the Crusader program and a 619-417 record in 32 years overall as a head coach.
Series Notes: Valpo has faced Northern Colorado twice on the hardwood, with UNC claiming victories in both meetings, including most recently a 64-56 overtime win in Greeley, Colo. on Jan. 6, 1979. The Crusaders have also played Texas A&M-CC twice, winning both times, most recently 94-72 in Valpo on Dec. 7, 2000. Lubos Barton had 19 points and eight rebounds in the victory, while Antti Nikkila posted 16 points and nine boards off the bench. Valpo has never faced Bethune-Cookman on the hardwood.
The Road Ahead: The Crusaders conclude their five-game stretch away from the friendly confines of the ARC next weekend as league play begins in the Horizon League. Valpo will make both of its Chicago trips for the season, traveling to UIC for a Thursday night matchup before returning to the Windy City on Saturday afternoon to take on Loyola.
Back-and-Forth Game: The Crusaders had not experienced a tight ballgame this season prior to Tuesday night, as there was just one set of lead changes (2-1 and 4-2 less than two minutes into the Kansas game) and no tie scores in Valpo’s first three games of the 2010-2011 season. But the Crusaders got a close struggle at Ohio, as neither team could gain more than a four-point lead in the second half and there were a total of 11 ties and 16 lead changes over the 40 minutes of basketball.
A Big Victory: Valpo easily handled Purdue North Central Nov. 18, limiting the Panthers to just 44 points in a 98-44 victory. The 54-point margin of victory ties for the sixth-highest differential in program history, matching the winning margin in a 66-12 win against Chicago Tech back in the 1920-1921 season.
Rebounding Dominance: A big part of the Crusaders’ win over PNC was their dominance over the Panthers on the glass. Valpo out-rebounded PNC by an incredible 51-13 margin, and actually grabbed more offensive rebounds (14) than PNC had total rebounds.
Accurate Shooting: One game after their worst shooting performance from the field in at least 10 years, Valpo rebounded in a big way against PNC. The Crusaders connected on 67.9% of their field goal attempts against the Panthers, including an amazing 85.7% (30-of-35) clip from inside the arc.
Offensive Explosion...: The Crusaders lit up the scoreboard throughout their season opener against IU Northwest, scoring 59 first-half points and adding 52 second-half points. A short-range flip up and in by Cory Johnson with 5:49 to play put Valpo over the century mark as it utilized the third digit on the scoreboard for the first time since a 105-73 win over Longwood on Jan. 7, 2006. The 111 points matched the most the Crusaders have scored in the last 15 seasons as well.
Followed By Struggles: But Valpo’s second game of the year, at #7/6 Kansas, wasn’t quite so smooth on the offensive end. The Crusaders’ 27.4% field goal percentage was their worst performance from the floor in at least a decade, while their two 3-pointers was the lowest since hitting just two treys against UMES Nov. 23, 2007. The 44 points was Valpo’s lowest offensive output since Dec. 2, 2008 at Cleveland State (42).
Offense Leads the Way: The first and third performances of the year are probably more representative of the results to come this season, based on the way the Crusaders ranked atop the Horizon League in a number of offensive categories a year ago. Valpo paced the league with 73.2 points per game and also ranked atop the league charts in field goal percentage (.467) and 3-pointers made per game (7.7). The Crusaders ranked among the nation’s top-50 teams in the latter two categories, as well as assists/game (15.0).
Valpo Tabbed Fourth in Preseason Poll: Valparaiso was picked to finish in fourth place in the Horizon League preseason poll conducted of the league’s coaches, sports information directors, and media members. The Crusaders tallied 312 points in the polling. Butler, the reigning national runner-up and last season's regular season and tournament champions, was a unanimous selection atop the league standings. Detroit edged out Cleveland State as the second pick, while Milwaukee and Wright State were picked fifth and sixth, respectively. Green Bay, Loyola, UIC and Youngstown State rounded out the polling.
A Look Back at 2009-2010: Valparaiso improved throughout the 2009-2010 season, closing the year with 15 wins. The Crusaders went 10-8 in league play, finishing in a tie for fourth place in the Horizon League regular season standings. It marked the second time in Valpo’s first three seasons as a Horizon League institution that it had finished in the top half of the standings.
A Lot of Production Returns: Having lost just one regular and three players in all from last year’s squad, Valparaiso returns the vast majority of its production from last season. The 10 letterwinners, including four starters, who return for the Crusaders in 2010-2011 comprised 82.8% of the team’s scoring and 91.2% of the team’s rebounding from a year ago.
Wood Named Preseason First Team All-League: Redshirt junior guard Brandon Wood was one of five players named to the preseason Horizon League First Team All-League squad as announced in mid-October. Wood, the league’s Newcomer of the Year and a Second Team All-League honoree in 2009-2010, led the circuit in scoring at 17.7 ppg a year ago, while his 565 total points tied for ninth-most in a single season in Valpo history. Also an NABC All-District 12 Second Team choice, he ranked among the league's best as well in 3-pointers per game (1.8, 6th) and free throw percentage (.813, 7th).
Johnson a Second Team Honoree: Fifth-year senior forward Cory Johnson also earned a spot on the preseason All-League Second Team after receiving Second Team and All-Newcomer Team honors last year in his first year with the Crusaders. Johnson averaged 15.6 ppg and 5.8 rpg a year ago, good for fourth and eighth among Horizon League players, respectively. He connected at a 55.6% clip from the floor, second-best in the league and 20th nationally, and hit better than half of his three-point attempts as well.
Oh Captain My Captain: The Crusaders will have a pair of captains for the 2010-2011 season. Cory Johnson and Howard Little will serve in the role, each for the second straight year.
Sun, Fun and Basketball: This year’s Crusader squad got the chance to bond as a team with a preseason foreign trip to Cancun in August, the first time Valpo has taken advantage of the chance to take a preseason trip. The Crusaders got 10 days of practice in Valpo before taking off for Cancun with all 13 players, including newcomers Jay Harris and Kevin Van Wijk. While down in Cancun, Valpo won all four games, including a come-from-behind 102-84 win over Pioneros de Quintana Roo, which finished third in the 20-team LNBP last year.
Viva Las Vegas: The Las Vegas Invitational marks the second time in the last seven years Valpo has played in a tournament set up with two games on campus sites and the final two games in Vegas, as in 2004-2005, the Crusaders were part of the Las Vegas Holiday Classic. That year, the Crusaders defeated Northwestern State at home and lost at Illinois before going to Las Vegas, where they lost to UNI before closing action with a win over Longwood.
Broekhoff Sets New Career Best: Sophomore Ryan Broekhoff had already had a pair of big offensive performances early this season, but posted his most impressive game to date Tuesday night at Ohio. Broekhoff went for a career-best 24 points, hitting 9-of-13 shots from the floor, including 3-of-4 from behind the arc. He also pulled down seven rebounds against a bigger Bobcat front line, and currently ranks seventh in scoring (15.8 ppg) and eighth in rebounding (6.3 rpg) among Horizon League players,
Wood Distributes the Ball: Redshirt junior guard Brandon Wood became known for his scoring prowess in his first season as a Crusader, leading the Horizon League in scoring at 17.7 ppg. While he is still among the league’s top-10 in scoring early on, averaging 15.5 ppg after a 17-point performance at Ohio, it is his ability to set up other players that has stood out so far this year. Wood tied his career high for the second straight game with seven assists against the Bobcats, and enters this weekend with an even 6.0 apg to lead all league players.
Post Presence: Johnson missed the Crusaders’ game against PNC last Thursday due to injury, but bounced right back at Ohio with an impressive performance. The fifth-year senior went 5-of-6 from the foul line and also connected on his first two 3-pointers of the year to finish the night with a season-high 19 points. Johnson has scored in double figures in each of his three games and is averaging 15.3 ppg on 52.9% shooting so far this season.
Now Boarding: Despite being just 6'3", senior Howard Little has been one of the Crusaders' best rebounders during his four-year career and has showcased that again in the early going this season. Most recently, Little pulled down six rebounds in Tuesday’s game at Ohio and now is averaging 5.8 rpg, second-most among Valpo players. Of his 23 total rebounds through three games, 14 of them have been on the offensive end, placing Little second in the Horizon League in offensive rebounding.
Rebounding a Group Effort: After being out-rebounded by better than a board per game a season ago, this year’s Crusader squad enters this weekend leading the league in both total rebounds (40.8/game) and rebounding margin (+7.0). Valpo has four players averaging at least five rebounds per game, led by Broekhoff and Little’s efforts. Senior Michael Rogers is averaging 5.5 rpg after a six-rebound effort in just 13 minutes at Ohio Tuesday, while Wood has also chipped in 5.3 rpg.
Rookie Gets the Start: Coming off of a 10-point performance at #7/6 Kansas, sophomore Kevin Van Wijk earned his first career start against PNC last Thursday and made the most of it, hitting 5-of-7 from the floor and 7-of-9 from the foul line for a career-best 17 points, just one off of team-high honors. Van Wijk, who also pulled down seven boards against the Panthers, currently ranks fourth in the league in field goal percentage and fifth in free throw percentage.
Crusaders Ink Edwards to NLI: Valparaiso men’s basketball head coach Homer Drew announced Nov. 13 that Richie Edwards of Hillsborough [Fla.] C.C. has signed a National Letter of Intent during the early signing period and will join the Crusader program for the 2011-2012 campaign. Edwards, who will have two seasons of eligibility left when he joins the Crusaders, was a First Team All-Conference selection for the Hawks as a freshman, averaging better than 16 points and seven rebounds per game. A product of Lakeland H.S., he was named the Lakeland Ledger Player of the Year as a high school senior, leading his squad to the regional finals while posting 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per contest.
Quickly: Van Wijk missed the Ohio game due to injury ... the Crusaders hit just 8-of-27 (29.6%) from 3-point range at Ohio and are shooting just 27.8% as a team through four games from downtown ... but Valpo has held opponents to a similar clip from behind the arc, as the Crusaders’ foes are just 29.9% so far this year from 3-point range ... Valpo turned the ball over just 11 times at Ohio and has committed just 12.5 turnovers per game in the season’s first four games ... each of the Crusaders’ three primary ballhandlers (Buggs, Wood, Jay Harris) have assist/turnover ratios of better than 2/1 and have combined for just 18 miscues ... Valpo announced on Nov. 18 that Tommy Kurth would be sitting out the season in anticipation of applying for a Medical Hardship Waiver at the year’s conclusion due to injury.