Valparaiso (5-2, 1-0 Horizon)
Game #8: Saturday, Dec. 4 - 3 p.m.
at Loyola (7-1, 0-1 Horizon)
Gentile Center (5,200) - Chicago, Ill.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso looks for a sweep of the first weekend of Horizon League play this season as the Crusaders travel to Chicago for the second time in three days Saturday afternoon to face Loyola.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso overcame a 14-point deficit with under 7:30 to play in regulation Thursday evening, putting together an 18-4 run to send the game into overtime before scoring the first three baskets of the extra session en route to a 68-66 (ot) victory at UIC Thursday night.
Following the Crusaders: Every game this season will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with Thursday's game broadcast live on WAKE (1500 AM, Valparaiso) and WEFM (95.9 FM, Michigan City). Todd Ickow is back for his 19th season on play-by-play, while Adam Amin will handle the color commentary Thursday. The live audio will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com, with live stats and live video through the Horizon League Network available on the official Crusader website as well. The game will also be broadcast live on Lakeshore Public Television.
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 Thursday’s game with a 353-295 record in 21 seasons at the helm of the Crusader program and a 622-417 record in 32 years overall as a head coach.
Series Notes: Loyola owns a 32-10 advantage in the all-time series over the Crusaders, but the two squads have won three games apiece since Valpo joined the Horizon League. The Crusaders have actually captured each of the last three meetings between the two programs, including most recently an 84-73 victory at the ARC on Feb. 17. Matt Kenney poured in a career-best 27 points off the bench in that contest, while Howard Little posted 15 points and a team-high seven rebounds in the win as well.
The Road Ahead: Valparaiso welcomes nationally-ranked Purdue to the ARC for the first time since 2001 on Tuesday in a game that will be televised nationally on ESPNU. The Crusaders then return right to the road to face Toledo and former Green Bay coach Tod Kowalczyk next Saturday evening.
Scouting Loyola: The Ramblers suffered their first loss of the 2010-2011 campaign Wednesday evening, dropping a tight 65-63 decision to Butler at the Gentile Center. Loyola is 7-1 on the year and has already played six home games. Four players average double figures in the scoring column for the Ramblers, led by 14.4 ppg from Geoff McCammon. Loyola also is shooting at a 41.1% clip from behind the 3-point line, led by a 63.0% clip from Terrance Hill.
Defense Steps Up Late: Valparaiso trailed 58-44 Thursday with 8:40 to play at UIC, as the Flames had scored points on 29 of their first 53 offensive possessions. But the Crusader defense locked down the Flames over the final 13:40 of the game, allowing UIC to score on just four of its last 21 possessions. The Flames went 3-of-16 from the floor and 2-of-2 from the line over that stretch while the Crusaders also forced nine UIC turnovers during the span.
Coming From Behind: The UIC game marked the third time in the last four games that the Crusaders have erased double-digit deficits in relatively short order. At Ohio, the Crusaders trailed 31-16 with 4:11 to go in the first half before going on a 16-0 run to go into the half up a point. Then, against Northern Colorado, Valpo trailed by as many as 12 in the first half and by 10 with 4:08 to go in the opening period before going on an 18-6 run over the next 6:12 to take the lead. At UIC, a 10-point deficit with 4:47 remaining was negated by a 10-0 spurt over the next 3:46.
Second-Half Shooters: Through seven games this year, the Crusaders are averaging nearly nine points more per game in the second half of play as compared to the first half (42.4-33.9). Valpo is shooting over 13% better from the floor in the final 20 minutes (.538-.401) and over 18% better from behind the 3-point arc (.375-.194).
Bringing Home the Hardware: Valparaiso captured the Upper Division Championship at the Las Vegas Invitational with victories over Northern Colorado and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi last weekend. It marked the first time the Crusaders had won all of their games at a tournament site since November of 2007, when Valpo defeated Maryland Eastern Shore and Austin Peay on South Padre Island at the SPI Invitational.
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.
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: This year’s Crusader squad is leading the Horizon League in scoring offense (77.1 ppg) and field goal percentage (.469), no surprise given how much firepower returned from the league’s top offensive team a year ago. Valpo paced the league last season 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.
Early League Play: This weekend marks the fourth straight season that an early December weekend has kicked off Horizon League play for the Crusaders, with the results being a mixed bag through three years. In 2007-2008, Valpo swept a road trip at Wright State and Detroit, while in 2008-2009, the Crusaders lost at Cleveland State before winning at Youngstown State. Last year, Valpo dropped a decision at travel partner Butler to kick off league play.
Purdue Game Sold Out: The Crusader ticket office announced Friday morning that all available tickets for the game against Purdue on Tuesday, Dec. 7 have been sold. No tickets will be available at the door for the Boilermakers’ first visit to the ARC since 2001.
Wood Kicks It Up: Redshirt junior guard Brandon Wood was averaging “just” 12.5 ppg entering the Crusaders’ Horizon League opener at UIC after leading the league with 17.7 ppg a year ago. But Wood led all scorers in Valpo’s overtime victory over the Flames, ending the game with 19 points, 14 of which came in the final 25 minutes. Wood accumulated his points the old-fashioned way, hitting 6-of-9 shots from inside the arc and also going to the foul line 10 times, connecting on seven freebies.
Filling Up the Stat Sheet: Wood has shown in the early going this year he can do more than just score, consistently putting up solid numbers in the rebounding and assists departments. The junior is averaging 4.7 rpg and a league-high 4.6 apg. He grabbed six rebounds at UIC Thursday, his fourth effort of at least six caroms this year, and has matched or surpassed his previous career high of six assists four times.
Doing the Little Things: Senior guard Howard Little was named to the Las Vegas Invitational All-Tournament Team for his performances in a pair of Crusader victories in Vegas. Little drained all four of his second-half 3-point attempts en route to a team-best 18 points in the comeback win over Northern Colorado. He then closed tournament play with a 13-point, eight-rebound, three-steal effort in Valpo’s victory over Texas A&M-CC. Little scored in double figures for the third straight game at UIC, helping the Crusader cause with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting.
Broekhoff Shines Offensively: Sophomore Ryan Broekhoff had already had a pair of big offensive performances early this season, but posted his most impressive game to date Nov. 23 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. Most recently, Broekhoff scored 10 points, including a game-tying 3-pointer with a minute to play in regulation, and matched his career high with four assists at UIC. The sophomore is currently tied for the team lead in rebounding (5.0 rpg) and is one of four Crusaders averaging in double figures in scoring (13.1 ppg).
Injuries Can’t Hold Him Down: Johnson has battled through injuries all season long for the Crusaders to provide a post presence on both ends of the court. Most recently, the fifth-year senior connected on 5-of-6 attempts from inside the arc and also knocked down five free throws for a 15-point performance at UIC in the overtime victory. Johnson currently leads the team in scoring with 14.6 ppg and is one of five Crusaders averaging at least four rebounds per contest, posting 4.3 rpg.
Lending a Helping Hand: Led by Wood’s proficiency in distributing the basketball, Valpo is averaging a league-high 16.9 assists per game so far this year and entered the week among the top-30 squads nationally. Four other Crusaders are averaging at least 2.0 apg and all five have positive assist/turnover ratios, while as a team, Valpo’s 1.26 assist/turnover ratio is second in the league.
Stellar Defensive Effort: It’s rare for a player to be part of a postgame press conference after not scoring in 30 minutes of action, but that’s exactly the situation redshirt sophomore Erik Buggs found himself in Thursday night thanks to his defensive effort. Buggs, tasked with guarding UIC leading scorer Robo Kreps (17.7 ppg) most of the game when Valpo was in man-to-man, helped harass Kreps into a 1-of-13 shooting performance. Buggs also helped force Kreps into eight turnovers, the biggest of which came in the final 30 seconds when the Crusader sophomore drew a five-second closely-guarded call.
Rookie Cool Under Pressure: Freshman Jay Harris showed a senior’s poise when sent to the foul line in Las Vegas. Harris connected on a perfect 6-of-6 from the charity stripe in the win over Northern Colorado, four of which came as the Crusaders secured the lead for good in the second half. He then replicated the feat against Texas A&M-CC, knocking down all six of his attempts in the final two minutes to help Valpo fend off the Islanders. On the year, Harris is now 16-of-18 (.889) from the foul line.
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: Valpo has shot better than its opponents in all five victories this year, actually ending Thursday’s game with a .429-.409 advantage in field goal percentage ... the Crusaders are also a perfect 5-0 so far when holding their opponent under 70 points ... the overtime marked the first extra session that the Crusaders have played since Nov. 24, 2008, when Valpo dropped a 75-70 OT decision to La Salle at the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam ... the back-to-back wins while scoring under 70 points in both games are Valpo’s first since late February 2008, when the Crusaders won at Milwaukee 66-57 before defeating Detroit 59-56.