Valparaiso (6-2, 2-0 Horizon)
Game #9: Tuesday, Dec. 7 - 8 p.m.
#22/18 Purdue (7-1, 0-0 Big Ten)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso will welcome a sellout crowd to the ARC on Tuesday evening as the Crusaders host a nationally-ranked Purdue squad in front of a nationwide television audience on ESPNU.
Last Time Out: Leading 49-48 with 8:37 to play Saturday afternoon, Valparaiso locked down defensively, holding Loyola scoreless as part of a 12-0 run over a nearly seven-minute stretch as the Crusaders eventually earned a 66-56 win in Chicago. The win gives Valpo a four-game winning streak and moves the Crusaders to 2-0 at the conclusion of the first weekend of Horizon League play.
Following the Crusaders: Every game this season will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with Tuesday’s game broadcast live on WAKE (1500 AM, Valparaiso), WEFM (95.9 FM, Michigan City) and WJOB (1230 AM, Hammond). Todd Ickow is back for his 19th season on play-by-play, while Adam Amin will handle the color commentary Tuesday. The live audio will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com, with live stats available on the official Crusader website as well. ESPNU is broadcasting the game live nationwide, with Jim Barbar handling play-by-play duties and Mark Adams adding the color commentary.
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 353-296 record in 21 seasons at the helm of the Crusader program and a 622-418 record in 32 years overall as a head coach.
Series Notes: Purdue owns a 13-1 advantage in the all-time series over the Crusaders (not including one vacated Boilermaker victory), and has defeated Valpo in each of the first two years of the current three-game series. Most recently, the Boilermakers started the Dec. 9, 2009 meeting on a 22-3 run en route to a 86-62 win at Mackey Arena. Brandon Wood led all players with 21 points and nine rebounds, while Cory Johnson added 11 points.
The Road Ahead: Valpo returns to the road at the end of this week, playing at Toledo Saturday night. The Crusaders will then take time off for final exams before hosting IPFW on Saturday, Dec. 18.
Scouting Purdue: The Boilermakers enter Tuesday’s game at 7-1 on the year, most recently defeating Alabama on Saturday, 66-47. E’Twaun Moore leads Purdue with 20.3 ppg and also grabs 6.5 rpg, while JaJuan Johnson averages 18.1 ppg and 8.1 rpg. All-American and Valparaiso native Robbie Hummel is out for the season after suffering a torn ACL during preseason practice.
Purdue Game Sold Out: The Crusader ticket office announced Friday morning that all available tickets for the game against Purdue have been sold. No tickets will be available at the door for the Boilermakers’ first visit to the ARC since 2001.
Welcome Home: Valpo makes a long-awaited return to the friendly confines of the Athletics-Recreation Center Tuesday night. The Crusaders have played their last five games away from home, having last played at the ARC on Nov. 18. Valpo is 2-0 at the ARC this season and is now 227-100 (.694) all-time at the ARC, including a 181-41 (.815) mark over the last 17-plus years at home. Valpo has also finished above .500 in each of the last 17 seasons at home.
Defense Steps Up Late: Valparaiso trailed 58-44 Thursday with 8:40 to play at UIC, 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. Then at Loyola, the Crusaders held the Ramblers scoreless after a free throw at the 8:37 mark to play for the next 6:51, forcing Loyola into ten empty possessions in a row.
My Team Is On the Floor: Head coach Homer Drew stuck with the same lineup for the stretch of time that the Crusaders held Loyola scoreless late on Saturday. Erik Buggs substituted in for Brandon Wood at the 8:37 mark, and Buggs, Matt Kenney, Howard Little, Ryan Broekhoff and Cory Johnson stayed together on the court for the entirety of the 12-0 run that put the game away.
Early Start Beneficial This Year: All four years the Crusaders have been in the Horizon League, they have played an early December league weekend. This year’s road sweep at UIC and Loyola was the second time in four years Valpo has started 2-0 on the road in early play, joining the 2007-2008 squad, which won at Wright State and Detroit to start the league slate.
Getting to the Point: Valparaiso has done a very good job handling opposing point guards all year, and that was showcased to the extreme this weekend. UIC’s Robo Kreps (15.9 ppg, 3.4 topg) was held to just six points and committed eight turnovers, while Loyola’s Courtney Stanley (4.1 apg, 2.8 topg) handed out just two assists while turning the ball over six times. Through eight games, the Crusaders have held opposing point guards under their scoring average six times and under their assist average five times, while forcing them to commit more turnovers than normal on six occasions.
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.
Defense Winning Games: Valpo’s defensive efforts over the last four games have keyed their current winning streak, with the Crusaders winning despite not reaching 70 points in each of the last three games. It’s the first time since Dec./Jan. of the 2006-2007 season that Valpo has won three consecutive games without reaching 70 points in any of them (vs. San Francisco, Chicago State, at Centenary).
Highly Rated: While it’s still early on in the season, the Crusaders are looking good in various rankings so far. Valpo is #32 in the latest RPI ratings at RealTimeRPI.com, one of three Horizon League squads in the top-40 as the league currently ranks seventh in the nation in RPI. The Sagarin Ratings currently place Valpo at #82 and have the Horizon League as the tenth-best conference in the country.
Second-Half Shooters: Through eight games this year, the Crusaders are averaging over seven points more per game in the second half of play as compared to the first half (41.1-33.9). Valpo is shooting nearly 12% better from the floor in the final 20 minutes (.532-.413) and over 18% better from behind the 3-point arc (.382-.197).
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. 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 (75.8 ppg) and field goal percentage (.471), 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.
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, and has continued his stretch of good play since Valpo’s return to the Central Time Zone, as he has now scored in double figures in four straight games. Most recently, Little paced all players with 16 points and also grabbed six rebounds and came up with three steals in the win at Loyola. He currently is one of four Crusaders in double figures in scoring (11.8 ppg) and leads the team in both rebounding (5.1 rpg) and steals (1.8 spg). His .660 field goal percentage leads the Horizon League, while he ranks fifth in the league in both steals and offensive rebounding (2.6/game).
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. He added 12 points Saturday at Loyola, and currently ranks second on the team at 13.3 ppg.
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 4.6 rpg and a league-high 4.3 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.
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 averaged 9.5 ppg in a pair of Crusader victories on the road and currently ranks third on the team in scoring (12.6 ppg) and second in rebounding (5.0 rpg).
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. Thursday night, 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. Then two days later, Johnson posted 14 points and a game-high eight rebounds in Valpo’s win at Loyola. Johnson currently leads the team in scoring with 14.6 ppg and is one of four Crusaders averaging at least four rebounds per contest, posting 4.9 rpg.
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 enters this week leading the Horizon League in assists (16.4 apg) in addition to scoring and field goal percentage ... on the defensive side of the court, the Crusaders are second in the league in field goal percentage (.390) and 3-point percentage (.294) defense and third in scoring defense (63.8 ppg) and steals (7.8 spg) ... the Crusaders out-rebounded Loyola, 42-32, on Saturday, the first time they’ve outboarded a Division I team this year ... Valpo attempted just eight 3-pointers against the Ramblers, its lowest number of triple attempts since Dec. 30, 2004 against Northern Iowa (7) ... the Crusaders are a perfect 6-0 on the season when they hit at a higher clip from the floor than their opponents, and are also 6-0 when holding the opposition to under 70 points.