Valparaiso (6-3, 2-0 Horizon)
Game #10: Saturday, Dec. 11 - 6 p.m. CST
Toledo (0-9, 0-0 MAC)
Savage Arena (7,300) - Toledo, Ohio
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso looks to bounce back from a loss last time out as it travels one state to the east to take on Toledo Saturday afternoon.
Last Time Out: In front of a record-tying crowd at the Athletics-Recreation Center, Valparaiso held the lead for a near four-minute stretch late in the first half and again gained the outright edge with 18:37 to play, but #19/18 Purdue eventually pulled away for a 76-58 victory over the Crusaders Tuesday evening. Brandon Wood led the Crusader effort with 20 points on Tuesday.
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) and WEFM (95.9 FM, Michigan City). Todd Ickow is back for his 19th season on play-by-play, while Aaron Leavitt will handle the color commentary Saturday. The live audio will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com, with live stats available on the official Crusader website as well. Live video of the game is available through Toledo’s website for a fee.
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 354-296 record in 21 seasons at the helm of the Crusader program and a 623-418 record in 32 years overall as a head coach.
Series Notes: Valparaiso owns a 6-4 edge in the all-time series against Toledo, but the Rockets are 4-1 at home against the Crusaders through the years. Valpo won the last meeting in Toledo back in 1991, however, and just last season won the last matchup between the two squads at the ARC, 81-49. Cory Johnson and Brandon McPherson led a balanced scoring effort with 15 points apiece as Valpo shot 52.5% from the floor in the victory, while holding Toledo to 37.0% shooting and forcing 18 turnovers.
The Road Ahead: Valpo briefly returns home after final exams for a home game next Saturday night against IPFW before traveling to Oakland for the Lou Henson Award Tournament to close out pre-Christmas action.
Scouting Toledo: The Rockets, led by first-year head coach and former Green Bay boss Tod Kowalczyk, are winless on the year, entering Saturday’s matchup at 0-9. Toledo is getting outscored by over 17 points per game and is only averaging 55.8 points per contest, led by 10.3 ppg from Malcolm Griffin. Hayden Humes leads the Rocket effort on the boards with 6.4 rpg.
Crusaders Match Attendance Record: Welcoming a top-20 team in Purdue to the ARC proved to be a formula for a packed house Tuesday night. The game officially sold out four days in advance, and Tuesday night’s attendance was announced at 5,432, matching the all-time attendance record at the ARC, first set on Feb. 5, 2008 when Valpo hosted a top-10 Butler squad.
Breaking Out the New Gear: The Crusaders unveiled their new uniform design on Tuesday night against Purdue, and also debuted gray uniforms in the nationally-televised contest. The grays will serve as alternate uniforms for special occasions, as Valpo will continue to wear white jerseys at home and gold uniforms on the road.
Defense Sparks Key Run: For the third straight game, the Crusaders had a key run started by their efforts on the defensive end. Valpo held Purdue to just one point in a nine-possession span late in the first half Tuesday, forcing the Boilermakers into 0-of-5 shooting and four turnovers during that stretch. The defensive stops coincided with a 10-1 spurt that turned a five-point deficit into a four-point lead.
Locking Down 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 Benificial 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.
Coming From Behind: The UIC game marked the third time in a four-game stretch 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: It’s a simple concept, but the Crusader defense this season has led the way in the Valpo victories. The Crusaders are a perfect 6-0 this year when surrendering fewer than 70 points. In addition, Valpo won three straight games over Texas A&M-CC, UIC and Loyola despite not scoring 70 points in any of the three contests, the first time in nearly four years it has accomplished that feat.
Highly Rated: While it’s still early on in the season, the Crusaders are looking good in various rankings so far. Valpo is #34 in the latest RPI ratings at RealTimeRPI.com, one of three Horizon League squads in the top-40 as the league currently ranks tenth in the nation in RPI. The Sagarin Ratings currently place Valpo at #92 with the 36th-toughest schedule to date, and also rank the Horizon League tenth in the nation among conferences.
Second-Half Shooters: Through nine games this year, the Crusaders are averaging nearly seven points more per game in the second half of play as compared to the first half (39.9-33.2). Valpo is shooting nearly 10% better from the floor in the final 20 minutes (.513-.414) and over 14% better from behind the 3-point arc (.365-.221).
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).
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.
Wood Pours In Points: Redshirt junior guard Brandon Wood stepped up and carried the Crusader offense in the first 20 minutes against Purdue Tuesday, hitting seven of his eight attempts from the floor, including a perfect 4-for-4 from behind the arc, for 18 of Valpo’s 28 first-half points against the Boilermakers. Wood ended the night with 20 points, the second straight season he has scored at least 20 against Purdue and his second 20-point effort of this season. The junior is now averaging a team-best 14.0 ppg on the season.
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. Wood chipped in a team-high five rebounds and three assists against Purdue on Tuesday and leads the team in assists at 4.1 apg, good for third in the Horizon League. He also has pulled down 4.6 rpg, tied for third among the Crusaders.
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. He currently is one of four Crusaders in double figures in scoring (11.2 ppg) and leads the team in both rebounding (5.0 rpg) and steals (1.7 spg). Little’s .632 field goal percentage leads the Horizon League, as he has hit at least 50% of his field goal attempts in seven of Valpo’s first nine games, while he ranks fifth in the league in steals as well.
Broekhoff Shines On Both Ends: Sophomore Ryan Broekhoff put together a stellar performance on the defensive side of the ball in front of a national TV audience Tuesday, rejecting a career-best four shots against Purdue. Broekhoff now ranks third in the Horizon League with an average of 1.9 blocks per game. Offensively, he has scored in double figures five times this year, led by a 24-point effort at Ohio Nov. 23. Broekhoff currently is also among the league leaders in 3-point percentage (.447, 2nd) and field goal percentage (.556, 4th).
Johnson Battles Down Low: Fifth-year senior Cory Johnson missed reaching double figures for just the second time in his eight games this year on Tuesday, but still scored eight points while battling in the post all night against All-American candidate JaJuan Johnson. Cory, who has played through injuries all year long for the Crusaders, enters Saturday’s game second on the team in scoring at 13.8 ppg and also among the team leaders in rebounding with 4.6 rpg.
Key Sparks Off the Bench: Sophomores Matt Kenney and Kevin Van Wijk have brought bursts of energy off the bench this season for the Crusaders. Kenney played 12 first-half minutes Tuesday at Purdue and was a key component to the Crusaders being down just two at the half, going for four points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals in the first half. Meanwhile, Van Wijk scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds against the Boilermakers three days after an impressive 9-point, 4-rebound first half at Loyola. Van Wijk enters Saturday leading the Horizon League 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: Valpo limited Puirdue to just eight offensive rebounds on Tuesday, the fewest the Crusaders have surrendered against a Division I foe this season ... the Crusaders owned advantages in second-chance points (13-5) and fast break points (16-9) over the Boilermakers ... Tuesday’s game was the first live high-definition broadcast in the ARC’s history ... Valpo is 0-3 on the season when playing on Monday or Tuesday; 6-0 when playing on Thursday, Friday or Saturday.