Valparaiso (6-4, 2-0 Horizon)
Game #11: Saturday, Dec. 18 - 7:05 p.m.
IPFW (7-2, 2-0 Summit League)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso returns home to the ARC in an attempt to get back on the winning track as it hosts IPFW Saturday evening.
Last Time Out: Despite holding a 13-point lead with 16 minutes to play last Saturday evening in Toledo, Ohio, Valparaiso had to overcome a five-point deficit in the final minute to force overtime and then couldn't rebound from a similar hole in the extra session, dropping a 75-72 decision to Toledo. Cory Johnson led all players with a team season-high 25 points.
Following the Crusaders: Every game this season will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with Saturday’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 Saturday. The live audio will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com, with live video through the Horizon League Network and live stats available on the official Crusader website as well.
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 354-297 record in 21 seasons at the helm of the Crusader program and a 623-419 record in 32 years overall as a head coach.
Series Notes: Valparaiso owns a 7-2 advantage in the all-time series over IPFW, a series which just started in February of 2004. Valpo is 4-1 against the Mastodons at the ARC, but IPFW has won the last two meetings between the two squads, including a win two years ago in the last matchup at the ARC. Last year in Fort Wayne, the Mastodons overcame an 11-point deficit with six minutes to play to defeat Valpo, 75-72. Brandon Wood led all players with 23 points, while Cory Johnson added 22.
The Road Ahead: Valpo has a quick turnaround before their next contest, traveling to Oakland to play in the Lou Henson Award Tournament beginning Monday against Eastern Michigan. The Crusaders will take on either the host Golden Grizzlies or Rochester College on Tuesday, and then return home after Christmas to close out the 2010 calendar year at the ARC against Ball State on the 28th.
Scouting IPFW: The Mastodons enter Saturday’s contest at 7-2 overall and on a six-game winning streak, but are on the road for the first time since Nov. 23. IPFW is outscoring its opponents by over 11 points per game and has four players averaging in double figures, led by 14.7 ppg from Ben Botts. Frank Gaines adds 13.2 ppg and a team-best 7.1 rpg.
Crusaders Match Attendance Record: Welcoming a top-20 team in Purdue to the ARC proved to be a formula for a packed house on December 7. 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.
A Return to Home Cooking: Saturday night’s game marks just the fourth appearance at the Athletics-Recreation Center this year for the Crusaders, who will eventually play nine of their first 13 contests away from the friendly confines. Valpo is currently 2-1 at the ARC this year and is now 227-101 (.692) all-time at the ARC, including a 181-42 (.812) mark over the last 17-plus years at home. Valpo has also finished above .500 in each of the last 17 seasons at home.
Breaking Out the New Gear: The Crusaders unveiled their new uniform design December 7 against Purdue, and also debuted gray uniforms in the nationally-televised contest. The grays will serve as alternate uniforms, mainly for use on special occasions, while Valpo will continue to wear white jerseys at home and gold uniforms on the road.
No Coast-to-Coast Games: In all eight of the Crusaders’ Division I games so far, there has been at least one lead change. Valpo has trailed in all four of its D-I victories, twice by double digits, and has led at some point in all four of its losses. In fact, seven of those eight games have featured second-half lead changes, including three within the final five minutes.
Locking Down Late: Valparaiso trailed 58-44 Dec. 2 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 Dec. 4, 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.
Really Late Rally: Valparaiso trailed by five points with 48 seconds to play in regulation Saturday at Toledo, but Brandon Wood helped force overtime with a 3-pointer, steal and fast-break basket in a 16-second stretch to tie the game. It was the first time the Crusaders have overcome a two-possession deficit in the final minute of play since Feb. 1, 2007 against Oral Roberts, when Valpo trailed by six with 41 seconds to play and forced overtime.
Working Extra Time: Valpo’s overtime contest at Toledo last Saturday marked the second overtime game for the Crusaders in a ten-day span, as they also played extra time at UIC on Dec. 2. The last time the Crusaders went overtime prior to UIC was on Nov. 24, 2008 in the Virgin Islands against La Salle.
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 had 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.
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.
Johnson Keeps Scoring: Fifth-year senior Cory Johnson posted the highest offensive output by a Crusader to date this year last Saturday at Toledo. Johnson knocked down 11 of his 21 shots from the field and added three free throws for a season-best 25 points, the fourth time in the last two seasons he has scored at least 25 points. Johnson now leads Valpo in scoring (15.0 ppg) and is second on the team in rebounding (4.9 rpg) after pulling down a team-high seven boards Saturday.
Wood Fills It Up Quickly: Redshirt junior guard Brandon Wood had a pair of quick scoring spurts that kept the Crusaders in the game against Toledo. Wood scored five points in a 16-second span and also came up with a key steal to completely erase the Rockets’ five-point lead in the final minute of regulation, and then scored five more points in an eight-second stretch late in overtime to give the Crusaders a shot to tie at the buzzer. Wood ended the game with 17 points and now is second on the team with 14.3 ppg on the year.
Filling Up the Stat Sheet: Wood has shown this year he can do more than just score, consistently putting up solid numbers in the rebounding and assists departments. Most recently, Wood pulled down five rebounds at Toledo and also dished out a game-high six assists. The redshirt junior currently ranks among the league’s best in both assists (4.3 apg, 2nd) and assist/turnover ratio (2.15, 3rd), while he also is tied for third on the team with 4.6 rpg.
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 Dec. 7, rejecting a career-best four shots against Purdue. Broekhoff now ranks fourth in the Horizon League with an average of 1.8 blocks per game. At Toledo on Saturday, he scored in double figures for the sixth time this year, putting up 12 points against the Rockets. Broekhoff currently is also among the league leaders in 3-point percentage (.432, 3rd) and field goal percentage (.544, 5th).
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 (10.4 ppg) and leads the team in both rebounding (5.0 rpg) and steals (1.5 spg). Little’s .607 field goal percentage is good for second in the Horizon League, as he has hit at least 50% of his field goal attempts in seven of Valpo’s first ten games.
Kenney Gets the Start: Sophomore guard Matt Kenney got the start at point guard last Saturday at Toledo and put up solid numbers across the board while playing a career-high 38 minutes. Kenney grabbed four rebounds, dished out a season-high five assists and also came up with three steals on the defensive end.
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: Freshman guard Jay Harris knocked down three first-half 3-pointers at Toledo, his first makes from behind the arc since connecting on one at Ohio ... Valpo matched a season-low by committing just 11 turnovers against the Rockets ... the Crusaders remain atop the league charts in field goal percentage (.457) and assists (16.1 apg) ... Valpo’s online interactive recruiting guide is now available by visiting http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/ec5fd42f.