Valparaiso (12-5, 4-1 Horizon)
Game #18: Friday, Jan. 14 - 6 p.m. CST
at Wright State (11-6, 4-1 Horizon)
Nutter Center (10,449) - Dayton, Ohio
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso puts its share of first place on the line against a fellow squad atop the league standings Friday night, as the Crusaders travel to Wright State to take on the Raiders live on ESPN3.com.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso moved into a share of first place in the Horizon League as fifth-year senior Cory Johnson led the Crusaders with 20 points in a 64-58 victory over Cleveland State Sunday afternoon at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Valpo rallied from a double-digit first half deficit to defeat a Viking squad which entered the week ranked #1 in the Mid-Major Top 25 and ranked 24th in RPI.
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) 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 Friday. The live audio will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com, with live stats available through the official Crusader website as well. Valpo’s website will also have a link to the ESPN3.com video broadcast of the game, which will feature Will Haskett and Will Graham on the call.
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 Saturday's game with a 360-298 record in 21 seasons at the helm of the Crusader program and a 629-420 record in 32 years overall as a head coach.
Series Notes: Wright State owns a 10-5 advantage in the all-time series over the Crusaders, including a 6-2 edge in Dayton. The two squads most recently met at the ARC on Feb. 4, 2010, a game in which the Raiders came out with a 75-71 victory. Brandon Wood led the Crusaders in that contest with 18 points, while Brandon McPherson scored 17 and Cory Johnson added 16.
The Road Ahead: Valpo concludes this weekend’s road trip at Detroit Sunday afternoon before opening up a three-game homestand at the ARC on Friday, Jan. 21 against Milwaukee at 6 p.m. (ESPN3.com). The Crusaders then host Green Bay on Sunday, Jan. 23 and Butler on Saturday, Jan. 29.
Scouting WSU: Wright State enters this weekend at 11-6 overall and as one of four teams tied atop the league standings at 4-1, having won four straight games. The Raiders boast the best defense in the league, surrendering just 59.0 ppg on the year while scoring 64.0 ppg. Vaughn Duggins leads three WSU players averaging in double figures with 16.2 ppg on the year.
Winning With Defense: Valpo has improved its defensive efficiency from 109.4 points per 100 possessions (304th nationally) a year ago to 96.7/100 possessions (99th nationally) this year, a big key to their 12 wins so far this year. Five times this year, the Crusaders have held a D-I opponent under 60 points, including wins the last two times out over Youngstown State and Cleveland State, and they are a perfect 11-0 on the year when holding opponents under 70 points.
How Improved It Is: Last year, the Crusaders surrendered a league-worst 74.3 points per game and gave up 71.8 ppg in league play only, which ranked ninth among the ten Horizon League squads. So far this year, it has been a 180 in terms of the defensive output, as Valpo is giving up just 65.8 ppg overall, which is good for fifth in the league. The defense has been even better in league play so far, as the Crusaders have allowed just 62.2 ppg against league foes, second-best in the conference.
Home Court Advantage: Valpo has taken full advantage so far this year of the opportunities it has had to play in front of home fans at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Valpo is currently 6-1 at the ARC this year, with its only loss coming to a top-25 Purdue squad, and is now 239-107 (.691) all-time at the ARC, including a 186-43 (.819) mark over the last 17-plus years at home. Valpo has also finished above .500 in each of the last 17 seasons at home.
Another Rally: Last time out against Cleveland State, the Crusaders rallied from a 19-8 deficit late in the first half to eventually claim the victory, marking the fourth time this season that Valpo has faced a double-digit deficit and come from behind for the victory. In fact, the Crusaders are now an even 4-4 this year in games where they have trailed by 10 or more points at any juncture of the game, while on the flip side, they are 11-1 in games where they have led by 10 or more points.
Best League Start: With its pair of wins last weekend, Valpo finds itself in a four-way tie atop the league standings at 4-1, its best five-game start in Horizon League action since joining the league for the 2007-2008 campaign.
10 Wins Before the New Year: The Crusaders’ win over Ball State Dec. 28 assured Valpo of heading into the 2011 calendar year with a 10-4 record, matching a program record for most wins prior to January 1. The 2001-2002 team also posted a 10-4 mark prior to New Year’s Day 2002, while the 2007-2008 Crusaders went 10-3 in the 2007 portion of the schedule.
4 Wins x 2: Valpo’s win over the Crusaders also gave the Crusaders their second four-game winning streak of the 2010-2011 campaign, something that has only happened one other time for the Crusaders in the last seven years. The 2007-2008 Valpo squad featured an eight-game winning streak during November-December and then won six in a row spanning late February and early March.
A Look at RPI: The NCAA’s second official RPI release of the season came out early this week, and Valpo was one of three Horizon League schools within the RPI’s top-60. The Crusaders were rated 58th in the Jan. 10 RPI release, joining Cleveland State and Butler within the top-60.
Downing a Highly Rated Foe: Valpo downed the top-ranked team in the Mid-Major Top 25 with its win Sunday over Cleveland State, propelling the Crusaders to the #24 spot in this week’s rankings. The Vikings also were receiving votes in both the AP and coaches’ national polls at the time of the win and were 24th in the RPI, Valpo’s best victory based on RPI since downing Milwaukee (20th) on Dec. 11, 2004.
103-102: The antithesis of most of the Crusaders’ games this season was the 103-102 win in regulation at Oakland Dec. 21 to capture the Lou Henson Award Tournament. Some notes regarding that high-scoring victory can be found on page six of this release.
Dominating Defensively: While defense has keyed most of the Crusaders' victories this season, Dec. 11's win over IPFW was easily the most dominant performance on the defensive end of the court by Valpo this year. The Crusaders held the Mastodons to just 13 field goals on 26% shooting and limited IPFW to just 47 points overall. In addition, Valpo held IPFW to just three 3-pointers on the evening and limited the Mastodons to just three assists, the fewest by a Valpo opponent since Dec. 30, 1999.
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.
Crusaders Match Attendance Record: Welcoming a top-20 team in Purdue to the ARC proved to be a formula for a packed house on Dec. 7. The game officially sold out four days in advance, and the 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 Dec. 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.
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.
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.
Players of the Week: Valparaiso has claimed a pair of Player of the Week honors from the Horizon League already this season. Brandon Wood earned the Crusaders’ first honor of the year, sharing Player of the Week accolades after he averaged 28.0 ppg en route to All-Tournament honors at the Lou Henson Award Tournament. This past week, Cory Johnson was tabbed as the league’s Player of the Week after averaging 23.0 ppg in two league victories for the Crusaders.
Johnson Keeps Scoring: Fifth-year senior forward Cory Johnson has put together a string of eight straight games in double figures in the scoring column and has earned multiple honors along the way. Johnson was named the MVP of the Lou Henson Award Tournament following his career-best 33-point performance on 12-of-13 shooting in the title game against Oakland. Then early this week, he was named Horizon League Player of the Week after scoring 26 points (his second-best effort of the year) against Youngstown State and 20 points against Cleveland State in a pair of victories. Despite missing a game earlier this year, Johnson has scored in double figures in a team-best 14 games this season, and the senior currently ranks third in the league in scoring (16.7 ppg) and fourth in field goal percentage (.524).
Wood Fills Up the Sheet: Redshirt junior guard Brandon Wood has also been a consistent double-figure scorer for the Crusaders this year one season after leading the league in scoring, scoring in double digits 12 times, including nine of the last 11 contests. But Wood has contributed all over the place for Valpo this season, currently ranking second on the team in rebounding (4.7 rpg) and leading the way in assists (3.9 apg) and steals (1.6 spg). Wood showcased his all-around game last weekend, averaging 12.5 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per game in the pair of Crusader victories. Wood finds himself among the league leaders in a number of categories as well, ranking eighth in scoring, fourth in assists and steals and fifth in assist/turnover ratio (1.81).
Doing the Little Things: Senior guard Howard Little has proven to be one of the Horizon League’s best rebounders this season, entering the weekend ninth in the league with an average of 5.3 rpg. Little had his best game on the boards in Valpo’s win Sunday over Cleveland State, grabbing six first-half rebounds before pulling down five second-half boards to finish with a game-high 11, the highest total by a Crusader in a single game this season. The senior, who now has four double-digit rebounding games in his career, also ranks among the league leaders in field goal percentage (.546, 2nd) and assist/turnover ratio (1.60, 10th)
Harris’ Breakout Game(s): Freshman guard Jay Harris entered the Jan. 1 game at Butler with just one double-figure scoring effort on the season and averaging just 4.5 ppg. Harris broke out in that contest though, scoring 14 points in a stretch of just 5:32, helping to erase what had been as much as a 19-point deficit and getting Valpo to as close as five points. Harris hit 4-of-5 from the floor during the run, including 3-of-4 from behind the arc, and also drained a trio of free throws. Then, last Friday against YSU, Harris knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to give Valpo the lead for good late in the first half, and he followed Sunday against CSU with three second-half 3-pointers to help secure a victory. The rookie is now averaging 7.0 ppg in league play and is connecting at a .526 clip from behind the arc in league-only action, fourth-best in the HL.
Broekhoff Does It All: Sophomore guard Ryan Broekhoff showed his 3-point shooting ability as a freshman and it has carried over into his second season, as he currently ranks second in the league with a .441 3-point percentage, helping him to average 10.4 ppg so far this year. But Broekhoff ranks among the league’s best in a number of other categories as well, including assist/turnover ratio (1.88, 4th), field goal percentage (.512, 5th) and blocked shots (1.4, 6th). Friday against YSU, Broekhoff grabbed a season-best 10 rebounds, all of which came on the defensive end, and then knocked down a trio of 3-pointers, including one in the final minute to secure Sunday’s win over CSU. Most notably, despite averaging better than 28 minutes/game so far this season, the sophomore has turned the ball over just 17 times in 17 games.
Cracking the Career Charts: A number of Crusaders have already cracked Valpo’s career charts in different categories or are on pace to do so very soon. Little needs three more steals to reach 130 for his career, which would move him into the top-10 in the category, while the senior continues to be on pace to set the program record for career games played, barring injury. Broekhoff’s career 3-point percentage of .394 is tenth-best in Valpo history. Wood is just one game shy of the minimum 50 needed to qualify for the career points per game chart, where he would currently rank ninth at 16.9 ppg, while Johnson is two games shy and would be 11th at 16.0 ppg. Johnson also moved onto the career field-goal percentage chart last time out, surpassing 500 career attempts, and currently ranks fourth, shooting at a .544 clip for his career.
Quickly: Valpo shot 63.3% in the second half Sunday to score 46 points after connecting on just 25.9% in the first half and scoring just 18 points ... the Crusaders ended the game 19-of-35 from inside the arc and are now shooting 53.3% from 2-point range against D-I opponents this season, ranking 24th in the nation ... Valpo sits among the top-30 teams in the nation in all games in assists (16.4, 25th) and field goal percentage (.479, 30th) ... the Crusaders announced Wednesday that Virginia Tech transfer Ben Boggs has enrolled at Valparaiso and will be joining the Crusader basketball program. Boggs appeared in 25 games as a freshman at VT and played in four games this year before making the decision to transfer. He was a two-time All-State, All-Region and All-District honoree out of Hidden Valley [Va.] H.S.