Valparaiso (13-5, 5-1 Horizon)
Game #19: Sunday, Jan. 16 - noon CST
at Detroit (10-8, 4-2 Horizon)
Calihan Hall (8,295) - Detroit, Mich.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball:
Valparaiso looks for its second league road weekend sweep of the year Sunday afternoon when the Crusaders travel to take on Detroit. With a win, Valpo would guarantee itself to remain in at least a share of first place in the Horizon League standings at the weekend's conclusion.
Last Time Out:
Valparaiso allowed Wright State to hit just two field goals in the first 18 minutes of the second half, erasing a seven-point halftime deficit and claiming a double-digit advantage en route to a 71-60 victory over the Raiders Friday evening at the Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio. Brandon Wood led the way for the Crusaders, pouring in a game-high 26 points.
Following the Crusaders:
Every game this season will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with Sunday'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 Aaron Leavitt will handle the color commentary Sunday. The live audio will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com, with live stats and live video through the Horizon League Network available through the official Crusader website as well. The game will also be televised live on Fox Sports Detroit.
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 Sunday's game with a 361-298 record in 21 seasons at the helm of the Crusader program and a 630-420 record in 32 years overall as a head coach.
Valparaiso narrowly trails the all-time series with Detroit, 7-6, in a series that dates all the way back to the early 1920's. The two squads matched up three times last season, with the Titans earning two victories, including a win at the ARC in the first round of the Horizon League Championship on Mar. 2, 89-82. Cory Johnson scored 24 points and Brandon Wood 23 for the Crusaders, while Chase Simon tallied 24 points for Detroit.
The Road Ahead:
Following this weekend's road trip, the Crusaders return home for their longest homestand of the year, as they will play three straight contests at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The homestand begins with a matchup on ESPN3.com against Milwaukee next Friday, while Valpo then welcomes Green Bay on Sunday before Butler comes to town on Saturday, Jan. 29.
The Titans entered the weekend as one of four teams tied atop the Horizon League standings, but suffered an 87-64 loss to Butler at home on Friday night. Detroit is averaging 74.0 ppg on the season and has five players averaging in double figures in scoring, led by 15.1 ppg from freshman Ray McCallum, who is also registering 4.4 assists per game.
Winning With Defense:
Valpo has improved its defensive efficiency from 109.4 points per 100 possessions (304th nationally) a year ago to 96.6/100 possessions (96th nationally) this year, a big key to their 13 wins so far this year. Six times this year, the Crusaders have held a D-I opponent to 60 points or fewer, including wins the last three times out over YSU, CSU and WSU, and they are a perfect 12-0 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 65.4 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 61.8 ppg against league foes, second-best in the conference.
What A Difference A Half Makes:
Wright State shot 68.0% (17-of-25) against Valpo in the first half Friday, including a combined 30 points on 13-of-15 shooting from Vaughn Duggins and N'Gai Evans. But the Crusaders committed themselves to improving their D in the second half and had perhaps their best defensive half of the year, limiting WSU to just two field goals in the first 18 minutes of the half and ultimately surrendering just 20 points on 4-of-22 (18.2%) shooting from the field.
Who Needs Rally Caps?:
Erasing big deficits has become second nature for Valpo so far this season. Against Cleveland State last Sunday, the Crusaders rallied from a 11-point deficit late in the first half for the win, and then last time out at Wright State, Valpo erased a 14-point deficit in just 8:02 en route to a double-figure win. In fact, the Crusaders are now above .500 this year in games where they have trailed by 10 or more points at any juncture, going 5-4 in such contests, while on the flip side, they are 12-1 in games where they have led by 10 or more points.
Best League Start:
With its win at Wright State on Friday, the Crusaders remain atop the Horizon League standings at 5-1 in league play, in a tie for first place with Butler. The five wins in the first six league games continues Valpo's best start in league action since making the move to the HL prior to the 2007-2008 season.
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.
Snapping Winning Streaks:
The Crusaders have also started to make it a habit of breaking opponents' extended home-court winning streaks when on the road so far this year. Earlier this year at Oakland, Valpo's win snapped a 16-game home winning streak for the Grizzlies, and last time out at Wright State, Valpo broke the Raiders' 14-game winning streak at the Nutter Center.
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 Cardinals 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:
With Friday's win at Wright State, the Crusaders became the third Horizon League team in the top-50 in the nation in RPI (according to warrennolan.com). Valpo ascended to the #50 spot, joining Butler (#23) and Cleveland State (#29) among the nation's best.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
Wood Leads the Way:
Redshirt junior guard Brandon Wood has been a consistent double-figure scorer for the Crusaders this year one season after leading the league in scoring, scoring in double digits 13 times, including 10 of the last 12 contests. Last time out, Wood took his scoring to another level though, scoring 24 of his game-high 26 points at Wright State over a stretch of 12 minutes spanning the two halves, helping Valpo to erase a 12-point deficit and go ahead by six points. Wood has contributed all over the place for Valpo this season, currently ranking second on the team in scoring (16.0 ppg) and rebounding (4.6 rpg) and leading the way in assists (3.8 apg) and steals (1.6 spg). Wood finds himself among the league leaders in a number of categories as well, ranking sixth in scoring, fourth in assists and steals and sixth in assist/turnover ratio (1.70).
Johnson Keeps Scoring:
Fifth-year senior forward Cory Johnson has put together a string of nine 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 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. Most recently, Johnson scored 13 points at Wright State Friday and has now scored in double figures in a team-best 15 games this season. The senior currently ranks fourth in the league in scoring (16.5 ppg) and fifth in field goal percentage (.520).
Doing the Little Things:
Senior guard Howard Little has proven to be one of the Horizon League’s best rebounders this season, entering Sunday tied for tenth in the league with an average of 5.3 rpg. Little had his best game on the boards this year in Valpo’s win last Sunday over Cleveland State, finishing with a game-high 11, the highest total by a Crusader in a single game this season. Little stepped up defensively last time out against Wright State, holding Vaughn Duggins to just 1-of-7 shooting in the second half after Duggins hit 5-of-6 in the first half. The senior, who now has four double-digit rebounding games in his career, also ranks among the league leaders in field goal percentage (.536, 4th).
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 fourth in the league with a .449 3-point percentage, helping him to average 10.1 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 (1.83, 4th), field goal percentage (.512, 8th) and blocked shots (1.3, 6th). Most notably, despite averaging better than 28 minutes/game so far this season, the sophomore has turned the ball over just 18 times in 18 games.
Valparaiso's bench has outscored the opposition in each of its last five games in Horizon League play, including a 19-5 edge in points off the bench last time out against Wright State. The Crusader reserves are averaging nearly 19 ppg in league action, led by 6.5 ppg from freshman Jay Harris and 6.2 ppg from sophomore Kevin Van Wijk. Against the Raiders, it was Van Wijk who led the way off the bench, scoring eight points and grabbing four offensive rebounds in just 10 minutes of action.
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 two 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 .398 is tenth-best in Valpo history. Wood has surpassed the minimum 50 games needed to qualify for the career points per game chart, where he ranks ninth at 17.1 ppg, while Johnson is two games shy and would be 11th at 15.9 ppg. Johnson also moved onto the career field-goal percentage chart earlier this month, surpassing 500 career attempts, and currently ranks fourth, shooting at a .542 clip for his career.
The Crusaders connected on 23-of-41 (56.1%) of their 2-point attempts Friday at WSU and now are hitting 53.5% of their 2-point attempts against D-I opposition this year, 22nd best in the nation ... Valpo grabbed 13 offensive rebounds against Wright State and converted them into 21 second-chance points ... the Crusaders outrebounded WSU 36-23 and are + 3.5 rebounds per game in league action ... in league-only play, Valpo ranks second in field-goal percentage defense (.407) and leads the league in field-goal percentage (.482) ... 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.