Valparaiso (14-5, 6-1 Horizon)
Game #20: Friday, Jan. 21 - 6 p.m.
Milwaukee (9-10, 4-4 Horizon)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso returns home all alone in first place in the Horizon League standings for the first game of a three-game homestand Friday evening against Milwaukee. The Crusaders currently are riding their third four-game winning streak of the season.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso hit 11 of its first 12 shots from the field and never looked back, defeating Detroit Sunday afternoon 78-68 in Detroit, Mich. Brandon Wood led the way with 17 points Sunday and also tallied a career-high four steals, while Matt Kenney scored 16 points and matched his career best with eight rebounds off the bench.
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 Adam Amin will handle the color commentary Friday. The live audio will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com, as well as live stats. ESPN3.com will have the exclusive video broadcast on Friday night, with Will Haskett and Joel Cornette 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 Sunday's game with a 362-298 record in 21 seasons at the helm of the Crusader program and a 631-420 record in 32 years overall as a head coach.
Series Notes: Valparaiso holds a 10-8 edge in the all-time series against Milwaukee, but has gone 7-3 against the Panthers in games played at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The two squads have split six games since the Crusaders joined the Horizon League, including a win by each side on its home court last year. In the most recent matchup, Milwaukee claimed an 85-82 win on Jan. 29, 2010. Cory Johnson paced the Crusaders with 21 points in that contest, while Brandon McPherson added 17 points.
The Road Ahead: Valpo stays home on Sunday for a game against Green Bay, now slated for a noon tipoff. The Crusaders then wrap up their three-game homestand when Butler comes to town on Saturday, Jan. 29 for the Horizon League Game of the Week.
Scouting Milwaukee: The Panthers enter Friday night’s game at 9-10 overall and 4-4 in Horizon League action this year. Milwaukee defeated Butler by 24 points earlier this season, but suffered a six-point home loss to Loyola last time out. Anthony Hill paces the Panthers, averaging 13.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, while Tone Boyle chips in 12.7 ppg.
First Place: With their win at Detroit on Sunday, the Crusaders moved into first place all by themselves with a 6-1 record heading into this weekend’s action. The six wins in the first seven league games continue 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.
Winning With Defense: Valpo has improved its defensive efficiency from 109.4 points per 100 possessions (304th nationally) a year ago to 96.4/100 possessions (92nd nationally) this year, a big key to their 14 wins so far this year. Six times this year, the Crusaders have held a D-I opponent to 60 points or fewer, including three of their last four league games, and they are a perfect 13-0 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 65.6 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 62.7 ppg against league foes, second-best in the conference.
A Look at RPI: The Crusaders enter this weekend as one of three Horizon League teams in the top-50 in the nation in RPI in the latest NCAA report. Valpo sits at #48 following the Detroit win, joining Butler (#26) and Cleveland State (#27) among the nation's best.
Who Needs Rally Caps?: Erasing big deficits has become second nature for Valpo so far this season. Against Cleveland State Jan. 9, the Crusaders rallied from a 11-point deficit late in the first half for the win, and then last Friday 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 13-1 in games where they have led by 10 or more points.
Sharp Shooters From Inside: Valpo has cemented itself as one of the best shooting teams in the nation this year, currently ranking 22nd nationally with a .484 field goal percentage. The Crusaders have been especially proficient inside the arc, hitting at a .567 clip from two-point range, and have hit at least half of their two-point attempts in nine of their last ten games, only failing to do so at Butler (12-of-27). Among Valpo’s nine-man rotation, seven players are hitting at least 50% from inside the arc this season.
Snapping Home 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 Friday at Wright State, Valpo broke the Raiders' 14-game winning streak at the Nutter Center.
4 Wins x 3: Valpo’s win over the Titans on Sunday gave the Crusaders their third four-game winning streak of the 2010-2011 campaign, something that has not happened for Valpo since the 2001-2002 season. That year’s Crusader squad won seven straight between November and December, captured nine straight wins in the heart of Mid-Con play and then won five consecutive games entering the NCAA Tournament.
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.
Downing a Highly Rated Foe: Valpo downed the top-ranked team in the Mid-Major Top 25 with its win Jan. 9 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: 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 three 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. Two weeks ago, Cory Johnson was tabbed as the league’s Player of the Week after averaging 23.0 ppg in two league victories for the Crusaders, and then last week Wood was again honored after tallying 21.5 ppg in a pair of league road wins.
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 14 times, including 11 of the last 13 contests. Last weekend, Wood led the way for Valpo, 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. The junior then scored 10 early points en route to a team-high 17 at Detroit to go with a career-high four steals . Wood has contributed all over the place for Valpo this season, currently leading the team in scoring (16.1 ppg), assists (3.6 apg) and steals (1.7 spg) and ranking second in rebounding (4.5 rpg). Wood finds himself among the league leaders in a number of categories as well, ranking fourth in scoring and steals, fifth in assists and seventh in assist/turnover ratio (1.64).
Johnson Keeps Producing: Fifth-year senior forward Cory Johnson has been a solid presence inside for the Crusaders this year, ranking second on the team and sixth in the league in scoring (15.9 ppg) while scoring in double figures 15 times this year. 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 Jan. 10, 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. The senior also currently sits seventh in the league in field goal percentage (.512) and is hitting at a .584 clip inside the arc this year.
Buggs Handles the Ball: Redshirt sophomore guard Erik Buggs has been on a roll lately for the Crusaders distributing the ball from his point guard position. Over the last three games, Buggs has handed out 13 assists while committing just one turnover in 65 minutes of action. The sophomore has also distributed at least three assists in each of Valpo’s last eight games. On the year, Buggs ranks tenth in the league in assists (3.1 apg) and has moved into a tie for second in assist/turnover ratio (1.84).
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 third in the league with a .452 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 (1.65, 6th), field goal percentage (.508, 9th) and blocked shots (1.2, 6th).
Bench Production: Valparaiso's bench has outscored the opposition in each of its last six games in Horizon League play, including a 33-12 edge in points off the bench last time out at Detroit. The Crusader reserves are averaging nearly 21 ppg in league action, led by 6.9 ppg from freshman Jay Harris and 6.5 ppg from sophomore Matt Kenney. Against the Titans, it was Kenney’s turn to lead the way off the bench, hitting 5-of-7 from the floor and 6-of-9 from the foul line for a season-best 16 points. The sophomore also matched a career best by pulling down eight rebounds.
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 one more steal 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 .400 is tenth-best in Valpo history. Wood and Johnson both have accumulated 50+ games played for their careers, allowing them to be ranked ninth (17.1 ppg) and 11th (15.7 ppg) on the scoring average chart. Johnson also moved onto the career field-goal percentage chart earlier this month, surpassing 500 career attempts, and currently ranks fourth, shooting at a .539 clip for his career.
Quickly: Valpo continues to be perfect (14-0) this season when out-shooting opponents, out-shooting Detroit .518-.380 ... all nine members of the Crusader rotation played at least 14 minutes Sunday against the Titans, the ninth time this year that all nine players have played double-figure minutes ... all nine Crusaders who saw action Friday and Sunday scored in both games as well ... the Crusaders announced Jan. 12 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. Boggs, a two-time All-State, All-Region and All-District honoree out of Hidden Valley [Va.] H.S., joins previously-signed Richie Edwards (6’8”, F, Hillsborough [Fla.] C.C.) as new members of the Crusader roster for next season.