Valparaiso (15-6, 7-2 Horizon)
Game #22: Saturday, Jan. 29 - 1 p.m.
Butler (14-7, 6-3 Horizon)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso begins the second half of Horizon League play Saturday afternoon as it hosts Butler in the Horizon League Game of the Week from the ARC. The Crusaders closed out the first half of the league slate tied atop the league standings.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso could not overcome a nine-minute stretch without a field goal late in the second half Sunday afternoon, as the Crusaders’ last-minute comeback effort came up two points short in a 63-61 loss to Green Bay at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Valpo, playing without leading scorer Brandon Wood for the second straight game, was led by 17 points from Cory Johnson and 15 from Ryan Broekhoff on five 3-pointers.
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 Sunday. As the Horizon League Game of the Week, it will also be televised across the Horizon League markets, including locally on Comcast SportsNet Chicago, with Greg Rakestraw and Bob Lovell on the call. The live audio will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com, as well as live video through the Horizon League Network and live stats.
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 363-299 record in 21 seasons at the helm of the Crusader program and a 632-421 record in 32 years overall as a head coach.
Series Notes: Saturday marks the 100th all-time meeting between the two squads, with Butler holding the 67-32 advantage. The two squads are tied 24-24 all-time at the ARC, however. The Bulldogs have won all seven games since Valpo joined the Horizon League, including a 76-59 win in Indianapolis on New Year’s Day. Jay Harris and Cory Johnson tied for team-high honors in that matchup with 14 points apiece.
The Road Ahead: Valpo hits the road for the first time in three weekends next week, traveling to take on Cleveland State and Youngstown State Feb. 3 and 5, respectively. The next weekend brings Detroit and Wright State to the ARC.
Scouting Butler: The Bulldogs are 14-7 overall and 6-3 in Horizon League action this year entering Saturday’s contest. Butler outscores its opponents by eight points per contest, averaging 74.7 points per game. Matt Howard paces the Bulldogs with 17.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, while Shelvin Mack chips in 14.7 points per game.
First Place: Even with their loss to Green Bay on Sunday, the Crusaders remained in a tie for first place in the league standings with a 7-2 record. The seven wins in the first nine 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 7-2 at the ARC this year and is now 240-108 (.690) all-time at the ARC, including a 187-43 (.813) 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 94.3/100 possessions (62nd nationally) this year, a big key to their 15 wins so far this year. Seven times this year, the Crusaders have held a D-I opponent to 60 points or fewer, including four of their last six league games, and suffered their first loss of the season last time out when holding an opponent under 70 points (14-1).
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 64.4 ppg overall, which is good for third in the league. The defense has been even better in league play so far, as the Crusaders have allowed a league-best 60.6 ppg against league foes.
A Look at RPI: The Crusaders enter Sunday as one of three Horizon League teams in the top-60 in the nation in RPI in the latest NCAA report. Valpo sits at #57 heading into this week’s action, joining Cleveland State (#32) and Butler (#41) among the nation's best.
Who Needs Rally Caps?: Valpo erased double-figure deficits earlier this month in back-to-back wins over Cleveland State and Wright State, a common occurence this year for the Crusaders. 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 14-2 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, entering this week ranked 30th nationally with a .478 field goal percentage. The Crusaders have been especially proficient inside the arc, hitting at a .558 clip from two-point range, and have hit at least half of their two-point attempts in ten of their last 12 games, only failing to do so at Butler (12-of-27) and last time out against Green Bay (14-of-34). Among Valpo’s nine-man rotation, seven players are hitting at least 50% from inside the arc this season.
4 Wins x 3: Valpo’s win over Detroit Jan. 16 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.
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, Part 2: Valpo’s performance on the defensive end against Milwaukee last Friday was one of its best of the year. The Crusaders didn’t surrender a field goal to the Panthers until 13:46 into the game and ended up limiting UWM to 28.3% (13-of-46) shooting, including 9.5% (2-of-21) from outside the 3-point line. Valpo also forced 16 turnovers while giving up just 43 points, its best performance since holding Detroit to 41 on Jan. 8, 2009.
Dominating Defensively: Dec. 11's win over IPFW was right up there with the Milwaukee game for the best defensive effort 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, tallying 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, who missed the last two games due to injury, 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 his last 13 contests. 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 third in steals, fourth in scoring, fifth in assists and eighth 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 (15.8 ppg) while scoring in double figures 17 times this year. Johnson, the MVP of the Lou Henson Award Tournament and Horizon League Player of the Week earlier this year, paced Valpo with 17 points last time out against Green Bay, the seventh time he’s led the Crusaders this season. The senior also ranks among the league’s best in field goal percentage (.507, 9th).
Broekhoff Bombs Away: After playing just three minutes Friday due to injury, sophomore Ryan Broekhoff stepped up Sunday against Green Bay, connecting on 5-of-6 3-point attempts, including a pair in the final 10 seconds to give Valpo a shot at the win. Broekhoff, who averages 9.9 ppg, now leads the league in 3-point shooting at a .475 clip and is connecting at a .581 clip from behind the arc in league play.
Kenney Steps Up: With Wood out due to injury, sophomore Matt Kenney stepped into the starting lineup last weekend and produced in both games, averaging 12.0 ppg and 6.5 rpg over the pair of contests. In fact, over his last three games, Kenney has posted 13.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game. The sophomore matched his career high for rebounds with eight at Detroit and then tied his career-best with five steals last time out against Green Bay.
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. Senior Howard Little took 10th place by himself on the career steals chart, tallying his 131st career theft against Green Bay, while he also continues to be on pace to set the program record for career games played, barring injury. Broekhoff’s career 3-point percentage of .412 is seventh-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 fifth, shooting at a .535 clip for his career.
Quickly: Freshman Jay Harris missed the second half of the Green Bay game due to injury ... Valpo’s bench was out-scored Sunday, 21-5, after having out-scored opponents in seven of its first eight league games ... the Crusaders did not attempt a free throw in the first half Sunday, the second time that has happened in the last four games (at Wright State).