Next Up in Crusader Basketball:
Valparaiso looks to rebound from a defeat last time out as the Crusaders continue their swing through northeastern Ohio with a matchup at Youngstown State Saturday evening.
Last Time Out:
In a battle for first place in the Horizon League standings Thursday night, every Crusader rally was answered by the home-standing Vikings, as Valparaiso fell 76-65 to Cleveland State in Cleveland, Ohio. Senior Howard Little led Valpo with 17 points, while sophomore Ryan Broekhoff picked up a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds, but Cory Johnson and Brandon Wood were limited to just 12 combined points on 5-of-19 shooting.
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) 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 Saturday Thursday. 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 364-300 record in 21 seasons at the helm of the Crusader program and a 633-422 record in 32 years overall as a head coach.
The Crusaders have dominated the all-time series with the Penguins, owning a 23-7 advantage over YSU. Valpo has won the last 11 matchups, including all seven since joining the Horizon League. Most recently, the Crusaders defeated Youngstown State at the ARC easily, downing the Penguins 79-55 on Jan. 7. Cory Johnson led all players in that showdown with 26 points, while Brandon Wood scored 17 and Howard Little added 10.
The Road Ahead:
Valpo plays five of its final seven games of the season at home, starting with another weekend pair of games at the ARC next weekend. Detroit visits the Crusaders for a Thursday night showdown, while Wright State follows on Saturday night.
Scouting Youngstown State:
The Penguins enter Saturday night's contest at just 8-14 overall and 2-10 in Horizon League play, but won last time out on Thursday against Butler at home. Vytas Sulskis paces YSU with 12.8 points per game, but is the only Penguin averaging in double figures this season. The Penguins average a league-high 7.8 made 3-pointers per game, with five different players averaging at least one make from deep per contest.
The Crusaders learned Monday that they had earned another national TV appearance as part of the BracketBusters event, as Valpo will host Missouri State live on ESPN2 at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 19. This marks the second time the Crusaders have made a national TV appearance for the BracketBusters game, joining the 2007-2008 squad which hosted Miami (Ohio) on ESPN Classic.
National Poll Watch:
For the first time in almost nine years, the Crusaders are receiving votes in one of the two major national polls. Valpo picked up two points in this week’s edition of the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll to be listed among the others receiving votes. Valpo last made an appearance in one of the national polls in March of 2002, accumulating five points in the last poll prior to the NCAA Tournament that season.
Mid-Major Poll Watch:
Meanwhile, on the mid-major scene, the Crusaders continue to rise in the Mid-Major Top 25. After checking in at #22 last week, Valpo ascended to a season-best #18 in this week’s poll following last Saturday's win over Butler.
All-Access With Valpo:
The Crusaders are currently featured on the CollegeInsider.com All-Access series. The All-Access piece contains conversations with head coach Homer Drew, associate head coach Bryce Drew and a number of players, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at a Crusader practice.
Saturday’s win over the Bulldogs came in the 100th meeting on the hardwood between the two institutions, and was Valpo’s first over Butler since December of 1993. The victory also broke a seven-game losing streak against the Bulldogs since the Crusaders joined the Horizon League prior to the 2007-2008 season.
Looking For a Bye:
While the loss to Cleveland State on Thursday put the Vikings a game and a half up on the Crusaders for first place in the Horizon League standings, Valpo still finds itself in good position to earn a top-two seed and the corresponding double-bye into the semifinals. At 8-3, Valpo is in second place and will play four of the final seven league games at home, including against current third-place squad Wright State.
Winning With Defense:
Valpo has improved its defensive efficiency from 109.4 points per 100 possessions (304th nationally) a year ago to 94.9/100 possessions (63rd 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, while they are 14-1 on the season when holding their opposition 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 65.5 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 just 63.6 ppg against league foes, also third-best.
Getting D Back on Track:
The hallmark of the Valpo team much of this year, the defense has struggled in the last two games. The Crusaders' defensive efficiency was 108.5 in the overtime win over Butler and 106.9 in the loss at Cleveland State on Thursday, just the second time this season Valpo's allowed its opponents more than a point per possession in back-to-back games (Purdue, Toledo).
A Look at RPI:
The Crusaders enter this weekend as one of three Horizon League teams in the top-60 in the nation in RPI. According to WarrenNolan.com, Valpo sits at #52 heading into the Youngstown State game, joining Cleveland State (#26) and Butler (#57) among the nation's best.
Who Needs Rally Caps?:
Valpo nearly rallied from a double-digit deficit Thursday at Cleveland State, something which has been commonplace for the Crusaders in 2010-2011. In fact, the Crusaders are .500 this year in games where they have trailed by 10 or more points at any juncture, going 5-5 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 Saturday ranked 36th nationally with a .474 field goal percentage. The Crusaders have been especially proficient inside the arc, hitting at a .550 clip from two-point range, and have hit at least half of their two-point attempts in 11 of their last 14 games, only failing to do so at Butler (12-of-27), against Green Bay (14-of-34) and at Cleveland State (20-of-48), all of which were losses. 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.
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 Jan. 21 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.
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:
Valparaiso has sold out a pair of games this year - its Dec. 7 game against Purdue and Jan. 29 against Butler - and matched the ARC all-time attendance record in both contests. The attendance of 5,432 for both games tied the mark set on Feb. 5, 2008 when the Crusaders welcomed a sellout crowd for 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. Cory Johnson was tabbed as the league’s Player of the Week Jan. 10 after averaging 23.0 ppg in two league victories for the Crusaders, while Wood was again honored the next week after tallying 21.5 ppg in a pair of league road wins.
Little Steps Up:
Senior Howard Little had a pair of huge shots in the final two minutes of last Saturday's overtime win over Butler with the shot clock running down, and then last time out at Cleveland State with the Crusaders' leading scorers struggling, the senior stepped up and scored a team-high 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting. The senior, who led the Crusaders in scoring for the third time this year, is averaging 9.3 ppg to go along with a team-high 5.1 rpg and ranks third in the Horizon League, shooting at a .535 clip from the floor.
Broekhoff Bombs Away:
Sophomore Ryan Broekhoff has been huge from behind the arc for the Crusaders in the last three ballgames, going 12-for-16 from 3-point range in Valpo's last three contests. The sophomore, who ranks third on the team in scoring with 10.3 ppg, posted a double-double last time out at Cleveland State, posting 15 points and 11 rebounds while also handing out five assists. Broekhoff now leads the league in 3-point percentage, hitting exactly half of his shots from deep, and is hitting at an incredible .610 clip from the 3-point line in Horizon League play.
Wood Leads the Way:
Redshirt junior guard Brandon Wood, who missed the Milwaukee and Green Bay games due to injury, returned to the lineup against Butler and played a big role in the Crusaders’ win, scoring 11 of his 15 points in the second half against the Bulldogs. While he was held to just six points last time out at Cleveland State, he has contributed all over the place for Valpo this season, currently leading the team in scoring (15.5 ppg), assists (3.4 apg) and steals (1.8 spg) and ranking second in rebounding (4.5 rpg). The junior finds himself among the league leaders in a number of categories as well, ranking second in steals, fifth in scoring, seventh in assists and ninth in assist/turnover ratio (1.57).
Kenney Puts Up Big Numbers:
Sophomore Matt Kenney has put together a run of stellar performances since returning from injury. Looking at the last five games, Kenney is averaging 12.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.0 steals per game. Last Saturday against Butler, the sophomore tied for the team high with 16 points, 12 of which came after halftime. In fact, Kenney entered the second half just 3-of-35 from behind the arc on the season, but canned a pair of big 3-pointers to help the Crusader cause. Last time out at CSU, Kenney posted a solid line of six points, eight rebounds and six assists, matching his career high on the boards while setting a new season high in assists.
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 ranks tenth in Valpo history with 134 career steals, 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 .426 is tied for fifth-best in Valpo history. Wood and Johnson both have accumulated 50+ games played for their careers, allowing them to be ranked ninth (16.5 ppg) and 11th (15.5 ppg) on the scoring average chart. Johnson also moved onto the career field-goal percentage chart last month, surpassing 500 career attempts, and currently ranks fifth, shooting at a .528 clip for his career.
Valpo committed just five turnovers at Cleveland State Thursday, its fewest number of miscues since surrendering the ball just five times Feb. 15, 2009 against UIC, also in a loss ... sophomore Erik Buggs connected on just his second 3-pointer of the year late in the first half against the Vikings ... Broekhoff’s double-double was the first of the season by a Crusader and the first since Johnson posted 28 points and 10 rebounds in last year’s regular season finale against Butler.