#-/RV Valparaiso (17-7, 9-3 Horizon)
Game #25: Thursday, Feb. 10 - 7:05 p.m.
Detroit (14-12, 8-6 Horizon)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso puts first place on the line yet again Thursday evening when the Crusaders return home to the ARC to host Detroit. Valpo closes the regular season with five of its last seven games at home.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso rallied from a 10-point deficit with nine minutes to play and recovered after a Youngstown State buzzer-beater to end regulation, as the Crusaders eventually earned an 86-78 overtime victory over the Penguins Saturday evening in Youngstown, Ohio. Brandon Wood led all players with 31 points, a Horizon League season-high in league play.
Following the Crusaders: Every game this season will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with Thursday'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 former Crusader Rob Cavanaugh will make a special appearance as color commentator 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 365-300 record in 21 seasons at the helm of the Crusader program and a 634-422 record in 32 years overall as a head coach.
Series Notes: In a series that dates back to the early 1920s, the Crusaders and Titans have met just 14 times on the hardwood, with each squad coming out on top seven times. Valpo owns a 5-3 edge over Detroit since joining the Horizon League, including a 78-68 victory in Detroit in the last meeting on Jan. 16. Wood paced the Crusaders with 17 points in that matchup, while Matt Kenney posted 16 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
The Road Ahead: Valpo hosts Wright State Saturday night before hitting the road to Milwaukee for a matchup next Wednesday evening. The Crusaders then return to the ARC to host Missouri State in the annual BracketBusters game on ESPN on Saturday, Feb. 19.
Scouting Detroit: The Titans, who are on a three-game winning streak, enter Thursday’s game at 14-12 overall and 8-6 in Horizon League play, in sixth place in the league standings. Five Detroit players average in double figures in the scoring column, led by 14.0 ppg from freshman Ray McCallum, who also averages 4.9 apg. Eli Holman has averaged a double-double in the post for the Titans as well, posting 11.7 ppg and 10.0 rpg.
Back In Front: After losing to Cleveland State last Thursday, the Crusaders found themselves 1 1/2 games back of the Vikings in the HL standings. But with a win at Youngstown State Saturday and losses by CSU in its last two games, Valpo now is virtually tied with both Cleveland State and Wright State atop the league table and leads both squads in winning percentage. In fact, the Crusaders are alone in the loss column with just three defeats in league play and control their own destiny.
BracketBuster Matchup: The Crusaders learned last week 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 for the second consecutive week. 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 year.
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 (66th nationally) this year, a big key to their 17 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 66.0 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 64.8 ppg against league foes, also third-best.
Getting D Back on Track: The hallmark of the Valpo team much of this year, the defense struggled in the last two games before recovering against YSU. The Crusaders' defensive efficiency was 108.5 in the overtime win over Butler Jan. 29 and 106.9 in the loss at Cleveland State last 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). But Saturday at YSU, Valpo got its defensive efficiency back to normal, posting a 94.0 in the win over the Penguins.
A Look at RPI: The Crusaders enter this week as one of three Horizon League teams in the top-60 in the nation in RPI. According to WarrenNolan.com, Valpo sits at #57 heading into the Detroit game, joining Cleveland State (#39) and Butler (#50) among the nation's best.
Who Needs Rally Caps?: Yet again last Saturday, Valparaiso flipped a game in its favor after trailing by double digits, overcoming a deficit as large as 12 points and which was 10 points with just 9:09 to play. 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 6-5 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 this week ranked 30th 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 12 of their last 15 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.
Stop, Thief!: The Crusaders lead the league and rank 36th nationally with an average of 8.3 steals/game this season, and have proven very consistent as pickpockets throughout the year. In 23 of 24 games, Valpo has tallied at least six steals, with the only exception being when the Crusaders registered just four at Kansas. Valpo’s streak of 22 straight games with at least six steals currently ranks second nationally, behind a streak of 28 straight by Louisville.
Working Extra Time: Each of Valpo’s last two league wins (Butler, @YSU) has required an overtime session to decide, moving the Crusaders’ record to 3-0 in league play and 3-1 overall this season when playing extra time. Valpo’s four overtime games this year are the most in a single season by a Crusader squad since the 1992-1993 team played eight overtime games, tied for the NCAA single-season record.
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 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.
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: 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.
Wood Goes Off: Redshirt junior guard Brandon Wood had the biggest game by a Horizon League player in league play so far this season last time out at Youngstown State. Wood hit 11-of-21 from the floor, including a trio of 3-pointer, en route to 31 points in the Crusaders’ overtime win. The junior also posted five rebounds and four assists and tied his career high with four steals. Wood has contributed all over the place for Valpo this season, currently leading the team in scoring (16.2 ppg), assists (3.5 apg) and steals (1.9 spg) and ranking third 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 and seventh in assists.
Little Steps Up: Senior Howard Little had a pair of huge shots in the final two minutes of Jan. 29's overtime win over Butler with the shot clock running down, and then has reached double figures in each of the last two games, leading Valpo with 17 points at Cleveland State before tallying 11 in the OT win at Youngstown State. The senior, who has led the Crusaders in scoring three times this year, is averaging 9.4 ppg to go along with a team-high 5.1 rpg and ranks third in the Horizon League, shooting at a .530 clip from the floor.
Broekhoff Bombs Away: Sophomore Ryan Broekhoff has been huge from behind the arc for the Crusaders recently, going 14-for-21 from 3-point range in Valpo's last four games. The sophomore, who ranks third on the team in scoring with 10.4 ppg, registered his first two career double-doubles last week, posting 15 points and 11 rebounds at Cleveland State (along with five assists) before going for 11 points and a Valpo season-high 14 rebounds in the OT win at Youngstown State. Broekhoff now leads the league in 3-point percentage, hitting at a .495 clip from downtown, and is shooting at an incredible .587 clip from the 3-point line in Horizon League play.
Kenney Puts Up Big Numbers: Sophomore Matt Kenney has put together a run of stellar performances since returning from injury. Looking at the last six games, Kenney is averaging 12.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.8 steals per game. After scoring in double figures in just two of his first 11 games of the year, Kenney has reached double figures in five of the last six games, including a 10-point effort in just 16 minutes last time out in the OT win over YSU. The sophomore has matched his career high for rebounding with eight twice during the stretch, while also setting a new season high last Thursday with six assists at Cleveland State.
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 137 career steals, just one theft behind Tracy Gipson for ninth place, 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 (17.1 ppg) and 11th (15.3 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 .529 clip for his career.
Quickly: Valpo’s 40 free throw attempts Saturday at Youngstown State were the most since attempting 45 in Horizon League Championship first round action against Green Bay on Mar. 4, 2008 ... the Crusaders out-rebounded YSU 45-32, their fourth double-digit advantage on the boards in league play this year ... Valpo dominated points in the paint (46-20) and second-chance points (20-2) against the Penguins.