Valparaiso (21-10, 12-6 Horizon)
Game #32: Tuesday, Mar. 1 - 7 p.m.
Youngstown State (9-20, 2-16 Horizon)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso opens the 2011 Horizon League Men’s Basketball Championship at the ARC on Tuesday evening, as the fourth-seeded Crusaders host ninth-seeded Youngstown State in first round action. Valpo enters this year’s tournament having finished just one game out of first place in the final regular season standings.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso sent seniors Cory Johnson, Howard Little and Michael Rogers out winners in their last regular-season home game at the ARC on Saturday, downing UIC 79-65. Johnson paced the Crusaders with 18 points, while Little scored seven points, grabbed ten rebounds and dished out six assists. Rogers chipped in three points and four rebounds as well.
Following the Crusaders: Every game this season will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with Tuesday'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 Tuesday. 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 in a tie as the sixth-winningest active coach in D-I men’s basketball. Drew enters Tuesday's game with a 369-303 record in 21 seasons at the helm of the Crusader program and a 638-425 record in 32 years overall as a head coach.
Series Notes: The Crusaders have dominated the all-time series with the Penguins, owning a 24-7 advantage over YSU. Valpo has won the last 12 matchups, including all eight since joining the Horizon League. The Crusaders beat YSU in both meetings this year, earning a 79-55 win at the ARC on Jan. 7 before having to go overtime to beat the Penguins, 86-78, in Youngstown on Feb. 5. Valpo is also 2-0 all-time against YSU in postseason play, defeating the Penguins in the 1995 Mid-Con Semifinals and 1998 Mid-Con Championship.
The Road Ahead: With a win Tuesday, the Crusaders would face either fifth-seeded Detroit or eighth-seeded Loyola in Milwaukee on Friday night. A semifinal matchup against the top seed and host Panthers would await Saturday evening, with the championship game set for Tuesday night.
Scouting Youngstown State: The Penguins enter the league tournament at 9-20 overall this year and just 2-16 in Horizon League action to earn the ninth seed. Vytas Sulskis leads YSU with 13.1 ppg and also grabs 5.3 rpg, while All-Newcomer Team honoree Damian Eargle averages 11.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg and a league-high 3.0 bpg.
Best League Finish: Valparaiso concluded the 2010-2011 Horizon League regular season at 12-6, its best finish in league action since making the move prior to the 2007-2008 season. The Crusaders’ fourth seed for the league championship also marks their best seed for the league’s postseason tournament.
Finishing Near the Top: Valpo also finished just one game back of a three-way tie atop the league standings, the closest its been to the top spot since winning the Mid-Con title in 2003-2004. The Crusaders were also the only squad in the league to have beaten all three of the teams that tied for the title.
Crusaders All-Time in the HL Championship: Valpo owns a 2-3 record in its first three years in the Horizon League in the league’s postseason tournament, and is hosting a first-round game for the third time in four years. In 2007-2008, as the sixth seed, Valpo defeated #7 Green Bay at home (75-67) and #3 Wright State in Indianapolis (72-67) before falling to #2 Cleveland State (78-73). In 2008-2009, the ninth-seeded Crusaders lost a first-round game at #4 Wright State (68-56). Last year, Valpo again was the sixth seed, but dropped a matchup at the ARC to #7 Detroit (89-82).
Home Cooking: 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, and has at least one more chance with Tuesday’s first-round HL Championship matchup. Valpo is currently 12-3 at the ARC this year after Saturday’s win and is now 245-109 (.692) all-time at the ARC, including a 192-44 (.814) mark over the last 17-plus years at home. With one more win at home, the Crusaders would match their second-highest win total at the ARC.
20 Wins, 10 Times: The Crusaders’ Feb. 19 win over Missouri State gave Valpo its 20th win of the season, the tenth time the Crusaders have reached the 20-win milestone under Homer Drew. However, it marks just the second time in the last eight years that Valpo has won at least 20 games, joining the 2007-2008 squad which came out ahead on 22 occasions.
Winning With Defense: Valpo has improved its defensive efficiency from 109.4 points per 100 possessions (304th nationally) a year ago to 97.5/100 possessions (93rd nationally) this year, a big key to their 21 wins so far this year. Eight times this year, the Crusaders have held a D-I opponent to 60 points or fewer, while they are 17-2 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 66.9 ppg overall and just 66.7 ppg in league action.
Higher Numbers on Both Sides: If it seems like the Crusaders’ scores on both sides of the scoreboard have been higher lately, it’s because they have been. Over the season’s first 21 games, Valpo scored 72.2 ppg and surrendered just 64.4 ppg. But over the last ten games, the Crusaders have averaged 73.9 ppg and given up 72.3 ppg.
A Look at RPI: The Crusaders enter the league tournament as one of four Horizon League teams in the top-100 in the nation in RPI. According to the latest figures from WarrenNolan.com, Valpo sits at #71 heading into the UIC game, joining Cleveland State (#37), Butler (#45) and Milwaukee (#98) among the nation's top-100 squads.
Who Needs Rally Caps?: Valparaiso has flipped a number of games in its favor this season after trailing by double digits. In fact, the Crusaders are just below .500 this year in games where they have trailed by 10 or more points at any juncture, going 6-8 in such contests, and have actually led after trailing by 10+ points in three of the losses. On the flip side, they are 18-3 in games where they have led by 10 or more points. In addition, Valpo has overcome nine-point deficits in a pair of games in the last month as well.
Sharp Shooters From Inside: Valpo has cemented itself as one of the best shooting teams in the nation this year, entering this weekend 19th nationally with a .476 field goal percentage. The Crusaders have been especially proficient inside the arc, hitting at a .556 clip from two-point range, good for third nationally. Valpo has hit at least half of their two-point attempts in 17 of its last 21 games. Among Valpo’s nine-man rotation, eight players are hitting at least 50% from inside the arc this season.
Working Extra Time: Three of Valpo’s league games in the second half of Horizon League action required an overtime session to decide, with the Crusaders now 3-1 in overtime games this year within league play and 3-2 overall this season when playing extra time. Valpo’s five 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.
National Poll Watch: For the first time in almost nine years, the Crusaders have received votes in one of the two major national polls. Valpo did not receive votes this week in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, the first time the Crusaders have not been listed among the others receiving votes in the last five polls. Prior to this season, 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.
BracketBuster: Valparaiso earned its second televised appearance in seven years as part of the Sears BracketBusters series this year, and made the most of it with its win over Missouri State Feb. 19 on ESPN2. The commentary was provided by Dave O’Brien and Dick Vitale, with the latter doing his first BracketBusters game ever for ESPN. The ARC also marked the smallest venue Vitale has broadcast from in his 32 years at ESPN, but he was definitely impressed, remarking near the end of the broadcast, “These fans have been on fire from the moment we sat here...they gave them an edge today, a great home-court feel. This is truly home court.”
On the Worldwide Leader: The win over the Bears marked the Crusaders’ 11th appearance on the ESPN family of networks over the last four seasons, and is the third time in that time span that ESPN2 has carried a game live from the ARC (2/5/08 - Butler; 3/1/08 - Wright State). Earlier this season, Valpo hosted Purdue on ESPNU from the ARC, while the Crusaders have also made three appearances this year in games broadcast exclusively on ESPN3.com.
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.
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 three games this year - Dec. 7 against Purdue, Jan. 29 against Butler and Feb. 19 against Missouri State - and matched the ARC all-time attendance record in the first two 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.
Crusaders Finish Where They Were Picked: Valpo closed the regular season in fourth place, matching its placement in the Horizon League preseason poll. Butler topped the preseason rankings and ended the regular season in a tie for first with Cleveland State (picked third) and Milwaukee (picked fifth).
Oh Captain My Captain: The Crusaders have a pair of captains on their squad for the 2010-2011 season. Cory Johnson and Howard Little are serving 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.
All-League Honoree: Redshirt junior guard Brandon Wood represented the Crusaders as a First Team All-League selection as the league’s postseason awards were announced Monday. Wood, who also was on the preseason First Team, becomes the first Valpo player to earn a First Team nod since the Crrusaders moved to the Horizon League.
Wood Leads the Way: Wood has scored in double figures in 22 of his 28 games this season and ranks fourth in the league, averaging 16.2 points per game. Wood has scored at least 20 points in three of the last five games and nine times overall this year. The junior currently leads the team in scoring, assists (3.3 apg) and steals (1.7 spg) and ranks third in rebounding (4.3 rpg). Wood finds himself among the league leaders in a number of categories outside scoring as well, ranking second in steals and seventh in assists.
Hitting 1,000: With a 3-pointer with 4:24 to play in the first half at Green Bay last Monday, Wood became the 30th player in Valpo history to score 1,000 career points. Wood is also just the fourth Crusader in program history to reach the 1K milestone in just their second season of play, and enters Tuesday’s game with 1,035 career points, a Valpo record through two seasons. Dick Jones (1,020 pts, 1965-1967), John Meyne (1,013 pts, 1982-1984) and Dave Redmon (1,005 pts, 1992-1994) are the only other Crusaders to reach 1,000 in their first two seasons.
Little Bit of Everything: While senior Howard Little recently had a string of 11 straight games scoring at least nine points broken, he put together a stellar all-around game on Senior Night Saturday. Little, who tied the school record for career games played, approached a triple-double in the win over UIC, scoring seven points, grabbing ten rebounds and handing out six assists. It was the second time this season and fifth time in his career the senior has recorded at least 10 rebounds in a game, as he leads the Crusaders this year with 4.9 rpg. Little, who also averages 9.7 ppg, is third in the league in field goal percentage, hitting at a .546 clip from the floor this year.
Johnson in the Post: Fifth-year senior Cory Johnson scored in double figures for his team-leading 23rd time on Saturday evening, putting up a team-high 18 points on Senior Night against UIC. Johnson, who also tied his career high with three blocked shots against the Flames, currently ranks second on the team with 14.2 ppg and hits at a .569 clip inside the arc on the season.
Cracking the Career Charts...: A number of Crusaders have already cracked Valpo’s career charts in different categories. Little tied Brandon McPherson’s career games played record of 129 last time out and will break it against YSU Tuesday, barring injury. Michael Rogers is also moving up the same list, currently sitting in a tie for fifth with 125 career games. Little has also tallied 145 career steals, good for eighth in Valpo history and just five thefts shy of Jamie Sykes in seventh place. Ryan Broekhoff’s career 3-point percentage of .423 is tied for sixth in Crusader history. Wood and Johnson are ranked ninth (17.0 ppg) and 11th (14.9 ppg) on the scoring average chart, while Johnson is also tied for sixth in career field goal percentage, shooting at a .522 clip.
...and the Single-Season Charts: Nearing the end of the season, a number of players are also threatening the single-season charts. Broekhoff’s current 3-point percentage of .472 would place him fifth in a season all-time. Broekhoff is also just four blocked shots and 11 3-pointers outside the top-10s in those respective categories. Wood moved into a tie for ninth place for single-season steals last week, and his total of 50 is just 13 shy of Valpo’s record of 63. In addition, both Rogers/Little are less than 2% away from cracking the single-season field goal percentage chart, with tenth place currently at .565.