Valparaiso (6-2, 1-0 Horizon)
Game #9: Wednesday, Dec. 7 - 6 p.m. CST
at IPFW (3-3, 1-1 Summit)
Memorial Coliseum (5,800) - Fort Wayne, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso concludes a three-game road trip Wednesday evening as the Crusaders travel southeast to Fort Wayne to face off against IPFW. Valpo looks to carry the momentum from Saturday’s overtime win at Butler into Wednesday’s contest as it aims to improve to 7-2 on the season.
Last Time Out: A 3-point play by junior Matt Kenney with 32 seconds to play in overtime was the clinching play for Valparaiso as the Crusaders downed Butler in the Horizon League opener in Indianapolis on Saturday, 77-71. The win was Valpo’s first over Butler in Hinkle Fieldhouse since 1988. Five Valpo players in all scored in double figures, with Richie Edwards leading the way off the bench with 18 points.
Following the Crusaders: Every game this season will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with Wednesday'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 20th season on play-by-play, while Aaron Leavitt will join him on color commentary Wednesday. A link to the live audio webcast, as well as a link to live statistics, will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com.
Head Coach Bryce Drew: Bryce Drew made his head coaching debut at Arizona on Nov. 7, as he was named the 21st head coach in the history of the Valparaiso men’s basketball program on May 17, 2011. Just the fourth new head coach to grace the Crusader sidelines in the last 31 years, Drew had spent the last six seasons as a member of the Crusader coaching staff before earning the head position. He famously hit the game-winning shot against Ole Miss for Valpo in the first round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament to cap an illustrious Crusader career, before going on to a seven-year professional career, six of which were spent in the NBA.
Series Notes: Valpo has dominated the all-time series against IPFW, holding an 8-2 advantage entering Wednesday’s matchup. The Crusaders won the first seven games in the series before the Mastodons captured back-to-back games. Most recently, Valpo held IPFW to just 26% shooting and led from start to finish in a 63-47 victory at the ARC on Dec. 18, 2010. Kevin Van Wijk led the Crusaders with 16 points in just 19 minutes off the bench, while Brandon Wood added 12 and Cory Johnson 11.
The Road Ahead: The Crusaders return home to the ARC for a pair of home games bookending the final exam period, taking on Bowling Green on Dec. 10 and Oakland on Dec. 17. Valpo then has two more non-league matchups prior to the Christmas holiday, traveling to face Northern Illinois on Dec. 20 and IUPUI at Conseco Fieldhouse on Dec. 23.
Scouting IPFW: The Mastodons enter Wednesday’s contest at 3-3 overall and split their opening weekend of Summit League play, falling 81-66 to UMKC before downing South Dakota, 92-87. IPFW features one of the nation’s leading scorers in junior guard Frank Gaines, who is averaging 23.3 points per game on the year. Senior forward Trey McCorkle is the only other Mastodon in double figures, posting 13.5 ppg to go with a team-best 7.7 rpg.
Working Extra Time: For the first time this season, Valparaiso required overtime, as the Crusaders were tied at 64 with Butler at the end of regulation Saturday before going on to the 77-71 victory. This comes one season after the Crusaders played five overtime games, four of which were league contests (3-1 record). Ironically, Valpo’s Horizon League opener last season also went overtime, as the Crusaders downed UIC on the road in OT, 68-66.
Big Win at Hinkle: Not only will Valpo be 1-0 in league play for a four-week stretch thanks to the win over Butler, it also signified to the Crusaders that they could defeat the Bulldogs in Hinkle Fieldhouse. The win over Butler on its home court was Valpo’s first since joining the Horizon League and the first by the Crusaders since Feb. 3, 1988. The Crusaders did previously win a neutral-site game over Wright State in the HL Championship quarterfinal in 2008. Valpo now owns wins in eight of the nine other HL venues since joining the league, remaining winless only at the Wolstein Center (Cleveland State).
Starting League Play on the Road: Since the Crusaders joined the Horizon League prior to the 2007-2008 season, league play has opened with one weekend in early December. For the fifth straight year, Valpo played that opening weekend on the road, but the Crusaders haven’t let that stop them from generally experiencing success in the early going. Following the overtime win over Butler Saturday, Valpo owns a 6-2 record in the five years of opening weekend play, including a pair of two-game road sweeps.
Tournament Success: The Crusaders won the Valparaiso Subregional of the 2K Sports Classic last weekend, continuing their success in in-season tournaments over the last couple years. Last season saw Valpo take the Upper Division Championship of the Las Vegas Invitational by defeating Northern Colorado and Texas A&M-CC, as well as the Lou Henson Award Tournament with wins over Eastern Michigan and Oakland.
Quick Start to the Season: Valpo’s win over Butler last Saturday pushed the Crusaders’ record to 6-2, as Valpo has lost to just a pair of ranked teams in Arizona and Ohio State so far this season. Starting the season with at least six wins in their first eight games has been a good omen for the Crusaders over the last decade. This season marks the fourth time in the last 11 seasons that Valpo has won at least six games before suffering its third loss, and in each of the previous three seasons (2001-02, 2007-08, 2010-11) the Crusaders ended up advancing to a postseason tournament.
Valpo Tabbed Fifth in Preseason Poll: Valparaiso was picked to finish in fifth place in the Horizon League preseason poll conducted of the league’s coaches, sports information directors, and media members. The Crusaders tallied 255 points in the polling. Preseason league favorite Butler received 28 of the 50 first-place votes, while Detroit was picked second and received 19 first-place votes. Cleveland State (2 first-place votes) and Milwaukee (1 first-place vote) were chosen third and fourth ahead of the Crusaders, while Green Bay was just behind Valpo in sixth position. Youngstown State, Wright State, Loyola and UIC rounded out the polling in order.
A Look Back at 2010-2011: Valparaiso is coming off of its tenth postseason appearance in the last 16 seasons, having earned a berth into the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT) last season. The Crusaders won 23 total games in 2010-2011, their greatest number of victories since the 2001-2002 season. Valpo also went 12-6 in Horizon League, posting its best record in league play since entering the HL and finishing just one game out of a share of the regular season title.
A Lot to Replace: The Crusaders have a lot of production to replace entering the 2011-2012 season, as they lost 60.5% of their scoring from last year’s squad, as well as more than 40% of their rebounding, assists and steals from a season ago. Cory Johnson (Second Team All-HL in 2009-2010; 14.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG), Howard Little (Valpo’s all-time leader in games played and eighth all-time in steals; 9.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG) and Michael Rogers (5.0 PPG, 3.1 RPG) all were graduating seniors on last year’s team, while Brandon Wood (Two-time All-HL honoree, First Team honoree in 2010-2011; 16.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.1 APG) graduated following his junior season of eligibility and transferred to Michigan State.
What They Have Back: Even with the losses, Valpo still has eight letterwinners returning from a season ago, including a pair of starters in junior Ryan Broekhoff (10.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 44.8% 3PT) and redshirt junior Erik Buggs (3.1 APG). Junior Matt Kenney (6.0 PPG, 3.9 RPG) averaged over 23 minutes a game off the bench last year, while sophomore Jay Harris (5.1 PPG) and junior Kevin Van Wijk (5.1 PPG) each played at least 13 minutes a contest as well. In addition, Tommy Kurth returns after sitting out last season as a medical redshirt.
Home Court Advantage: With 15 regular season home games slated for the ARC this year, Valparaiso has plenty of opportunities to utilize its home court advantage. After the sweep of their first four home games, the Crusaders own a 250-110 (.694) all-time record at the ARC, including a 197-45 (.814) mark over the last 18-plus years at home. The Crusaders have also finished above .500 on their home court in each of the last 18 years.
High-Scoring Coaching Staff: Valparaiso boasts the third-highest scoring coaching staff in Division I basketball, as judged by points scored by the core four coaches at the Division I level. Head coach Bryce Drew scored 2,142 points at Valpo, while assistant coach Jake Diebler scored 826 points as a Crusader. Assistant coach Roger Powell Jr. added 1,178 points during his time at Illinois. Valpo’s total of 4,146 Division I points trails just Tennessee and Auburn.
A Lonely Banner: Each year’s senior class has banners hung inside the ARC during their senior season, but this season, there is just one men’s basketball banner hanging from the rafters. Walk-on guard Nick Shelton is the lone member of this year’s senior class.
Calling All Captains: With no scholarship seniors on this year’s squad, Valpo looks to a trio of juniors to lead the way as the captains for the 2011-2012 team. Ryan Broekhoff, Erik Buggs and Matt Kenney will share the captaincy this season.
A Short Bench: Valpo currently has just nine scholarship players available to step on the court. Bobby Capobianco must sit out the entire season after transferring to Valpo from Indiana, while Ben Boggs has to sit out at least the first semester after arriving at Valpo at the semester break last year from Virginia Tech. Meanwhile, Vashil Fernandez remains unavailable pending a ruling from the NCAA on his status.
Who Needs 3’s?: The Crusaders proved they didn’t need the 3-pointer to win their game Nov. 18 against Akron. Valpo went 0-for-14 from behind the arc, but went 19-for-32 inside the arc and 24-for-38 from the foul line in the victory. In fact, all 19 of Valpo’s baskets against the Zips came in the paint.
Getting Defensive: Valpo surrendered just 38 points to Holy Cross on Nov. 14, holding the Saints to just 23.3% shooting from the floor. The 38 points allowed was the least by a Crusader squad since Valpo pulled out a 35-33 nailbiter against Green Bay on Jan. 21, 1984.
Proficiency Inside the Arc: Valparaiso’s success shooting from 2-point range has carried over into the 2011-2012 season. Last season, the Crusaders finished the year hitting 55.3% of their 2-point attempts, good for third nationally. So far this year, Valpo has connected at an even better clip from inside, knocking down 57.6% of its tries from inside the arc, which currently ranks fourth nationally. In fact, of Valpo’s nine scholarship players, eight are hitting at least half of their 2-point attempts.
Getting to the Line: Valpo has proven to be one of the most proficient teams in the early going of the season at getting to the free throw line. Valpo currently ranks 35th nationally with 207 total free throw attempts through eight games. Valpo is also connecting at a .710 clip from the stripe, hitting 147 free throws to date, just 11 shy of the number that Crusaders’ opponents have atttempted.
A Double-Double Machine: Junior Ryan Broekhoff has proven to be a force not only in the scoring column, but also on the glass in the early going this season. Through eight games, the Australian native has picked up four double-doubles, including a 13-point, 12-rebound effort last time out in the overtime win at Butler. Broekhoff is tied for the team lead, averaging 14.1 points per game, which is tied for fourth in the league. But his work on the boards has been perhaps most impressive, as he paces the Horizon League with 9.6 rebounds per game, one of just two players averaging better than 7.5 rpg. In fact, Broekhoff averages more defensive rebounds (7.4/game) than all but two other league players average in total rebounds.
Edwards Heats Up: Junior college transfer Richie Edwards had a big impact in the Crusaders’ overtime victory over Butler last Saturday. In 23 minutes off the bench, including the last seven minutes of regulation and all five minutes in overtime, Edwards paced Valpo with 18 points on 6-of-13 shooting and 6-of-8 from the free throw line. His turnaround jumper with under 90 seconds to play in overtime gave Valpo a four-point lead. On the season, Edwards has scored in double figures in three of his five contests, and would rank ninth in the Horizon League in scoring (12.8 ppg) had he played enough games to qualify.
Buggs Gets to the Basket: Redshirt junior Erik Buggs is known more for his speed and tenacious defense than for scoring the basketball, but he proved to be a key offensively in the win over Butler. Buggs got to the basket for five layups, hitting 5-of-8 from the floor, and also went 3-of-4 from the foul line for a season-high 13 points. He didn’t just get the job done shooting the ball either, as the junior tied his season high with five assists and also picked up a season-best three steals.
Fighting Down Low: Junior Kevin Van Wijk continues to rank among the Horizon League leaders in numerous categories. Van Wijk, who posted 10 points in the win over Butler, is fourth in the league in scoring (14.1 ppg) and fifth in rebounding (7.0 rpg). Perhaps most impressive has been his accuracy shooting the ball, as the native of the Netherlands has connected on 33 of his 51 field goal attempts, good for a league-best .647 shooting percentage. He also is one of the best players nationally at getting to the free throw line, as Van Wijk has taken nearly as many free throws (50) as field goals (51), giving him a free throw rate of 98.03, which ranks fourth nationally.