Valparaiso (6-3, 1-0 Horizon)
Game #10: Saturday, Dec. 10 - 7:05 p.m. CST
Bowling Green (5-3, 0-0 MAC)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso returns home to the ARC for the first time in three weeks Saturday evening as the Crusaders host Bowling Green State University. Valpo is looking to rebound after suffering a road defeat at IPFW Wednesday night.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso erased a 14-point first-half deficit to take a one-point lead with 14 minutes to play Wednesday evening in Fort Wayne, Ind., but IPFW scored the next five points to reclaim the lead for good and rode 60.8% shooting from the floor as the Crusaders fell by a final of 85-76. Four Valpo players finished the night in double figures in the scoring column, paced by 20 points from junior Ryan Broekhoff.
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 20th season on play-by-play, while Keaton Gillogly will join him on color commentary Saturday. As always with every home game, there will be a live free video webcast through the Horizon League Network as well. Links to the live audio and video webcasts, as well as a link to live statistics and the Valpo Gameday page, 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: A series that dates back over 65 years, Valparaiso has taken on Bowling Green just eight times on the hardwood over that span. It has been the Falcons who have won all eight meetings, however, in four different locales. The last matchup was arranged out of the BracketBuster pool of teams on Feb. 20, 2010 in Bowling Green, a game that the Falcons won 87-70. BGSU placed all five starters in double figures, led by 20 points from Dee Brown. Brandon McPherson led the way for Valpo with 16 points and seven assists.
The Road Ahead: The Crusaders stay at home for the final exam period next week, capping the week with a game against former Mid-Con rival Oakland on Saturday, Dec. 17. Valpo then closes out the bulk of non-league play with a pair of road games before Christmas, taking on Northern Illinois on Dec. 20 and IUPUI at Conseco Fieldhouse on Dec. 23.
Scouting Bowling Green: The Falcons enter Saturday’s game at 5-3 on the season after an 87-44 victory over Malone University (D-II) on Wednesday evening. However, BGSU has dropped both its road games, losing at Georgia and Western Kentucky. Bowling Green has defeated the only Horizon League team it has faced, beating Detroit 67-61. The Falcons score just 66 points per game, but give up only 61 a contest. Scott Thomas leads the team averaging 11.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, while A’uston Calhoun posts 10.9 points and 6.0 rebounds per game.
Defense Wanted: The Crusaders shot better than 50% from the floor Wednesday at IPFW, normally a good recipe for a win, especially considering Valpo entered the night allowing opponents to hit just 39.9% of their field goal attempts. But unfortunately for the Crusaders, they gave up 85 points, as the Mastodons shot 60.8% from the floor, including 58.3% from behind the 3-point line. The field goal percentage was the highest by a Valpo opponent since Cleveland State shot 61.0% on Feb. 26, 2009, while the 3-point percentage was the highest given up by the Crusaders since UIC connected on 63.2% from behind the arc on Feb. 15, 2009.
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 58.4% of its tries from inside the arc, which currently ranks second nationally. In fact, of Valpo’s nine scholarship players, seven are hitting at least half of their 2-point attempts. Despite losing on Wednesday, the Crusaders maintained their inside success, knocking down 21-of-34 (61.8%) of their 2-point attempts.
BracketBuster: Saturday’s game is the back end of a home-and-home series arranged through the annual BracketBuster event’s pool of mid-major teams. The Crusaders played at Bowling Green two years ago. Since the event’s inception, Valpo is 2-3 on the back end of the series, defeating Niagara and Western Michigan while losing to Butler, Akron and Miami.
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 last 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).
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.
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.
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 nine games, the Australian native has picked up four double-doubles, including a 13-point, 12-rebound effort last Saturday in the overtime win at Butler. Following his 20-point effort at IPFW on Wednesday, Broekhoff leads the Crusaders with 14.8 ppg, good for third in the league. But his work on the boards has been perhaps most impressive, as he paces the Horizon League with 9.0 rebounds per game, one of just two players averaging better than 7.3 rpg. In fact, Broekhoff averages more defensive rebounds (7.0/game) than all but three other league players average in total rebounds.
Fighting Down Low: Junior Kevin Van Wijk continues to rank among the Horizon League leaders in numerous categories. Van Wijk, who posted 15 points last time out against IPFW, is fifth in the league in scoring (14.3 ppg) and third in rebounding (7.3 rpg). Perhaps most impressive has been his accuracy shooting the ball, as the native of the Netherlands has connected on 39 of his 60 field goal attempts, good for a league-best .650 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 (57) as field goals (60), giving him a free throw rate of 95.0, which ranks fifth nationally.
Bogan Delivers From Downtown: Redshirt junior Will Bogan is starting to heat up from behind the arc for the Crusaders. Bogan has connected on 3-of-7 attempts from downtown in each of Valpo’s last two games (Butler/IPFW), giving him three games with at least three triples made this season. The Ole Miss transfer currently leads the Crusaders, connecting on 36.4% of his 3-point tries this year, and is just outside the league’s top-five in 3-pointers made per game.