Valparaiso (7-4, 1-0 Horizon)
Game #12: Tuesday, Dec. 20 - 7 p.m.
at Northern Illinois (0-10, 0-0 MAC)
NIU Convocation Center (9,100) - DeKalb, Ill.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso starts its final week of non-league play Tuesday evening as the Crusaders travel to DeKalb, Ill. to take on Northern Illinois. Valpo is looking to improve to 3-0 against the MAC this year, having already defeated Akron and Bowling Green this season.
Last Time Out: Oakland’s Reggie Hamilton hit a buzzer-beating shot from the top of the key as Valparaiso fell to the Golden Grizzlies at the ARC Saturday evening, 82-80. The loss was the first for the Crusaders this season at home in six games. The jumper at the buzzer capped a 41-point performance from Hamilton. Despite Hamilton’s scoring exploits, however, the Crusaders had a chance to run the clock down for the final shot, but Valpo got called for a travel with 4.6 seconds remaining. Ryan Broekhoff posted a double-double (18 pts, 12 reb) while Kevin Van Wijk scored a team-best 22 points.
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), WEFM (95.9 FM, Michigan City) and WJOB (1230 AM, Hammond). Todd Ickow is back for his 20th season on play-by-play, while Keaton Gillogly will join him on color commentary Tuesday. 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: In a series which dates all the way back to 1927, NIU holds a 14-9 advantage over the Crusaders. But it’s Valpo which has won seven of the last eight contests, including most recently a 78-67 win at the ARC on Nov. 30, 2002. Raitis Grafs paced Valpo in that contest with 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting, while Kikas Gomes went 6-of-7 from the floor for 16 points. The Crusaders shot 56.3% from the floor in that win.
The Road Ahead: Valpo closes out the bulk of non-league play with a game two days before Christmas, traveling down to Indianapolis for the second time this month to face IUPUI at Conseco Fieldhouse. Following the holiday, the Crusaders return home to the ARC to start up the meat of the Horizon League slate with games against Milwaukee (Dec. 29) and Green Bay (Dec. 31).
Scouting Northern Illinois: The Huskies enter Tuesday night’s game still looking for their first victory of the season, as they own an 0-10 record on the year. NIU has faced two other Horizon League teams so far this season and has played them both tough, however, losing by just two points to Milwaukee and by just seven points at UIC. Tim Toler is the only NIU player averaging in double figures, scoring 11.6 points per game, while he also leads the Huskies in rebounding (5.9 rpg).
Looking for the MAC Sweep: Valparaiso enters Tuesday’s game with a chance to earn a sweep over each of the three Mid-American Conference opponents on its schedule this season. The Crusaders previously defeated both Akron and Bowling Green at the ARC. If the Crusaders can finish 3-0 against the MAC this year, it will be the first time since the 2007-2008 season, when Valpo defeated Western Michigan, Ball State and Miami (Ohio), that they have closed a year perfect against the MAC.
Raining Down 3’s: Saturday’s game against Oakland featured quite the shooting performance from long distance on both sides, as both the Crusaders and the Golden Grizzlies canned 11 3-pointers on the night while shooting at better than a 40% clip from deep. Six different players connected on multiple trifectas on the night. It was the first time that both Valpo and its opponent have hit at least 11 triples since Jan. 29, 2010 at Milwaukee, when the Crusaders hit 12 and the Panthers 13 3-pointers.
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 59.6% of its tries from inside the arc, and leads the nation in the category. In fact, of Valpo’s nine scholarship players, seven are hitting at least half of their 2-point attempts. Against Oakland, the Crusaders shot better than 50% inside the arc for the ninth time in their 11 games, hitting 16-of-28 (57.1%).
Hitting the Boards: The Crusaders have held a significant edge in the rebounding department over their opponents so far this year. Valpo gives up a league-lowest 31.3 rebounds per game to the opposition and is out-rebounding opponents by over five boards per contest on the season. Ryan Broekhoff leads the way on the boards with a league-best 9.3 rebounds per game, while Kevin Van Wijk averages 6.9 rebounds per game as well.
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. Despite the loss to Oakland on Saturday, the Crusaders are still 5-1 at home this year and now own a 251-111 (.693) all-time record at the ARC, including a 198-46 (.811) 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.
Shots From the Heart: Both Valpo head coach Bryce Drew and assistant coach Roger Powell Jr. are participating in the 2nd Annual Shots From the Heart Tournament, in benefit of the Skip Prosser Foundation. The tournament was started last year to help create more awareness for the growing problem of heart disease, and consists of two 64-coach fields (one bracket of head coaches and one bracket of assistant coaches) participating in a free throw shooting contest. Both Drew and Powell have advanced to the second round, where they face Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy and Arizona assistant coach James Whitford.
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 Little Longer Bench: For the first time this season, Valparaiso was able to dress and play 10 scholarship players Saturday against Oakland. The Crusaders, who have dressed as few as eight scholarship players this season and played as few as seven, gained the services of Virginia Tech transfer Ben Boggs for the first time, as he became eligible at the end of Valpo’s fall semester. Valpo is still without scholarship players Bobby Capobianco, who must sit out the entire season after transferring to Valpo from Indiana, and Vashil Fernandez.
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.
Double-Double Machine: Junior Ryan Broekhoff continues to have a stellar junior season, especially hitting the glass. Broekhoff tallied his fifth double-double of the year last time out against Oakland, tallying 18 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. The junior’s five double-doubles are more than the entire Valparaiso team has had in a single season since 2006-2007, when Urule Igbavboa registered 10 double-doubles. Broekhoff has also regained the shooting touch that placed him first in the league in 3-point percentage a year ago, as he has hit 19-of-40 (.475) 3-point attempts over the Crusaders’ last six contests.
Post Presence: Junior Kevin Van Wijk continues to rank among the Horizon League leaders, as well as the national leaders, in numerous categories. Van Wijk, who matched his career high with 22 points (on 8-of-9 shooting) last time out against Oakland, is fourth in the league in scoring (15.2 ppg) and sixth in the league in rebounding (6.9 rpg). Perhaps most impressive has been his accuracy shooting the ball, as the native of the Netherlands has connected on 49 of his 73 field goal attempts, good for a league-best .671 shooting percentage, which is also tied for 18th nationally. Van Wijk also currently ranks second nationally at getting to the free throw line, as he has attempted eight more free throws (81) than field goals (73), giving him a free throw rate of 110.95.
From Downtown: Ole Miss transfer Will Bogan has quietly been a potent threat from behind the 3-point stripe for the Crusaders. Bogan, who scored 11 points thanks in large part to a trio of 3-pointers against Oakland, has hit multiple shots from behind the arc in five of Valpo’s last seven games, including three or more on four occasions. In fact, if you take out the season’s first four games, Bogan is shooting at better than a 41% clip from behind the 3-point line.
The Debut: Virginia Tech transfer Ben Boggs made his Crusader debut Saturday against the Golden Grizzlies, as he became eligible at the close of Valpo’s fall semester final exams. Boggs immediately stepped into a big role, playing 25 minutes off the bench and scoring seven points, including a pair of 3-pointers. The junior became the fifth different player to suit up for the first time for Valpo this season, joining Will Bogan, Richie Edwards, Nathan Stegelmann and Griffyn Carpenter.
Quickly: Junior Matt Kenney approached a triple-double against the Golden Grizzlies, registering seven points, eight rebounds and seven assists ... the seven assists matched Kenney’s career high ... the 41 points Valpo gave up to Reggie Hamilton against Oakland marked a new record at the ARC, which started hosting games in 1984-1985 ... it was the first time the Crusaders gave up 40+ to an opposing player since Oakland’s Calvin Wooten scored 40 at Oakland on Jan. 26, 2006 ... the Crusaders have never had a 40-point scorer in their Division I era, as Brandon Wood’s 39 at Georgia Southern on Nov. 27, 2009 is Valpo’s best D-I single-game effort.