Valparaiso (8-4, 1-0 Horizon)
Game #13: Friday, Dec. 23 - noon CST
at IUPUI (5-8, 0-2 Summit)
Bankers Life Fieldhouse (18,345) - Indianapolis, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso hits the court for the final time before Christmas on Friday afternoon as the Crusaders travel to Indianapolis for the second time this month, this time to take on former Mid-Con foe IUPUI at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers.
Last Time Out: Valpo scored on six out of seven possessions in a key stretch just past the midway point of the second half, turning a one-point deficit into a 10-point lead en route to a 59-48 victory over Northern Illinois Tuesday evening in DeKalb, Ill. Ryan Broekhoff picked up his sixth double-double of the season to lead the Crusaders, ending the game with game highs of 19 points and 11 rebounds. Will Bogan finished one point off of his career high, canning four 3-pointers on his way to 18 points.
Following the Crusaders: Every game this season will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with Friday'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 Friday. 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: Formerly both Mid-Continent Conference members, the Crusaders and Jaguars have met on the hardwood 22 times in program history, with Valpo holding a 15-7 advantage, including a 7-2 lead in Indianapolis. But IUPUI won the last meeting between the two programs on Feb. 8, 2007 in Indianapolis, 68-54. Brandon McPherson paced Valpo in that game with 15 points, while Jake Diebler added 12 points and Calum MacLeod 10 points.
The Road Ahead: Following the Christmas holiday, the Crusaders return home to the ARC to start up the bulk of the Horizon League slate with games against Milwaukee (Dec. 29) and Green Bay (Dec. 31). Valpo then begins a stretch of six road games out of the next eight the next weekend, as the Crusaders travel to Detroit live on ESPN3.com on Friday, Jan. 6 before closing out that league weekend at Wright State on Jan. 8.
Scouting IUPUI: The Jaguars enter Friday’s contest at 5-8 overall this season and 0-2 in Summit League action. But IUPUI is on a three-game winning streak, defeating Western Kentucky and Ball State in that stretch. The Jaguars have scored and given up an average of 71.9 points per game on the season, but boast only one player averaging in double figures, as Alex Young pours in 19.6 ppg. Four other Jaguars average better than seven points per game in addition to Young’s output as well.
We’re Playing Where?: If Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the name of the venue hosting Friday’s game, sounds unfamiliar, that’s because it did not exist until Thursday morning. The home of the Pacers was formerly known as Conseco Fieldhouse until a joint press conference by CNO Financial Group, Inc. and Pacers Sports & Entertainment announced the re-naming. Valpo and IUPUI have actually met in the venue once before, on Feb. 3, 2005, a game which ended in a 64-61 Crusader victory.
Stop the Alternating: The Crusaders are looking for a victory on Friday to end their stretch, currently at seven straight games, of alternating wins and losses. Starting with the win over Duquesne on Nov. 20, Valpo has not had two straight wins or losses for over a month. This is the longest stretch of alternating results for the Crusaders since a seven-game stretch from Nov. 15-Dec. 5, 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 59.0% of its tries from inside the arc, third in the nation in the category (as of Dec. 21). In fact, of Valpo’s nine scholarship players, seven are hitting at least half of their 2-point attempts. Against Northern Illinois on Dec. 20, the Crusaders shot at least 50% from inside the arc for the tenth time in their 12 games, hitting 11-of-22 to finish the night at exactly 50%.
Love (Defensive) Lockdown: While most of Valpo’s victories this year have been highlighted by impressive performances on the offensive end of the floor, the Crusaders’ win at Northern Illinois on Dec. 20 was won thanks to a strong performance defensively down the stretch. Following a 3-pointer with 13:34 to play which put NIU ahead by six, the Crusaders surrendered points on just two of the Huskies’ next 15 possessions over a 12-minute stretch. NIU went 0-for-8 from the floor and committed six turnovers during the run, which turned a six-point deficit into a 10-point Valpo lead.
Defense Wins This Game: Despite scoring just 59 points against the Huskies, their second-lowest output of the season, the Crusaders still were able to win by double figures thanks to holding NIU to 48 points. It was the first time Valpo has scored less than 60 points in a game and still won by double digits since a 59-45 victory over IPFW on Jan. 22, 2007.
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 four boards per contest on the season. Ryan Broekhoff leads the way on the boards with a league-best 9.4 rebounds per game, while Kevin Van Wijk averages 6.7 rebounds per game as well.
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 last 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 last 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 sixth double-double of the year last time out at Northern Illinois, tallying game highs of 19 points and 11 rebounds. The junior’s six 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 21-of-46 (.457) 3-point attempts over the Crusaders’ last seven contests.
From Downtown: Ole Miss transfer Will Bogan has quietly been a potent threat from behind the 3-point stripe for the Crusaders. Bogan, who came up just one point shy of his career high last time out at Northern Illinois with 18 points, thanks in large part to four 3-pointers, has hit multiple triples in six of the last eight games, including three or more on five occasions. In fact, if you take out the season’s first four games, Bogan is hitting at a 42.5% clip from behind the 3-point line. He has scored in double figures on six occasions this season, including four of the last five games.
The Debut: Virginia Tech transfer Ben Boggs made his Crusader debut last Saturday against the Golden Grizzlies, as he became eligible at the close of Valpo’s fall semester final exams. Boggs has immediately become an integral part of Valpo’s rotation off the bench, combining to play 44 minutes over his first two games as a Crusader. 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: The Crusaders defeated Northern Illinois on Tuesday despite season lows in field goals made (18), rebounds (25), assists (8) and blocked shots (0) ... Valpo did hit 16-of-19 from the foul line against the Huskies for an .842 free throw percentage, its best single-game performance of the season ... the Crusaders’ 13 turnovers also marked their fewest against a Division I opponent this year ... Tommy Kurth did not play for the first time this year at NIU, leaving just four players (Bogan, Broekhoff, Buggs, Kenney) who have played in all 12 of Valpo’s games.