Valparaiso (8-5, 1-0 Horizon)
Game #14: Thursday, Dec. 29 - 7:05 p.m.
Milwaukee (9-4, 2-0 Horizon)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
-: CLEANED :- Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso begins the bulk of the Horizon League schedule on Thursday evening at home as the Crusaders play host to Milwaukee. Each of Valpo's next 15 games is a league contest, as the Crusaders have just one non-league game left on the regular season slate.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso fought all the way back from a 17-point halftime deficit to tie Friday’s game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind. with 12 minutes to play, but IUPUI went on a 17-4 run shortly thereafter and took advantage of 41 free throw makes as the Crusaders fell by a final score of 97-88. Kevin Van Wijk led the Crusaders on Friday with 19 points in just 21 minutes of play, hitting 7-of-11 from the floor. Will Bogan added 15 points, including his four makes from beyond the arc. Richie Edwards and Jay Harris each contributed 14 points off the bench as well.
Following the Crusaders: Every game this season will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with Thursday'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 Thursday. 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: Valpo owns a slight 11-10 lead in the all-time series against Milwaukee after the two squads met up on three occasions last year, with the home team earning the victory in all three meetings. Unfortunately for the Crusaders, two of those games were in Milwaukee, including the most recent matchup, which occured Mar. 5 in the HL Championship semifinal, a 70-63 Panthers victory. Brandon Wood paced the Crusaders with 24 points in that game.
The Road Ahead: The Crusaders close out this home weekend of Horizon League action on New Year's Eve afternoon on Saturday, hosting Green Bay with a matinee tip time of 4:05 p.m. 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 Milwaukee: The Panthers enter Thursday's game with a 9-4 overall record and a 2-0 mark in Horizon League play, earning wins at home over Loyola and UIC (overtime) in the first weekend of league action in early December. Milwaukee is holding opponents to just 58.5 points per game, outscoring the opposition by six points a contest. The Panthers boast six players averaging at least 9.4 ppg, but only four of those have played the majority of their games. Kaylon Williams leads UWM with 12.5 ppg and fills out the stat sheet, also posting better than five rebounds and assists per contest.
Fourth Time This Year: With the Horizon League starting the bulk of league play the weekend before the calendar flips over to 2012, the Crusaders will find themselves in the rare position of facing a team four times in one calendar year on Thursday. Valpo and Milwaukee met for last season's pair of regular season games on Jan. 21 and Feb. 16 before facing each other in the semifinals of the league tournament on Mar. 5. This is only the second time the Crusaders have had this happen since joining the league, as Valpo also took on Cleveland State four times in 2008.
Pouring In the Points: While the end result didn't go the Crusaders' way, Valpo made a game of it last time out at IUPUI, rallying from down 17 at the half to tie the score on two occasions. The Crusaders ended up scoring 62 second-half points, the most points in a single 20-minute stanza in at least the last decade by a Valpo team. The Crusaders shot 21-of-39 from the floor in the 2nd half, including a remarkable 8-of-11 from behind the 3-point line, and also converted 12-of-16 from the foul line.
Foul Mood: Valpo entered the IUPUI game having made just 24 fewer free throws than its opponents had even attempted on the year, but the advantage at the charity stripe wasn't there against the Jaguars. IUPUI ended the game 41-of-48 from the foul line, the most free throw attempts by a Crusader opponent since Chicago State went 29-of-53 from the line in Mid-Con Tournament action on Mar. 6, 2005. It is unknown when, or even if, the last time was a Valpo opponent made 41 FTs or more in a single game. The Crusaders ended the night with 33 total team fouls, as four players fouled out and three others tallied four fouls each.
Continuing to Alternate: The Crusaders are looking for a victory on Thursday to continue their stretch, currently at eight 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 12-game stretch from Jan. 28-Mar. 1, 1993.
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 57.2% of its tries from inside the arc, fourth in the nation in the category. In fact, of Valpo’s nine scholarship players who have played all season, seven are hitting at least half of their 2-point attempts.
Find the Anomaly: Over Valpo's first six games in December, the Crusaders and their opponents have combined to surpass 70 points on 10 occasions and 80 points six times. In fact, only one game did both teams not reach 70 points, the Crusaders' 59-48 win at Northern Illinois on Dec. 20. Valpo won that outing despite knocking down 18 shots from the field and trailing by as many as six points in the second half.
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 31.5 rebounds per game to the opposition and is out-rebounding opponents by over three boards per contest on the season. Ryan Broekhoff leads the way on the boards with a league-best 9.2 rebounds per game, while Kevin Van Wijk averages 6.3 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. Entering league play, the Crusaders are 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, respectively.
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 started the season as the lone member of this year’s senior class, as fellow senior walk-on Nathan Stegelmann was added to the roster in mid-November.
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 Dec. 17 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.
From Downtown: Ole Miss transfer Will Bogan continues to be a potent threat from behind the 3-point stripe for the Crusaders. Bogan knocked down four second-half 3-pointers to help the Crusaders rally from their 17 point halftime deficit at IUPUI, ending the night with 15 points. The redshirt junior has hit multiple triples in seven of the last nine games, including three or more on six occasions. In fact, if you take out the season’s first four games, Bogan is hitting at a 44.4% clip from behind the 3-point line. He has scored in double figures on seven occasions this season as well, including five of the last six games.
Van Wijk Does Work: Junior Kevin Van Wijk continued his tremendous season shooting from the floor against IUPUI, going 7-of-11 from the field en route to a team-best 19 points. Van Wijk, who now is averaging 14.8 ppg on the season, easily leads the Horizon League in field goal percentage, hitting at a 64.4% clip from the floor this year. While he is two makes shy of qualifying for the NCAA national leaders in the category, Van Wijk would rank among the top-ten nationally as well. In addition, the junior continues to get to the free throw line, as his free throw rate of 101.11 (91 FTA, 90 FGA) ranks third nationally.
Quickly: Hobbled by injury, junior Ryan Broekhoff failed to reach double figures in the scoring column against IUPUI, just the second time he has done so against a D-I opponent this year ... junior Richie Edwards and sophomore Jay Harris both came up with 14 points off the bench against the Jaguars, the former also pacing the Crusaders with seven rebounds ... junior Matt Kenney had no rebounds or assists at halftime at IUPUI, but then registered five rebounds and six assists in the final 20 minutes ... Kenney also came up with a team-best four steals against the Jaguars, one off his career high.