Valparaiso (9-6, 2-1 Horizon)
Game #16: Friday, Jan. 6 - 7 p.m. CST
at Detroit (7-9, 1-3 Horizon)
Calihan Hall (8,295) - Detroit, Mich.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso opens play in 2012 Friday evening as the Crusaders continue Horizon League play with a game at Detroit. The game, which starts a stretch of six road games in the next eight contests for Valpo, will have live video available exclusively on ESPN3.com.
Last Time Out: In a high-scoring affair at the Athletics-Recreation Center, it was Valparaiso which ended the game on top, as the Crusaders led by as many as 18 points and eventually held on for a 90-87 victory over Green Bay in a New Year’s Eve matinee Saturday. Matt Kenney, who came off the bench for the first time as a junior, set a new career high with four 3-pointers, part of an 8-for-13 effort from the floor that led him to a team-best 21-point night.
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), . Todd Ickow is back for his 20th season on play-by-play, while Aaron Leavitt will join him on color commentary Friday. The game will also be video steamed live exclusively on ESPN3.com, the Crusaders’ second game on an ESPN platform this year. Links to the live audio and video broadcasts, as well as live stats, will all 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 narrow 9-7 edge in the all-time series over Detroit, but has held a significant advantage since joining the Horizon League, going 7-3 against the Titans over the last four seasons. Included in those seven wins were three victories last season, as the Crusaders downed Detroit in both regular season meetings before completing the season sweep with an 88-78 win in HL Quarterfinal action on March 4, 2011. Valpo set a HL Championship record with 15 3-pointers and was led by a 30-point effort from Brandon Wood.
The Road Ahead: This Horizon League weekend concludes for the Crusaders Sunday afternoon at Wright State at 2 p.m. Valpo then returns home for its only home games this month, hosting Youngstown State on Friday evening and Cleveland State on Sunday afternoon.
Scouting Detroit: The Titans enter Friday night’s clash at 7-9 overall and 1-3 in Horizon League play, having earned their first league victory of the year last time out with a 65-54 win at Loyola. An up-tempo team, Detroit averages 73 points per game, but also surrenders 68.8 points per contest. Three regulars average in double digits, led by 15.7 ppg from Chase Simon. Ray McCallum posts 14.6 ppg, while Doug Anderson adds 10.4 ppg. Eli Holman, who missed the season’s first 10 games, averages 12.0 ppg and 6.7 rpg as well.
Defense or Offense, Not Both: Over Valpo's eight games in December, the Crusaders and their opponents each scored at least 70 points six times apiece and have combined to hit 80 points on eight occasions. But the two times Valpo and the opposition didn’t hit 70 points coincided in the same games, as the Crusaders downed Northern Illinois 59-48 and fell to Milwaukee 57-55. In fact, over the last six games, Valpo has surpassed 80 points four times, but has failed to reach even 60 points the other two times.
To 3 Or Not to 3: An up-and-down season from behind the 3-point line continued in the Crusaders’ win over Green Bay last time out, as Valpo drilled 10-of-21 (.476) from behind the arc, its second time hitting at least 10 3-pointers in the last five games. But that long-range show came just one game after the Crusaders hit just 1-of-17 (.059) against Milwaukee, the second time this year Valpo has hit so few triples (Akron, 0-of-14).
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 57.3% of its tries from inside the arc, third 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. Last time out, the Crusaders maintained their season rate, hitting 20-of-35 (57.1%) from inside the arc.
Hitting the Boards: The Crusaders have held a significant edge in the rebounding department over their opponents so far this year. Valpo gives up just 31.4 rebounds per game to the opposition, lowest in the league, and also paces the Horizon League in rebounding margin, out-rebounding opponents by 3.5 rebounds per game. Ryan Broekhoff leads the way on the boards with a league-best 9.2 rebounds per game, while Kevin Van Wijk averages 5.8 rebounds per game as well. In fact, Broekhoff has pulled down on his own as many defensive rebounds this year (106) as any other league player has total rebounds.
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 had 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.
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. With the win over Green Bay on Saturday, the Crusaders are now 6-2 at home this year and now own a 252-112 (.692) all-time record at the ARC, including a 199-47 (.809) 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.
Kenney From Downtown: It was a somewhat unlikely source who paced the Crusaders in the scoring column on Saturday against Green Bay, as junior Matt Kenney led Valpo in points for the first time since the Jan. 29, 2011 overtime win over Butler. Kenney, who came off the bench Saturday for the first time as a junior, set a new career high with four 3-pointers, part of an 8-for-13 effort from the floor that led him to a 21-point night. Kenney hit 4-of-6 from downtown despite entering the game just 3-of-21 from behind the arc on the season.
And Also Hitting 3’s...: Sophomore Jay Harris joined Kenney in the long-range assault on Green Bay on Saturday. While Harris has been known as a 3-point threat since he first stepped on the court as a Crusader, he set a new career high against the Phoenix, drilling five 3-pointers on eight attempts in the win. Harris, who also handed out five assists against Green Bay, now is shooting at a team-best 37.3% clip from behind the arc this year, while his 17-point effort against the Phoenix increased his scoring average to 11.3 points per game.
Everyday He’s Doubling: Junior Ryan Broekhoff has simply been one of the Horizon League’s best and most versatile players through the first two months of the season. Last time out against Green Bay, Broekhoff matched his career high with five steals while also posting 15 points and seven rebounds. This came two days after he registered his seventh double-double of the season, tallying 18 points and 12 rebounds, both game highs, against Milwaukee. The junior’s seven double-doubles easily lead the Horizon League and rank among the national leaders, while they also are more than the entire Valpo team has had in a single season since 2006-2007, when Urule Igbavboa registered 10 double-doubles. Broekhoff by far leads the league in rebounding (9.4 rpg) and ranks second in scoring (15.2 ppg), while also ranking among the league’s top-ten in free throw pct. and 3-pointers/game.
Van Wijk Does Work: Junior Kevin Van Wijk posted his usual efficient effort in his 18-point outing in the win over Green Bay on Saturday, hitting 6-of-7 from the floor and also going 6-of-7 from the free throw line. The junior, who is tied fourth in the league with a scoring average of 15.0 ppg on the season, easily leads the Horizon League in field goal percentage, hitting at a 63.6% clip from the floor this year. While he is one make 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 at an impressive rate, as his free throw rate of 99.07 (108 FGA, 107 FTA) leads the nation.