Valparaiso (10-6, 3-1 Horizon)
Game #17: Sunday, Jan. 8 - 2 p.m. CST
at Wright State (8-9, 3-2 Horizon)
Nutter Center (10,449) - Dayton, Ohio
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso looks for its third straight victory and attempts to improve to 3-0 on the road in Horizon League play as the Crusaders, one of five squads tied atop the league standings entering this weekend, face off at Wright State against the Raiders Sunday afternoon.
Last Time Out: Redshirt junior Erik Buggs, who took a charge defensively to give the Crusaders possession, received an inbounds pass in a tie game with 4.6 seconds left and took it the length of the court himself, driving down the left side and going all the way to the basket before laying it in at the buzzer to give Valparaiso a 73-71 victory Friday evening in Horizon League play against Detroit. Buggs’ basket capped a frantic closing stretch where the lead changed hands four times in the final 90 seconds. The Crusaders were able to stay in the ballgame thanks to the hot shooting of Will Bogan, who hit a Valpo season-best seven 3-pointers en route to a game-best 23 points.
Following the Crusaders: Every game this season will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with Sunday'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 Sunday. 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, 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: Wright State leads the all-time series against the Crusaders, 10-7, but it has been a series of runs between the two squads. WSU won the first five in the series, Valpo took the next five, and then the Raiders claimed the next five games. The Crusaders have won the last two, including a 58-56 win in Valpo in their last meeting on Feb. 12, 2011. Howard Little scored 17 in that victory, while Brandon Wood and Cory Johnson added 10 points each.
The Road Ahead: Valpo returns to the ARC for its only home games this month next weekend, hosting Youngstown State on Friday evening and Cleveland State on Sunday afternoon. The following weekend brings the pair of short road trips, however, as the Crusaders travel to Chicago twice to face Loyola (Jan. 19) and UIC (Jan. 21).
Scouting Wright State: The Raiders enter Sunday's game at 8-9 overall and 3-2 in Horizon League play, one-half game outside the logjam at the top of the league standings. WSU has played a number of close games in Horizon League play already, most recently falling to Butler at home on Friday, 63-62, when a last-second attempt by Julius Mays was off the mark. Mays is the only Raider averaging in double figures, scoring 13.4 ppg, as WSU scores just 59.1 ppg and allows just 62.2 ppg.
Right Down to the Wire: Valpo's players are surely gaining a lot of experience in how to play the final minutes of tight games. Over the last seven contests, incredibly five of them have been decided by three points or less. The Crusaders are 3-2 in the close games over that stretch, including wins in each of the last two. In fact, Valpo's four Horizon League games to date have been decided by two, three and two points, with the other game a six-point win in overtime.
Defense or Offense, Not Both: Over Valpo's last nine games, the Crusaders and their opponents each scored at least 70 points seven 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 seven games, Valpo has scored at least 73 points five 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 Detroit last time out, with eight of Valpo's nine players combining to go just 1-for-12. But Will Bogan stepped up and went 7-of-8 from deep, giving the Crusaders an 8-for-20 (.400) night as a team. Seven times this year now, Valpo has hit at least eight triples, including four of the last six games. But the Crusaders have also had a pair of games in which they've hit either zero or one 3-pointer, including three games back against Milwaukee.
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 most of the season, seven are hitting at least half of their 2-point attempts. Last time out, the Crusaders maintained their season rate, hitting 16-of-28 (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 3.3 rebounds per game. Ryan Broekhoff leads the way on the boards with a league-best 9.1 rebounds per game, while Kevin Van Wijk averages 5.8 rebounds per game as well and Matt Kenney grabs 5.0 rebounds per game. In fact, Broekhoff has pulled down on his own more defensive rebounds this year (112) 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 last 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, who will be sitting out this season.
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.
Bogan Goes Bananas: Redshirt junior Will Bogan had a shooting performance last time out at Detroit which reminded head coach Bryce Drew of Michael Jordan's shooting in Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals against Portland. Bogan connected on his first six field goal attempts, including five 3-pointers, before missing a last-second 3-point effort going into the half. The Ole Miss transfer then knocked down both his 3-point tries in the first six minutes of the second half, finishing the night 7-of-8 from behind the arc. Bogan, who set a new career high with 23 points, was the first Valpo player to hit seven 3-pointers since Brandon Wood canned seven treys against the Titans in HL quarterfinal action last year.
Big Plays Late: Guards Erik Buggs and Jay Harris, who average a combined 16 points per game on the season, had accounted for just three points through the first 39 and a half minutes of Friday's contest at Detroit. But then Harris converted a layup to tie the game in the final 30 seconds to set up Buggs' buzzer-beating heroics. For Harris, who has a team-high 16 points on the season in the final minute of the game, it was his second consecutive game with a big shot late, as he had a key 3-pointer over Green Bay's Alec Brown on Dec. 31 to extend Valpo's lead to six points late.
Model of Consistency: 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 at Detroit, Broekhoff posted his typical solid stat line, finishing with 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Broekhoff, who ranks among the team's top-three in all five major stats, has posted seven double-doubles on the season, which easily lead the Horizon League and 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 (9.2 rpg) and ranks fourth in scoring (15.1 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 again hit at least half his shot attempts in Friday's win at Detroit, going 6-of-12 from the floor en route to 17 points. The junior, who ranks third in the league with a scoring average of 15.1 ppg on the season, easily leads the Horizon League in field goal percentage, hitting at a 62.5% clip from the floor this year. Van Wijk ranks among the top-ten nationally as well in the category. In addition, the junior continues to get to the free throw line at an impressive rate, as his free throw rate of 95.83 (120 FGA, 115 FTA) is good for fourth in the nation.