Valparaiso (14-7, 7-2 Horizon)
Game #22: Thursday, Jan. 26 - 7p.m.
at Green Bay (7-12, 3-6 Horizon)
Resch Center (10,200) - Green Bay, Wis.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso looks to maintain its current run of form this Thursday evening as the Crusaders continue their four-game road trip at Green Bay. Valpo has won four straight games and six of its last seven to ascend into a tie for first place in the Horizon League standings at the halfway point of the league slate.
Last Time Out: Juniors Ryan Broekhoff and Kevin Van Wijk combined for all ten points in a 10-0 run that put Valparaiso up nine points with seven minutes to play, and the Crusaders would never trail again, eventually earning a 60-55 victory over UIC Saturday afternoon in Chicago. Van Wijk would end the night with a game-high 20 points, his third 20+ scoring output in the Crusaders’ last four games. Jay Harris reached double figures for the third straight game, contributing 13 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 league 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, 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: The Phoenix leads the all-time series over the Crusaders by a 25-16 count, including a 14-4 mark in Green Bay. But since Valpo joined the Horizon League, it has played GB tough on the road, winning once and forcing overtime in two other of the four matchups. In the two teams’ last meeting on New Year’s Eve, it was the Crusaders who came out with a 90-87 victory at the ARC, as Matt Kenney paced four players with 15+ points, scoring 21 off the bench.
The Road Ahead: Valparaiso closes out its four-game road trip in the Horizon League Network Game of the Week Saturday afternoon, as the Crusaders take on Milwaukee. Valpo then returns home the following weekend to host Detroit (Feb. 2) and Wright State (Feb. 4).
Scouting Green Bay: The Phoenix enter Thursday night’s game at 7-12 overall and 3-6 through the first half of Horizon League play. Green Bay has defended its home court well, however, owning a 7-1 mark at the Resch Center entering this week. The Phoenix are led by sophomore center Alec Brown, the only GB player averaging in double figures with 13.3 ppg to go with a team-high 7.7 rpg. Keifer Sykes and Brennan Cougill both average at least eight points per game as well, with the latter also posting 7.1 rpg.
Through the First Half: Saturday’s win at UIC brought the first half of the Horizon League slate to a close for the Crusaders, with Valpo sitting in a tie atop the league standings with Cleveland State at 7-2, matching the Crusaders’ best mark at the halfway point since joining the HL. Ironically, at last season’s halfway point, it was the Crusaders and Vikings knotted atop the standings at 7-2 as well. Valpo sits at 7-2 despite having played five league games on the road versus just four at home so far, and in fact following this weekend will play five of its final seven HL games at the ARC.
Six Out of Seven: After a long stretch of alternating results ended with back-to-back losses to IUPUI and Milwaukee, dropping Valpo to 8-6 and 1-1 in Horizon League play, the Crusaders have bounced back nicely, earning victories in six of their last seven games, all league contests. In the six wins, Valpo has averaged 73.3 points per game and shot 51.5% from the floor. The Crusaders have also stepped up defensively recently, surrendering 66 points or less in each of the last four games after doing that in just two of their previous 12 contests.
A Big Road Win: Valparaiso led by 20+ points for much of the second half last Thursday night at Loyola, eventually ending the night with a 21-point win. That easy of a victory on the road was something that hasn’t been seen from a Crusader squad in over a decade. The last time Valpo won a road game by more than 21 points was back on Feb. 7, 2000, when the Crusaders downed Belmont, 86-60, while their last league road win by that kind of margin came Jan. 21, 1999 at Chicago State (74-42). It also marked Valpo’s fourth win by at least 20 points in Horizon League play since joining the league in 2007-08.
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 57.4% of its tries from inside the arc, second in the nation in the category. In fact, of Valpo’s seven rotation players who have been playing the entire season, six are hitting at least half of their 2-point attempts. Valpo continued its strong presence inside the arc against UIC, hitting exactly half (19-of-38) of its 2-point tries, the 18th time in 21 games the Crusaders have shot 50% or better from 3-point range.
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.
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 Cleveland State on Jan. 15, the Crusaders are now 8-2 at home this year and now own a 254-112 (.694) all-time record at the ARC, including a 201-47 (.810) 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. Drew was eliminated in the second round, while Powell has advanced to a third-round matchup against Wake Forest’s Rusty LaRue, having defeated Mike Blaine (Cornell) and James Whitford (Arizona).
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.
Short Bench: Just one game this season has Valpo been able to play all 10 scholarship athletes who are eligible, Dec. 17 against Oakland. Prior to that point, Ben Boggs had to sit out the first semester after transferring in from Virginia Tech, while Tommy Kurth has missed the last nine games due to illness. Valpo is also 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.
A Set Rotation: Head coach Bryce Drew seems to have settled into a regular eight-man rotation as the Crusaders hit the heart of Horizon League play. Over the last six games, all eight regulars have played at least 12 minutes in every game, while over the same stretch, only once (Broekhoff at Wright State) has any Crusader been asked to play more than 35 minutes. Against UIC, seven of the eight regulars played at least 22 minutes, with Broekhoff playing a team-high 31.
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.
Mr. Accuracy: Junior forward Kevin Van Wijk has been simply one of the nation’s most accurate shooters from the floor this year. Van Wijk, who went 8-of-14 from the floor for a game-high 20 points in Saturday’s win at UIC (his third 20+ scoring output in the last four games), ranks sixth nationally and leads the Horizon League with a .627 field goal percentage. The junior, a two-time HL Player of the Week and also the league’s scoring leader both overall (16.0 ppg) and in league-only play (17.0 ppg), has been consistently accurate as well, hitting at least 50% of his field goal attempts in 17 of his 20 games. Following Saturday’s output, Van Wijk now has six 20+ scoring efforts on the year and has scored at least 15 points on 14 occasions, including seven of the last nine games.
Model of Consistency: Junior Ryan Broekhoff has simply been one of the Horizon League’s best and most versatile players through the first half of the season. The Australian has scored at least 12 points in 13 of Valpo’s last 14 contests, only failing to do so in an IUPUI game in which he was limited by injury, and has grabbed at least five rebounds in 12 straight games. Broekhoff has eight double-doubles on the season, easily pacing the Horizon League and more than the entire Valpo team has had in a single season since 2006-2007. In league play, the junior leads the league in rebounding (8.8 rpg) and ranks fifth in scoring (14.6 ppg) and steals (1.6 spg). Overall, Broekhoff now is tied for third in scoring (14.9 ppg) and leads the league in rebounding (8.9 rpg), trying to become the first player since Youngstown State's Quin Humphrey (2005-2006) to lead the league in both categories in the same season.
Bench Production: While the Crusaders’ sixth through eighth men are coming off the bench, they’ve still been playing starter-type minutes and producing at a starter-type rate. In Horizon League play, Valpo’s bench is averaging 21.6 points per game and has scored at least 23 points in each of the last four games. Sophomore Jay Harris has been coming off the bench all season long and is Valpo’s third-leading scorer at 10.8 ppg, while juniors Matt Kenney and Richie Edwards are both averaging around eight ppg as well. Last weekend, it was Harris who stepped up and produced from the bench, combining for 31 points on 12-of-22 shooting over the two wins in Chicago.