Valparaiso (15-8, 8-3 Horizon)
Game #24: Thursday, Feb. 2 - 6:30 p.m.
Detroit (12-11, 6-5 Horizon)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso starts a stretch in which it will play five of its final seven Horizon League contests in the friendly confines of the ARC on Thursday evening, as the Crusaders host Detroit for a special 6:30 p.m. start time. The Crusaders enter the week just one-half game out of first place in the league table.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit against Milwaukee and limited the Panthers to just 11 points in the game’s final 17:30 as the Crusaders earned a hard-fought 55-52 victory Saturday afternoon in Milwaukee, Wis. The Crusaders’ junior duo of Ryan Broekhoff and Kevin Van Wijk both made it into double figures on Saturday. Broekhoff ended the day with team bests of 11 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals, while Van Wijk posted 10 points and five rebounds.
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. Fans with the proper cable/satellite packages will also be able to watch the game live on Fox Sports Detroit. 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 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 10-7 advantage in the all-time series over the Titans, but has been even more impressive since joining the Horizon League, winning seven of the ten matchups, including the last four in a row. The last meeting was capped by an end-to-end layup as the buzzer sounded by Erik Buggs, giving the Crusaders a 73-71 win over the Titans in Detroit on Jan. 6. Will Bogan posted a career-high 23 points in that contest, hitting 7-of-8 from behind the 3-point line.
The Road Ahead: Valparaiso closes out this home weekend Saturday evening against Wright State. The Crusaders then face their final Horizon League road trip next weekend, traveling to Cleveland State (Feb. 9) and Youngstown State (Feb. 11).
Scouting Detroit: Entering this week, the Titans own a 12-11 overall record and are one of three squads tied for fifth place in the Horizon League standings with a 6-5 record. The league’s top-scoring team, Detroit averages 72.8 ppg, but gives up 68.1 ppg as well. Ray McCallum paces three regulars averaging in double figures with a league-high 15.6 ppg and also records nearly four assists a contest. Chase Simon adds 14.0 ppg, while Eli Holman has posted 11.7 points and 7.2 rebounds a game after not playing the season’s first 10 games.
Final 20 = Lockdown: Valpo surrendered just 17 points in the second half to Milwaukee last time out, including just 11 points in the final 17:30 of the game, to come from behind to earn the 55-52 victory. It was the fewest points given up by a Crusader team in the second half of a game against a Division I opponent since Valpo limited UIC to just 16 points in another comeback victory, 60-56, on Jan. 24, 2008.
BracketBusters on TV: For the third time in the last five years, Valparaiso has been selected for a televised game as part of the 2012 Sears BracketBusters X event. The Crusaders will travel to the West Coast to face off against Loyola Marymount (13-9, 6-3 WCC) at 8 p.m. CST on Friday, February 16 live on ESPNU. Valpo has won both of its previous television appearances in the event, downing Miami (Ohio) in 2OT in 2008 and Missouri State last season.
Winning the Close Games: After playing six consecutive league games that weren’t within one possession at any point in the final minute, the Crusaders finally had another close game last time out at Milwaukee and came out with the 55-52 win, avenging a close loss to the Panthers at home earlier this season. Valpo’s made a habit of winning the close games this season, as the Crusaders now own a 6-2 record in games decided by five points or less, including a 3-1 mark in such games in Horizon League play.
The Difference Between Ws and Ls: Comparing the stats from the Crusaders’ eight Horizon League wins, most recently Saturday at Milwaukee, to their three league losses, including last Thursday’s defeat at Green Bay, it’s easy to see the difference in the two sets of games is the offense and rebounding. In Valpo’s league wins, it is averaging 71.5 ppg on 49.4% FG/36.1% 3PT/72.0% FT and out-rebounding the opposition by two boards per game. Meanwhile, in the losses, the Crusaders have averaged just 56.7 ppg on 40.5% FG/23.5% 3PT/61.3% FT and are getting out-rebounded by three boards per game.
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 a similar clip from inside, knocking down 55.8% of its tries from inside the arc, tied for second in the nation in the category (as of Jan. 30). 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. The last couple games haven’t been as kind to the Crusaders though in terms of accuracy inside the arc, as for the first time all year, Valpo was held under a 50% clip from 2-point range in back-to-back games, failing to reach the mark in either game of the Wisconsin road trip.
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. participated 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 fell in the third round.
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: Finally, the Crusaders have available to them all 10 scholarship athletes who are eligible. Other than the Dec. 17 game against Oakland, Valpo had not been able to use the full contingent of 10. Prior to that point, Ben Boggs had to sit out the first semester after transferring in from Virginia Tech, while Tommy Kurth had missed nine games due to illness. All 10 athletes played for just the second time this season Jan. 26 at Green Bay. The Crusaders are 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. Other than the disqualification of Richie Edwards after just four minutes last time out, over the last seven games, all eight regulars have played at least 10 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. At Milwaukee on Saturday, all seven regulars other than Edwards played at least 21 minutes each, with Broekhoff tallying a team-high 33 minutes.
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.
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 11 points in 15 of Valpo’s last 16 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 14 straight games. Broekhoff, who last Saturday at Milwaukee posted a typical line with 11 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals, now enters the week leading the HL in rebounding and third in scoring as he tries to become the first player since Youngstown State's Quin Humphrey (2005-2006) to lead the league in both categories in the same season.
Mr. Accuracy: Junior forward Kevin Van Wijk has been simply one of the nation’s most accurate shooters from the floor this year. While Van Wijk struggled to just a 3-for-9 effort from the floor Saturday in the win at Milwaukee, just his fourth game of the year hitting less than half his shots, he has maintained his ranking among the nation’s top-10 and leading the Horizon League with a .613 field goal percentage. The junior, a two-time HL Player of the Week and also the league’s second-leading scorer (15.4 ppg), has scored in double figures 19 times after finishing with 10 points at Milwaukee, posting six 20+ scoring efforts on the year and scoring at least 15 points on 14 occasions.
Boggs Bombs Away: For the second time in three games, junior guard Ben Boggs was perfect from behind the arc last Thursday night at Green Bay. Boggs drilled all five of his 3-point attempts and also added a basket inside the arc for a career-high 17 points in 34 minutes against the Phoenix. That effort came just two games after he hit all three of his tries from beyond the arc en route to 14 points last Thursday at Loyola. Boggs, who went for eight points and six rebounds in Saturday’s win at Milwaukee, is averaging 8.2 ppg and 5.2 rpg in the last six games after averaging just 3.7 ppg and 1.3 rpg in his first seven games as a Crusader.