Valparaiso (16-8, 9-3 Horizon)
Game #25: Saturday, Feb. 4 - 7:05 p.m.
Wright State (11-13, 6-6 Horizon)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Winners of six of its last seven contests, Valparaiso looks to maintain its spot within the top-two of the Horizon League standings as the Crusaders host Wright State Saturday evening at 7:05 p.m.
Last Time Out: For the second straight game, Valparaiso erased a double-figure second-half deficit, as a career-high 26-point performance from junior Ryan Broekhoff helped lead the Crusaders to a 78-73 victory over Detroit Thursday evening at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Broekhoff matched a program record by hitting all six of his 3-point attempts in an 8-of-9 performance from the floor. Richie Edwards came off the bench with 16 points, while Kevin Van Wijk added 10 as well.
Following the Crusaders: Every game this season will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with Saturday's game broadcast live on WAKE (1500 AM, Valparaiso) and WEFM (95.9 FM, Michigan City). Todd Ickow is back for his 20th season on play-by-play, while Keaton Gillogly will join him on color commentary Saturday. 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: With its win in the first meeting of the season back on January 8, Wright State now holds an 11-7 advantage in the all-time series over Valpo, including a 6-5 edge since the Crusaders joined the Horizon League. However, Valpo has split four home games against the Raiders since 2008. The first meeting saw Ryan Broekhoff and Kevin Van Wijk combine for 31 points, but the rest of the Crusaders combined for just 24, as Valpo fell 73-55.
The Road Ahead: Valparaiso faces its final Horizon League road trip next weekend, traveling to Cleveland State (Feb. 9) and Youngstown State (Feb. 11). The Crusaders then return home for a showdown at the ARC against UIC (Feb. 14) before traveling west to take on Loyola Marymount on Feb. 17 live on ESPNU as part of the Sears BracketBusters X event.
Scouting Wright State: Entering this weekend, the Raiders own an 11-13 overall record and are tied for sixth place in the Horizon League standings with a 6-6 record. A defensive-minded squad, Wright State scores just 58 points per game, but also gives up only 61 per contest. Julius Mays is the only Raider to average in double figures in the scoring column, hitting 42% from behind the arc and averaging 14.1 ppg. Reggie Arceneaux adds 8.6 points per game as well.
Record-Tying Barrage: While Thursday night wasn’t the first time Ryan Broekhoff has hit six 3-pointers in a game in his Valpo career (freshman year at Loyola), it was the first time he did so without missing a single attempt from deep. The junior’s 6-for-6 performance from 3-point range matched Jared Nuness’ Valpo record for most 3’s in a game without a miss (12/22/1997 at Belmont). Broekhoff’s performance led a 12-for-22 effort from downtown by Valpo, the Crusaders’ most 3-pointers in a single game and best 3-point percentage since going 15-for-27 in last year’s HL quarterfinal win over Detroit.
Final 20 = Lockdown: Valpo surrendered just 17 points in the second half to Milwaukee last Saturday, 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. Then, on Thursday night, the Crusaders gave up just 15 points in the final 13 minutes and 28 total second-half points after surrendering 45 in the first half in the win over Detroit. In fact, each of Valpo’s last four wins have come while limiting its opponent to less than 30 second-half points.
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 have had two straight close games. Valpo avenged a closs loss to Milwaukee earlier this season with a 55-52 win last Saturday, and then earned a 78-73 victory over Detroit at home last time out, a game which was within three points with 60 seconds left. The Crusaders have made a habit of winning the close games this season, as Valpo now owns a 7-2 record in games decided by five points or less, including a 4-1 mark in such games in Horizon League play.
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 third 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. Last time out against Detroit, the Crusaders hit 12-of-22 (54.5%) from inside the 3-point line.
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 Detroit on Thursday, the Crusaders are now 9-2 at home this year and now own a 255-112 (.695) all-time record at the ARC, including a 202-47 (.811) mark over the last 18-plus years at home. Thursday’s win also guaranteed that the Crusaders will finish above .500 on their home court for the 19th consecutive season.
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 at Milwaukee, over the last eight 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. Against Detroit on Thursday, the balance reached a peak, as all eight rotation players played at least 20 minutes, with only Broekhoff (32) playing more than 27 minutes.
Countdown to 1,000: Ryan Broekhoff’s career-high 26-point performance on Thursday night (which came on just 8-of-9 shooting from the floor and the aforementioned 6-of-6 from downtown) propelled him a good bit closer to the 1,000 point milestone in his third season. The Australian, who has scored at least 11 points in 16 of Valpo’s last 17 contests and has grabbed at least five rebounds in 15 straight games. now has 930 career points thanks to 364 points already this season. Broekhoff has also started to move up the Crusaders’ career charts in a number of categories, as he ranks tenth all-time at Valpo with 67 career blocked shots, moved into tenth in 3-pointers made last time out with 147 career triples and sits just two rebounds shy of cracking the Crusaders’ top-20 in that category.
And Also Scoring 15.2 PPG: While Broekhoff is averaging 15.2 ppg both overall and in Horizon League play, the other half of the Crusaders’ 1-2 frontcourt punch, junior forward Kevin Van Wijk, is also scoring exactly 15.2 ppg both overall and in league-only action. Van Wijk had just four official field goal attempts Thursday in the win over Detroit, but converted three of them en route to a 10-point night, maintaining his ranking among the nation’s top-10 and leading the Horizon League with a .615 field goal percentage. The junior, a two-time HL Player of the Week, has now scored in double figures 20 times, including six 20+ scoring efforts and 14 games with at least 15 points.
Edwards Steps Up: Junior Richie Edwards stepped up off the bench when called on in relief of Van Wijk against Detroit on Thursday, battling the Titans’ size inside and ending the night with 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the floor and 5-of-6 from the foul line. The junior, whose 16-point effort was his second-best against a Division I team this season, also pulled down a team-best six rebounds in the winning effort. Edwards, who is averaging 7.7 points per game on the season, has now had three double-figure scoring efforts in Horizon League play, all of which have come in Valpo wins (18 at Butler, 12 vs. YSU).