Valparaiso (17-8, 10-3 Horizon)
Game #26: Thursday, Feb. 9 - 6 p.m. CST
at Cleveland State (20-4, 10-2 Horizon)
Wolstein Center (8,500) - Cleveland, Ohio
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: In what looks to be the biggest game of the year up to this point, Valparaiso travels to Cleveland State on Thursday evening in a matchup for first place in the league standings. The Crusaders enter having won seven of their last eight games, while the Vikings have won eight of their last nine.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso shot a blistering 65.6% from the floor on Saturday evening and missed just two shots from inside the 3-point line, leading nearly start-to-finish in a 63-54 Horizon League victory over Wright State in front of a raucous crowd of 4,727 at the Athletics-Recreation Center. It was the Crusaders’ best shooting performance against a Division I team since connecting on 66.7% of their attempts in a Dec. 8, 2007 victory at Detroit. Richie Edwards paced four Crusaders in double digits with 16 points.
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 Aaron Leavitt 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: Cleveland State holds a sizable 28-10 lead in the all-time series over the Crusaders and is 7-3 against Valpo since the latter joined the Horizon League. Valpo’s three wins have come in the last five meetings, however, but all of them were at the ARC, as the Crusaders’ last win in Cleveland came in 1994. The last meeting saw Kevin Van Wijk match his career high with 23 points and the Crusaders shoot 60% from the floor in a 72-66 win at the ARC on Jan. 15.
The Road Ahead: Valparaiso closes out its final Horizon League road trip of the season Saturday evening at Youngstown State. The Crusaders then return home for a showdown at the ARC against UIC next Tuesday(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 Cleveland State: The Vikings enter this week atop the Horizon League standings at 20-4 overall and 10-2 in league play, and are receiving votes in both national top-25 polls. CSU’s strength lies on the defensive end, where it surrenders just 57.8 ppg, while offensively it averages 67.1 ppg. Trevon Harmon leads three Vikings scoring in double figures, posting 12.0 ppg, while D’Aundray Brown (11.3 ppg) and Jeremy Montgomery (11.0 ppg) both average double digits in the scoring column as well.
Odd Offensive Game, Part I...: Sunday’s win over Wright State was marked with a number of outliers offensively for the Crusaders. The most noticable was the Crusaders’ performance shooting the ball, as Valpo went 21-of-32 (65.6%) from the floor, hitting 8-of-17 from 3-point and 13-of-15 inside the arc. Valpo’s shooting percentage was its best single-game effort since connecting on 66.7% of its attempts in a Dec. 8, 2007 victory at Detroit. The 32 field goal attempts marked the second-fewest in a victory by a Division I team this season.
...and Part II: With all the makes from the field, the Crusaders weren’t afforded many chances to hit the offensive boards, and in fact tallied just one offensive rebound. It was just the sixth time in Division I this year that a team has grabbed zero or one offensive boards and won, and marked the second time Valpo has pulled off the feat. Then, the Crusaders also had trouble handling the ball, committing 24 turnovers, their most since giving up 25 in a loss to #1 North Carolina on Dec. 20, 2008. But Valpo allowed Wright State to convert those 24 turnovers into just 12 points.
Defense Also Steps Up: Lost in the offensive oddities from Saturday might be the Crusaders’ performance on the defensive end. Valpo held Wright State to just 29.6% (16-of-54) shooting from the floor and 5-of-24 (20.8%) from behind the 3-point line. It was the Crusaders’ best effort of the year defensively against a Division I opponent in both field goal percentage and 3-point percentage, and in fact was the first time since a Jan. 21, 2011 win over Milwaukee that they limited their opponent to under 30% shooting from the floor.
Record-Tying Barrage: While last 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.
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 close games in their last three. Valpo avenged a closs loss to Milwaukee earlier this season with a 55-52 win on Jan. 28, and then earned a 78-73 victory over Detroit at home last Thursday, 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 an even better rate from inside, knocking down 56.4% of its tries from inside the arc, good for second nationally. 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 Wright State, the Crusaders took it to another level by missing just two 2-point tries, ending the game 13-for-15 from inside the arc.
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 Wright State on Saturday, the Crusaders are now 10-2 at home this year and now own a 256-112 (.696) all-time record at the ARC, including a 203-47 (.812) mark over the last 18-plus years at home. Last Thursday’s win over Detroit 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.
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 nine 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 Wright State on Saturday, all eight players played at least 18 minutes, with Erik Buggs maxing out at 30 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 10 points in 17 of Valpo’s last 18 contests and has grabbed at least five rebounds in 16 straight games. now has 940 career points after a 10-point effort last time out against Wright State. 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 against Detroit and now has 148 career triples and moved into 20th last time out in career rebounds with 525 caroms.
Starting Post Presence: Junior forward Kevin Van Wijk continued his tremendous shooting from the floor last weekend in the Crusaders’ two wins. The native of the Netherlands hit seven of his nine field goal attempts to improve his season percentage to .620, easily best in the Horizon League and among the top-ten in the nation. Van Wijk scored 10 points Thursday against Detroit and 13 Saturday vs. WSU and now averages 15.1 ppg, third-best in the HL. The junior, a two-time HL Player of the Week, has now scored in double figures 21 times, including six 20+ scoring efforts and 14 games with at least 15 points.
Bench Post Presence: When Van Wijk has gone to the bench, the Crusaders have turned to junior Richie Edwards as their post presence in relief, and he has been huge the last two games. In the win over Wright State, Edwards scored a team-high 16 points, his second straight 16-point effort, going 6-of-7 from the floor and hitting both his 3-point attempts. The junior, who went for 16 points and six rebounds in the win last Thursday over Detroit as well, has now had four double-figure scoring efforts in Horizon League play, all of which have come in Valpo wins (18 at Butler, 12 vs. YSU).