Valparaiso (18-8, 11-3 Horizon)
Game #27: Saturday, Feb. 11 - 6 p.m. CST
at Youngstown State (13-11, 8-6 Horizon)
Beeghly Center (6,500) - Youngstown, Ohio
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: First-place Valparaiso closes out its Horizon League road schedule on Saturday evening as the Crusaders look to stay atop the league standings with a showdown at Youngstown State. The Crusaders have won 14 straight meetings with the Penguins, including 10 consecutive since joining the Horizon League.
Last Time Out: Playing on the road in a first-place showdown Thursday night in Cleveland, Ohio, Valparaiso surrendered the first point of the game to Cleveland State. Valpo then scored 17 straight over the next eight minutes to seize control for good, and the lead never dropped into single digits the rest of the way, as the Crusaders came out of the Wolstein Center with a 59-41 victory and atop the Horizon League standings. Ryan Broekhoff and Richie Edwards combined for Valpo’s first 20 points and ended the night with a combined 44 points.
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), 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 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, 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 Crusaders have dominated the all-time series with the Penguins, taking the last 14 meetings, including all 10 since joining the Horizon League, and owning a 26-7 advantage overall. Earlier this season, Valpo downed YSU at the ARC, 76-62, led by Kevin Van Wijk’s career-high 23 points. Three other Crusaders also finished the game in double figures.
The Road Ahead: Valparaiso returns home for a showdown at the ARC against UIC on Tuesday before traveling west to take on Loyola Marymount on Feb. 17 live on ESPNU as part of the Sears BracketBusters X event. The Crusaders then close the regular season at home with their final two league games of the year, facing Loyola (Feb. 21) and Butler (Feb. 24), the latter game live on ESPNU.
Scouting Youngstown State: The Penguins enter Saturday’s game at 13-11 overall and 8-6 in Horizon League play, good for a tie for fourth place entering Friday’s action. YSU is coming off of a 68-59 loss at home Thursday night to Butler. The Penguins average 66.8 points per game, with almost all of their production coming from the starting lineup, as all five starters average at least 9.3 ppg. Kendrick Perry paces YSU, posting 16.0 points per game.
Bombs Away: Ryan Broekhoff hit his first three 3-point attempts in the opening four minutes on Thursday. Then Richie Edwards nailed his first three attempts from behind the arc. When the final buzzer sounded Thursday, Valpo was 11-of-22 as a team from behind the arc, the second time in the last three games it’s connected on at least ten 3’s and shot at least 50% from deep. In fact, over the last three games, the Crusaders are shooting 50.8% (31-of-61) from downtown. Valpo shot just 29.6% from 3-point range over the season’s first ten games, but since is hitting at a 38% clip from behind the line.
Odd Offensive Game: 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. Valpo also had just one offensive rebound, just the sixth time in Division I this year that a team has grabbed zero or one offensive boards and won, and the second time Valpo has pulled off the feat.
Defense Also Steps Up: Lost in the offensive superlatives from the last two games 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 last Saturday, and then limited Cleveland State to 25.9% (14-of-54) and 7.7% (1-of-13) from the floor and 3-point range, respectively, last time out. The two games mark the Crusaders’ two best efforts of the year defensively against a Division I opponent in both field goal percentage and 3-point percentage.
Record-Tying Barrage: While last Thursday night against Detroit 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 now has three six 3-pointer games in his career following a 6-for-9 effort last time out against Cleveland State.
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 17 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 had a pair of close games in late January and early February. 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 Feb. 2, 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 55.8% of its tries from inside the arc, good for third 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. But last time out at Cleveland State, the Crusaders’ proficiency from deep didn’t transfer inside the arc, as Valpo matched a season worst by hitting just 33.3% (7-of-21) of its 2-point attempts on Thursday.
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 last 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 and an injury suffered by Kevin Van Wijk last time out at Cleveland State, over the last ten 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 Cleveland State on Thursday, Ryan Broekhoff saw a team-high 33 minutes and Erik Buggs played 30 minutes, while all but Van Wijk played at least 15 minutes.
Countdown to 1,000: For the second time in three games, Ryan Broekhoff hit his first six 3-point attempts Thursday at CSU, ending the night 6-of-9 from deep for 24 points and also tallied his ninth double-double with 10 rebounds. The Australian, who has scored at least 10 points in 18 of Valpo’s last 19 contests and has grabbed at least five rebounds in 17 straight games. now has 964 career points after Thursday’s effort. 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 68 career blocked shots, moved into ninth in 3-pointers made at CSU, passing Seth Colclasure, and now has 154 career triples, and currently ranks 20th in career rebounds with 535 caroms. The junior also maintains a chance to lead the Horizon League in both scoring and rebounding, as he ranks third (15.3 ppg) and first (8.6 rpg) in the respective categories.
Bench Post Presence: When Van Wijk has gone to the bench for rest, or last time out at CSU for the majority of the game due to injury, the Crusaders have turned to junior Richie Edwards as their post presence in relief, and he has been huge the last three 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 went for 16 points and six rebounds in the win last Thursday over Detroit as well. But Edwards had his best effort of the league season last time out at CSU, hitting his first three 3-point attempts en route to four triples and a 20-point night, while he also grabbed six rebounds. Edwards has now had five double-figure scoring efforts in Horizon League play, all of which have come in Valpo wins (18 at Butler, 12 vs. YSU).