Valparaiso (18-9, 11-4 Horizon)
Game #28: Tuesday, Feb. 14 - 7:05 p.m.
UIC (7-17, 3-11 Horizon)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso returns home to the ARC in first place and will close out the Horizon League slate with a trio of home games, starting with a matchup against UIC Tuesday evening at 7:05 p.m.
Last Time Out: A 16-0 first-half run by Youngstown State proved to be too much for Valparaiso to overcome on Saturday evening, as the Crusaders dropped a 71-53 decision in Horizon League play to the Penguins. Valpo led by four points approaching the midway point of the first half before the run put the Penguins ahead for good, as the Crusaders would get no closer than seven points the rest of the way. Richie Edwards led Valpo with 19 points, while Ryan Broekhoff added 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Following the Crusaders: Every game this season will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with Tuesday'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 Tuesady. 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 interactive 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: UIC leads the all-time series against the Crusaders, 29-15, but Valpo holds the 6-3 edge since joining the Horizon League, including winning each of the last five meetings. In the two squads’ initial game this year, Kevin Van Wijk and Ryan Broekhoff combined for all ten points in a 10-0 run that put the Crusaders up nine points with seven minutes to play in a 60-55 victory. Van Wijk paced Valpo in that contest with 20 points, while Jay Harris scored 13 and Broekhoff 12.
The Road Ahead: Valpo travels west later this week, flying into Los Angeles 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 UIC: The Flames enter this week at 7-17 overall and 3-11 in Horizon League action and have lost six of their last seven, most recently a 78-69 loss to Loyola on Saturday. UIC averages just 61.3 ppg on the season while giving up 67.3 ppg and allowing opponents to shoot nearly 45% from the field. Gary Talton leads the way with 11.5 ppg and also tallies better than three assists per contest, while Daniel Barnes is close behind at 11.4 ppg.
Coming Down the Stretch: With just three Horizon League games left to go, the Crusaders are coming down to the wire with a chance to earn their first Horizon League regular season title. Valpo’s schedule sets up favorably, with home games against UIC, Loyola and Butler left on the docket. The Crusaders are currently a half-game up on Cleveland State for first place and two games up on a three-way tie for third. The top-two teams both earn a double bye into the Horizon League Championship semifinals, while the regular season champion earns hosting rights.
Flip the End Result: Valpo’s situation this year is quite similar to last year’s squad, which was tied in the loss column with three games to play with an 11-4 league record and home games remaining against UIC and Loyola as well as a game at Green Bay. The Crusaders are hoping for a different result this year, as last year’s team ended up losing to Loyola and Green Bay, finishing the league season 12-6 and in fourth place in the standings.
Rough Outing: The Crusaders struggled in numerous facets of the game last time out against Youngstown State in Saturday’s 71-53 loss. Playing without the league’s most accurate shooter in Kevin Van Wijk, Valpo connected on just 15-of-47 efforts from the floor. The 31.9% shooting clip was the worst by the Crusaders’ since playing at Kansas last season on Nov. 15, 2010, when they shot 27.4% from the field. In addition, Saturday saw the Crusaders get out-rebounded 39-29, their worst margin in the rebounding column this season.
Bouncing Back From Big Losses: Valpo has shown a proclivity for rebounding with a victory after suffering a large defeat the previous time out. The Crusaders have won six consecutive games overall over the last two seasons following a loss by at least 10 points. In fact, over the last two years, Valpo has lost by at least 10 points in Horizon League play five times and followed with a victory each and every time.
Defense Also Steps Up: Lost in the offensive superlatives from the last two victories 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 on Feb. 4, 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 Feb. 2 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.
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 athe exact same rate from inside, knocking down 55.3% of its tries from inside the arc, tied 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. But last weekend, the Crusaders struggled inside the arc, as Valpo went just 17-of-46 (37.0%) from two-point range on the northeastern Ohio swing.
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 Feb. 4, 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. 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 to Kevin Van Wijk at Cleveland State which forced him to miss the YSU game, over the last 11 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 Youngstown State, Erik Buggs led the way with 31 minutes.
Countdown to 1,000: While junior Ryan Broekhoff struggled from the floor last time out at Youngstown State, going just 2-for-10 from the field, he still ended the night with 12 points and 11 rebounds for his tenth double-double of the year. The Australian, who has scored at least 10 points in 19 of Valpo’s last 20 contests and has grabbed at least five rebounds in 18 straight games, now has 976 career points after Saturday’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 155 career triples, and currently is tied for 16th in career rebounds with 546 caroms. The junior also maintains a chance to lead the Horizon League in both scoring and rebounding, as he ranks third (15.2 ppg) and first (8.7 rpg) in the respective categories.
Edwards Steps Up: Junior Richie Edwards has stood out over Valpo’s last four contests. Edwards started his hot stretch with back-to-back 16-point efforts two weekends ago against Detroit and Wright State. Then last Thursday against Cleveland State, Edwards posted a 20-point night, his best effort of the season against a Division I opponent. Last time out at Youngstown State, Edwards received his first career starting nod with Van Wijk out due to injury and continued his stellar play of late, tallying 19 points in 28 minutes of action. The junior college transfer is now averaging 9.1 ppg on the season and has pushed his average up to 9.7 ppg in Horizon League play.