Valparaiso (19-9, 12-4 Horizon)
Game #29: Friday, Feb. 17 - 8 p.m. CST
at Loyola Marymount (17-10, 10-4 WCC)
Gersten Pavilion (4,156) - Los Angeles, Calif.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso takes its final step outside of league play during the regular season on Friday evening, as the Crusaders fly to Los Angeles to face off against Loyola Marymount as part of the Sears BracketBusters X series. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. CST Friday night, and the game will be televised live on ESPNU, the second consecutive year Valpo has been chosen for a televised BracketBusters appearance.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso hit eight of its nine 3-point attempts in the second half, including triples on three straight possessions in the closing minutes to claim the lead for good, in a 74-65 victory over UIC Tuesday evening at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The Crusaders trailed by as many as 11 points in the second half, but took the lead for good on a Will Bogan 3-pointer with 7:29 to play. Richie Edwards led Valpo with 19 points, while Matt Kenney went for 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Following the Crusaders: Every game this season will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with Friday'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 Aaron Leavitt will join him on color commentary Friday. The game is also televised nationwide on ESPNU, with Mark Neely and Miles Simon on the call, and will be simulcast online on ESPN3.com. 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: Friday marks the first meeting all-time between Valpo and Loyola Marymount. The Crusaders have previously played five current West Coast Conference teams a total of seven times and own a 5-2 record against league members. The most recent meeting between Valpo and a WCC squad came on Nov. 21, 2008, when the Crusaders met San Diego at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a 73-66 Valpo loss.
The Road Ahead: The Crusaders 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 Loyola Marymount: The Lions enter Friday night’s contest with a 17-10 overall record and a 10-4 mark in West Coast Conference play. Most recently, LMU earned a road win at #16 St. Mary’s on Wednesday night, 75-60, its third victory over a ranked opponent on the season. The Lions average nearly 71 points per game, led by 16.3 ppg and 5.3 rpg from Drew Viney. Anthony Ireland adds 15.4 ppg as well, as LMU boasts four players averaging in double figures on the season.
Clinching a Double Bye: The win Tuesday over UIC, combined with losses the same night by both Cleveland State and Youngstown State, paid huge dividends in the league race for the Crusaders. YSU’s loss means that Valpo can finish no worse than the #2 seed, which assures the Crusaders a double-bye into the Horizon League Championship semifinals, meaning they’ll have to win just two games to claim the tournament title and the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. The CSU loss puts Valpo 1.5 games in front of the rest of the pack, and means with at least one victory next week (against Loyola or Butler) the Crusaders will claim at least a share of the league regular season title, the #1 seed to the tournament and hosting rights.
The BracketBusters Series: Friday marks Valpo’s eighth appearance in the BracketBusters series all-time. The Crusaders own a 4-3 record all-time in the event, with a perfect home/road split, as Valpo is 4-0 at home and 0-3 on the road. Twice, the Crusaders have been selected for televised games and have come through with victories both times, defeating Miami (Ohio) 99-94 in 2ot on ESPN Classic in 2008 and downing Missouri State last year, 80-67, on ESPN2.
Bombs Away: Trailing by ten at the half on Tuesday, Valpo used a superb 8-of-9 effort from behind the 3-point line en route to a 47-point second half for the comeback victory over the Flames. When the final buzzer sounded, Valpo was 12-of-19 as a team from behind the arc, its best 3-point percentage (63.2%) since Jan. 18, 2007 at Western Illinois and the third time in the last five games it’s connected on at least ten 3’s and shot at least 50% from deep. In fact, over the last five games, the Crusaders are shooting 47.1% (48-of-102) from downtown. Valpo shot just 29.6% from 3-point range over the season’s first ten games, but since is hitting at a 38.4% clip from behind the line.
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 Thursday at Cleveland State.
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 nearly the exact same rate from inside, knocking down 55.4% 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, all seven are hitting at least half of their 2-point attempts. Last time out in the victory over UIC, Valpo was a solid 11-of-19 (57.9%) 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 UIC last time out, the Crusaders are now 11-2 at home this year and now own a 257-112 (.696) all-time record at the ARC, including a 204-47 (.813) mark over the last 18-plus years at home. The Crusaders are also guaranteed to finish well above .500 at home, which will mark the 19th consecutive season with at least a .500 record on their home court.
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. 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 12 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. In Tuesday’s win over UIC, seven of the eight played at least 20 minutes, with Broekhoff leading the way at just 31 minutes.
Countdown to 1,000: Junior Ryan Broekhoff had a rare night in single digits in the scoring column last time out against UIC, going just 3-for-4 (2-for-3 from downtown) for nine points and grabbing only three rebounds. The Australian, who has now scored at least 10 points in 19 of Valpo’s last 20 contests and has grabbed at least five rebounds in 18 of the last 19 games, now has 985 career points after Tuesday’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, ninth in 3-pointers made with 157 career triples, and currently is 16th in Crusader history in career rebounds with 549 caroms. The junior also maintains a chance to lead the Horizon League in both scoring and rebounding, as he ranks third (15.0 ppg) and first (8.5 rpg) in the respective categories.
Edwards Steps Up: Junior Richie Edwards has stood out over Valpo’s last five contests. Edwards started his hot stretch with back-to-back 16-point efforts two weekends ago against Detroit and Wright State. Last Thursday against Cleveland State, Edwards posted a 20-point night, his best effort of the season against a Division I opponent, and then scored 19 points in his first career start at Youngstown State. Last time out, the junior went 5-of-7 from the field and 8-of-9 from the foul line for a team-best 19 points against UIC. The junior college transfer is now averaging 9.5 ppg on the season and has pushed his average up to 10.3 ppg in Horizon League play.
Kenney’s Big Game: Junior Matt Kenney had about one of the most perfect stat lines a player could post last time out against UIC. Kenney nailed all four of his field goal attempts, including a trio of 3-pointers, en route to 14 points. The junior also grabbed a team-best seven rebounds, handed out five assists without committing a turnover, and also blocked two shots and registered a steal. On the season, Kenney is averaging 7.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game and owns a team-high 26 blocked shots.