Valparaiso (19-10, 12-4 Horizon)
Game #30: Tuesday, Feb. 21 - 7:05 p.m.
Loyola (7-19, 1-14 Horizon)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso looks to clinch at least a share of its first Horizon League men’s basketball regular season championship and earn the #1 seed for the upcoming league tournament on Tuesday evening, as the Crusaders welcome Loyola to the ARC. The Crusaders are also in search of their 20th victory this season as well. The game can be seen locally on Lakeshore Public Television.
Last Time Out: Junior Ryan Broekhoff scored 16 points on Friday evening, the 15th of which made him the 31st player in Crusader basketball history to reach 1,000 career points, but it was not enough as Valparaiso fell to Loyola Marymount, 61-53, in the Sears BracketBusters X event in Los Angeles, Calif. The Crusaders never led, but cut the deficit to one point on numerous occasions. Richie Edwards paced Valpo with 17 points in the losing effort.
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 Tuesday. 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: Loyola holds a sizable 33-13 lead in the all-time series against the Crusaders, but Valpo holds a 5-4 advantage since joining the Horizon League. The Crusaders have actually won five of the last six meetings, including most recently a 69-48 win in Chicago on Jan. 19, a game in which Jay Harris led four players in double figures with 18 points off the bench.
The Road Ahead: Valpo closes the regular season at home on Friday evening against Butler at 6 p.m., its second national TV broadcast on ESPNU in the last three games. The Horizon League Championship then awaits, with the Crusaders guaranteed to not be playing until the semifinals, as they can be no worse than the #2 seed.
Scouting Loyola: The Ramblers enter Tuesday night’s matchup 7-19 overall and just 1-12 in Horizon League play, but have won two of their last three games, including a 56-44 win at Bradley most recently on Saturday. Loyola, which averages just 55.6 ppg, is led by junior forward Ben Averkamp, who averages 14.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per contest. Senior forward Walt Gibler contributes 12.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, but missed Saturday’s game due to injury.
Clinching a Double Bye: The win last 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 this 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.
In Search of #20: Heading into the final week of regular season play, Valpo sits just one win shy of reaching the 20-win milestone this season, a mark that only one other Horizon League team (Cleveland State) has reached to date. With a win over Loyola, the Crusaders would reach 20 wins for the 12th time in the last 19 seasons. Homer Drew led Valpo to ten 20+ win campaigns, while Scott Drew guided the Crusaders to 20 wins in his only season as head coach.
Bombs Away: Trailing by ten at the half last 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 UIC. 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. At LMU on Saturday, the Crusaders shot their way back into the game, hitting six of their first seven second-half 3-pointers to cut a 10-point deficit to just one point. Valpo shot just 29.6% from 3-point range over the season’s first ten games, but since is hitting at a 38.2% clip from behind the line, and in fact is second in HL-only play in 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 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 55.0% of its tries from inside the arc, good for sixth 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 at LMU, the Crusaders suffered a rare off-shooting night inside the arc, going just 8-of-20 (40%) on their 2-point shots.
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 Tuesday, 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 and LMU games, over the last 13 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. At Loyola Marymount on Friday, Hrvoje Vucic stepped into Van Wijk’s role in the rotation and played 15 minutes, as all eight played at least 15 minutes, with Erik Buggs and Ryan Broekhoff leading the way at 30 minutes apiece.
Breaking 1,000: Junior Ryan Broekhoff became the 31st player in Valpo basketball history to reach the 1,000 point milestone for their career with his final 3-point basket last time out at Loyola Marymount. Broekhoff ended the game with 16 points and now has 1,001 career points entering Tuesday’s game, just 181 points shy of Valpo’s all-time top-20. The junior 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, surpassed Milo Stovall and Brandon McPherson last time out to move into seventh in 3-pointers made with 161 career triples, and moved into 15th in Crusader history at LMU in career rebounds with 552 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 (8.3 rpg) in the respective categories.
Edwards Continues His Tear: Junior Richie Edwards has stood out over Valpo’s last six contests. Edwards started his hot stretch with back-to-back 16-point efforts two weekends ago against Detroit and Wright State before going on the road and scoring 20 points at Cleveland State and 19 at Youngstown State. Last week, he paced the Crusaders in both their contests, scoring 19 points in a key Horizon League win over UIC before tallying 17 points in the Crusaders’ BracketBusters loss at Loyola Marymount. The junior college transfer is now averaging 9.8 ppg on the season and has pushed his average up to 10.3 ppg in Horizon League play. Over the last six games, Edwards is averaging 17.8 ppg on 58.6% (34-of-58) shooting from the floor and is 11-of-20 (55%) from behind the 3-point line.