Sunday, February 20, 2011
#-/RV Valparaiso (20-8, 11-4 Horizon)
Game #29: Monday, Feb. 21 - 7 p.m.
at Green Bay (12-16, 6-9 Horizon)
Resch Center (10,200) - Green Bay, Wis.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso enters the final week of regular season play with its final road game of the year, traveling north to take on Green Bay Monday evening. The Crusaders enter the final week of play tied in the loss column atop the Horizon League standings.
Last Time Out: In front of a sellout crowd and national television audience on ESPN2, Valparaiso made its stamp on the Sears BracketBusters event with a stellar performance, shooting over 58% from the floor and leading nearly start to finish in an 80-67 victory over Missouri State Saturday afternoon. The win was the Crusaders’ 20th of the season, the tenth time the program has accomplished the feat under Homer Drew.
Following the Crusaders: Every game this season will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with Monday'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 19th season on play-by-play, while Aaron Leavitt will handle the color commentary Monday. The live audio will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com, as well as live video through the Horizon League Network, as well as live stats.
Head Coach Homer Drew: One of only a handful of coaches at the Division I level coaching on a floor named in his honor, head coach Homer Drew is the seventh-winningest active coach in D-I men’s basketball. Drew enters Sunday's game with a 368-301 record in 21 seasons at the helm of the Crusader program and a 637-423 record in 32 years overall as a head coach.
Series Notes: Green Bay holds a 24-15 edge in the all-time series over the Crusaders, including a 14-4 edge in Wisconsin. The Phoenix also are ahead in the series, 5-3, since Valpo joined the Horizon League, with the most recent game being a 63-61 GB win at the ARC on Jan. 23. Leading scorer Brandon Wood did not play that day for the Crusaders, who were led by 17 points from Cory Johnson.
The Road Ahead: Valpo’s last two games of the regular season both take place at the ARC later this week. Loyola comes to town on Thursday evening before the Crusaders welcome UIC on Saturday for Senior Night.
Scouting Green Bay: The Phoenix enter Monday’s game at 12-16 on the season and 6-9 in Horizon League play, having lost its last five contests. A pair of senior guards lead the way for Green Bay, as Rahmon Fletcher averages 16.3 ppg and Bryquis Perine scores 11.1 ppg. The duo also combines for six assists per game as well.
Tight Horizon League Race: After a national television appearance on Saturday, the Crusaders return their focus to league play, with three Horizon League games remaining in the final week of the season. The chase for the top spot coming down the stretch is as tight as its ever been. The Crusaders are currently tied in the loss column with Cleveland State and sit a half-game back of the Vikings. Butler is virtually tied with the Crusaders, while Milwaukee sits a half-game back, both squads with five losses. The top seed has home court advantage throughout the tournament, while the top two seeds earn a double-bye into the semifinals.
BracketBuster: Valparaiso earned its second televised appearance in seven years as part of the Sears BracketBusters series this year, and made the most of it with Saturday’s win over Missouri State on ESPN2. The commentary was provided by Dave O’Brien and Dick Vitale, with the latter doing his first BracketBusters game ever for ESPN. The ARC also marked the smallest venue Vitale has broadcast from in his 32 years at ESPN, but he was definitely impressed, remarking near the end of the broadcast, “These fans have been on fire from the moment we sat here...they gave them an edge today, a great home-court feel. This is truly home court.”
On the Worldwide Leader: Saturday marked the Crusaders’ 11th appearance on the ESPN family of networks over the last four seasons, and is the third time in that time span that ESPN2 has carried a game live from the ARC (2/5/08 - Butler; 3/1/08 - Wright State). Earlier this season, Valpo hosted Purdue on ESPNU from the ARC, while the Crusaders have also made three appearances this year in games broadcast exclusively on ESPN3.com.
National Poll Watch: For the first time in almost nine years, the Crusaders are receiving votes in one of the two major national polls. Valpo picked up four points in this week’s edition of the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll to be listed among the others receiving votes for the third consecutive week. Valpo last made an appearance in one of the national polls in March of 2002, accumulating five points in the last poll prior to the NCAA Tournament that year.
Earning League Wins: With three more Horizon League games remaining, the Crusaders have already assured themselves of their best season in league play. Valpo has now won 11 Horizon League contests this year, surpassing the 10 they won a season ago.
20 Wins, 10 Times: Saturday’s win over Missouri State gave Valpo its 20th win of the season, the tenth time the Crusaders have reached the 20-win milestone under Homer Drew. However, it marks just the second time in the last eight years that Valpo has won at least 20 games, joining the 2007-2008 squad which came out ahead on 22 occasions.
Winning With Defense: Valpo has improved its defensive efficiency from 109.4 points per 100 possessions (304th nationally) a year ago to 96.3/100 possessions (74th nationally) this year, a big key to their 20 wins so far this year. Eight times this year, the Crusaders have held a D-I opponent to 60 points or fewer, while they are 16-1 on the season when holding their opposition under 70 points.
How Improved It Is: Last year, the Crusaders surrendered a league-worst 74.3 points per game and gave up 71.8 ppg in league play only, which ranked ninth among the ten Horizon League squads. So far this year, it has been a 180 in terms of the defensive output, as Valpo is giving up just 66.5 ppg overall. The defense has been even better in league play so far, as the Crusaders have allowed just 65.8 ppg against league foes, third-best in the league.
Offense On a Roll: While the defense has been the impetus for many of the Crusaders’ victories this year, the offense has been the catalyst recently. In five of the last seven games, Valpo has scored better than a point per possession, highlighted by Saturday’s win, in which the Crusaders scored 80 points on just 62 possessions. The offensive efficiency of 128.7 was Valpo’s second-best of the year, trailing just the 133.9 figure from the Oakland game.
A Look at RPI: The Crusaders enter this week as one of three Horizon League teams in the top-50 in the nation in RPI. According to the latest figures from RealTimeRPI.com, Valpo sits at #48 heading into the Missouri State game, joining Cleveland State (#35) and Butler (#49) among the nation's best.
Who Needs Rally Caps?: Valparaiso has flipped a number of games in its favor this season after trailing by double digits. In fact, the Crusaders are .500 this year in games where they have trailed by 10 or more points at any juncture, going 6-6 in such contests, while on the flip side, they are 17-3 in games where they have led by 10 or more points. In addition, Valpo has overcome nine-point deficits in a pair of games in the last three weeks as well.
Sharp Shooters From Inside: Valpo has cemented itself as one of the best shooting teams in the nation this year, entering this week 12th nationally with a .483 field goal percentage. The Crusaders have been especially proficient inside the arc, hitting at a .561 clip from two-point range, good for fourth nationally. Valpo has hit at least half of their two-point attempts in 15 of its last 18 games. Among Valpo’s nine-man rotation, seven players are hitting at least 50% from inside the arc this season.
Stop, Thief!: The Crusaders lead the league and rank 38th nationally with an average of 8.2 steals/game this season, and have proven very consistent as pickpockets throughout the year. In 26 of 28 games, Valpo has tallied at least six steals, the only exceptions being when the Crusaders registered just four at Kansas and five last time out against Missouri State. Valpo had a nation’s-best streak of 25 straight games with at least six steals snapped against the Bears.
Working Extra Time: Two of Valpo’s last four league wins (Butler, @YSU) has required an overtime session to decide, moving the Crusaders’ record to 3-0 in league play and 3-1 overall this season when playing extra time. Valpo’s four overtime games this year are the most in a single season by a Crusader squad since the 1992-1993 team played eight overtime games, tied for the NCAA single-season record.
4 Wins x 3: Valpo’s win over Detroit Jan. 16 gave the Crusaders their third four-game winning streak of the 2010-2011 campaign, something that has not happened for Valpo since the 2001-2002 season. That year’s Crusader squad won seven straight between November and December, captured nine straight wins in the heart of Mid-Con play and then won five consecutive games entering the NCAA Tournament.
10 Wins Before the New Year: The Crusaders’ win over Ball State Dec. 28 assured Valpo of heading into the 2011 calendar year with a 10-4 record, matching a program record for most wins prior to January 1. The 2001-2002 team also posted a 10-4 mark prior to New Year’s Day 2002, while the 2007-2008 Crusaders went 10-3 in the 2007 portion of the schedule.
103-102: The antithesis of most of the Crusaders’ games this season was the 103-102 win in regulation at Oakland Dec. 21 to capture the Lou Henson Award Tournament. Some notes regarding that high-scoring victory can be found on page six of this release.
A Big Victory: Valpo easily handled Purdue North Central Nov. 18, limiting the Panthers to just 44 points in a 98-44 victory. The 54-point margin of victory ties for the sixth-highest differential in program history, matching the winning margin in a 66-12 win against Chicago Tech back in the 1920-1921 season.
Offensive Explosion: The Crusaders lit up the scoreboard throughout their season opener against IU Northwest, scoring 59 first-half points and adding 52 second-half points. A short-range flip up and in by Cory Johnson with 5:49 to play put Valpo over the century mark as it utilized the third digit on the scoreboard for the first time since a 105-73 win over Longwood on Jan. 7, 2006. The 111 points matched the most the Crusaders have scored in the last 15 seasons as well.
Crusaders Match Attendance Record: Valparaiso has sold out three games this year - Dec. 7 against Purdue, Jan. 29 against Butler and Feb. 19 against Missouri State - and matched the ARC all-time attendance record in the first two contests. The attendance of 5,432 for both games tied the mark set on Feb. 5, 2008 when the Crusaders welcomed a sellout crowd for a top-10 Butler squad.
Breaking Out the New Gear: The Crusaders unveiled their new uniform design Dec. 7 against Purdue, and also debuted gray uniforms in the nationally-televised contest. The grays will serve as alternate uniforms, mainly for use on special occasions, while Valpo will continue to wear white jerseys at home and gold uniforms on the road.
Valpo Tabbed Fourth in Preseason Poll: Valparaiso was picked to finish in fourth place in the Horizon League preseason poll, tallying 312 points in the polling. Butler, the reigning national runner-up and last season's regular season and tournament champions, was a unanimous selection atop the league standings. Detroit edged out Cleveland State as the second pick.
Pair of Crusaders on Preseason All-League Squads: Valpo was represented by a pair of players on the Horizon League’s preseason All-League teams. Redshirt junior Brandon Wood was named to the First Team, while fifth-year senior Cory Johnson earned a spot on the Second Team.
Oh Captain My Captain: The Crusaders will have a pair of captains for the 2010-2011 season. Cory Johnson and Howard Little will serve in the role, each for the second straight year.
Sun, Fun and Basketball: This year’s Crusader squad got the chance to bond as a team with a preseason foreign trip to Cancun in August, the first time Valpo has taken advantage of the chance to take a preseason trip. The Crusaders got 10 days of practice in Valpo before taking off for Cancun with all 13 players, including newcomers Jay Harris and Kevin Van Wijk. While down in Cancun, Valpo won all four games, including a come-from-behind 102-84 win over Pioneros de Quintana Roo, which finished third in the 20-team LNBP last year.
Players of the Week: Valparaiso has claimed three Player of the Week honors from the Horizon League already this season. Brandon Wood earned the Crusaders’ first honor of the year, sharing Player of the Week accolades after he averaged 28.0 ppg en route to All-Tournament honors at the Lou Henson Award Tournament. Cory Johnson was tabbed as the league’s Player of the Week Jan. 10 after averaging 23.0 ppg in two league victories for the Crusaders, while Wood was again honored the next week after tallying 21.5 ppg in a pair of league road wins.
Wood Leads the Way: Redshirt junior guard Brandon Wood has scored in double figures in 20 of his 26 games this season and ranks fourth in the league, averaging 16.6 points per game. Last Wednesday, the junior totaled a team-best 23 points at Milwaukee, and then last time out in the BracketBusters win over Missouri State, he poured in a game-high 24 points. Wood also grabbed five rebounds, handed out five assists and tied his career high with four steals against the Bears, and currently leads the team in scoring, assists (3.5 apg) and steals (1.9 spg) and ranks third in rebounding (4.4 rpg). The junior finds himself among the league leaders in a number of categories outside scoring as well, ranking second in steals and seventh in assists.
In Search of 1,000: Despite being just 58 games into his Crusader career, Wood enters Monday night’s game with 996 career points, just four shy of his 1,000th career point at Valpo. Wood will become the 30th player in program history to reach the 1K milestone.
Little Quietly Produces: Senior Howard Little has quietly been a solid presence on both ends of the floor for the Crusaders recently, scoring nine or more points in each of Valpo’s last ten contests. Over that stretch, he has scored in double figures six times, including a perfect 5-of-5 effort from the floor for 11 points in the win last time out over Missouri State. The senior, who averages 9.9 points and a team-best 4.9 rebounds per game, continues to rank among the league’s most accurate shooters, currently ranking third with a .556 field goal percentage, and hits at a .646 clip inside the arc.
Broekhoff Bombs Away: Sophomore Ryan Broekhoff has been huge from behind the arc for the Crusaders recently, going 22-of-40 from 3-point range in Valpo's last eight games. After missing his first two Wednesday, the sophomore nailed four in a row to help the Crusaders overcome a double-digit deficit and gain a halftime lead at Milwaukee. Broekhoff closed the game against the Panthers with 21 points, the second-highest output of his career, and added 10 Saturday against Missouri State. He currently ranks third on the team in scoring (10.6 ppg), and leads the way in rebounding (4.9 rpg) and blocks (1.3 bpg). From behind the arc this year, he has hit at a .482 clip, a mark which has improved to .548 in Horizon League play.
Johnson In the Post: Fifth-year senior Cory Johnson got the job done in the interior last time out against Missouri State, going for 13 points, five rebounds and three assists in the win over the Bears. Johnson, who has scored in double figures a team-best 21 times on the year, is second in the league and tenth in the league, averaging 14.5 ppg. He has also been extremely accurate inside the 3-point line, connecting at a .578 clip inside the arc.
Cracking the Career Charts: A number of Crusaders have already cracked Valpo’s career charts in different categories or are on pace to do so very soon. Little surpassed Raitis Grafs at Milwaukee for eighth place all-time in steals and, with 143 career steals, is now just seven thefts shy of Jamie Sykes in seventh place. Little also is now tied for third in career games played (126) and continues to be on pace to surpass the program record of 129, barring injury. Broekhoff’s career 3-point percentage of .425 is already sixth-best in Valpo history. Wood and Johnson both have accumulated 50+ games played for their careers, allowing them to be ranked ninth (17.2 ppg) and 11th (15.1 ppg) on the scoring average chart. Johnson also ranks fifth in career field goal percentage, shooting at a .528 clip.
Quickly: Matt Kenney grabbed five rebounds and handed out five assists without committing a turnover Saturday ... Michael Rogers, who had four 3-pointers all year, knocked down two against Missouri State, while Erik Buggs connected on just his third triple of the year as well ... with three games remaining, the Crusaders have a shot at reaching 23 wins by the end of the regular season, which would be the most wins in the regular season since Valpo moved to Division I.