Valparaiso at Georgia Southern - Friday, Nov. 27 - 6:30 p.m. CST
Valparaiso vs. Troy - Saturday, Nov. 28 - 2 p.m. CST
Valparaiso vs. Arkansas-Fort Smith - Sunday, Nov. 29 - noon CST
The Matchup: Valparaiso takes part in the Statesboro subregional of the Legends Classic, spending Thanksgiving weekend on the campus of Georgia Southern University as the Crusaders face the host Eagles on Friday before taking on Troy on Saturday and Arkansas-Fort Smith on Sunday.
Last Time Out: A game-high 24 points from Brandon Wood were not enough Sunday afternoon, as Valparaiso fell to #2/2 Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich. 90-60 in the Crusaders’ Legends Classic opener. After being tied at 5, the Spartans went on a 24-6 run to extend the lead to 18 points and Valpo would get no closer than 14 the rest of the way. Cory Johnson was the only other Crusader to reach double figures in the scoring column, tallying 16 points for the second straight game, while four MSU players hit double digits, led by 22 points by Chris Allen.
Series History: This weekend will mark the first meeting on the hardwood for the Crusaders against both Georgia Southern and Arkansas-Fort Smith. However, Troy is a familiar rival, as the two teams spent three seasons together in the Mid-Continent Conference. The two teams split the six meetings over the three year span from 1994-95 to 1996-97, with the Trojans earning the win in the last meeting, a 72-69 overtime decision at the ARC on Feb. 24, 1997. Bryce Drew led all players with 24 points in that game, but went just 8-of-25 from the floor, while Jamie Sykes added 19 points. Bill Jenkins ripped down 21 rebounds as well.
Following the Crusaders: This weekend’s games, as always, can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City). Veteran broadcaster Todd Ickow returns for his 19th season on play-by-play for the Crusaders, while Valpo alumnus Andy Viano will handle the color commentary. WLPR (89.1 FM, Lowell) will also be carrying the VSRN broadcast of the games on Friday and Sunday as well. Links for live audio and live statistics can be found at www.valpoathletics.com.
Legends Classic: Valparaiso opened Legends Classic play at #2/2 Michigan State on Sunday prior to this weekend’s subregional action in Statesboro. It marks the second time in the last three seasons that the Crusaders have taken part in an event run by the Gazelle Group, as Valpo took part in the inaugural CBI in March of 2008, defeating Washington before falling to Houston in the quarterfinal. This weekend will be the first time that the Crusaders have played on three straight days since four straight games Dec. 28-31, 2004, when Valpo took on Penn State and Arizona State in the Arizona State Classic before concluding play in the Las Vegas Holiday Classic against Northern Iowa and Longwood.
Dropping 25: Valpo received big individual efforts on the offensive end in each of its first three games of the year. Brandon Wood scored 25 points against Ball State in the opener before registering 30 points at UNC, and Brandon McPherson followed with a 25-point effort versus IU-South Bend. Entering this season, the last time the Crusaders had a 25-point scorer in three consecutive games was Jan. 20-27, 1997, when Bryce Drew scored 34 at Oral Roberts and 38 against Western Illinois before Tony Vilcinskas dropped 28 on Northland.
Dual 20 Point Scorers: Wood’s efforts in the season’s first two games were joined by 21 points from Cory Johnson against Ball State and 20 points from McPherson at UNC. Prior to this season, the last time two Crusaders had scored 20 or more in a regulation game was Dec. 22, 2006 against Charlotte, when McPherson scored 24 to go along with 21 points from Samuel Haanpaa. The last time Valpo accomplished the feat in back-to-back games was Feb. 7 & 9, 2002, as Lubos Barton scored 24 points and Stalin Ortiz 21 points against Chicago State, followed two days later by 23 from Barton and 22 points from Milo Stovall against Southern Utah.
Looking at the Schedule: This year’s Crusaders will be extremely battle-tested prior to hitting the heart of Horizon League play. Valpo played two Sundays ago at #6/4 North Carolina, the first of four top-10 squads that the Crusaders take on in early-season action. This past Sunday, it was #2/2 Michigan State that the Crusaders traveled to face off against. The one weekend of Horizon League play in early December sees Valpo play at #11/10 Butler, while four days later, there’s another road game at #7/7 Purdue. In all, of the Crusaders’ first 13 games, eight are true road games with a pair of neutral-site contests as well.
Tri-Captains: Head coach Homer Drew has appointed a trio of Crusaders to serve as captains for the 2009-2010 season. Fifth-year senior Brandon McPherson, redshirt-junior Cory Johnson and junior Howard Little will represent the Crusaders in that capacity this year. For McPherson, it is the fourth straight season he has been tabbed a captain.
Tabbed Eighth: The Crusader men’s basketball team has been picked to finish eighth in the Horizon League for the 2009-2010 season, according to polling of the league’s head coaches, sports information directors and media members. Butler has been tabbed the preseason favorite with 43 of the possible 46 first-place votes. Wright State was picked second with defending tournament champion Cleveland State projected third. Milwaukee, Green Bay, Detroit and Youngstown State were picked fourth through seventh, respectively, while UIC and Loyola rounded out the polling.
BWood Gets Buckets: Redshirt sophomore guard Brandon Wood continues to shine on the offensive end of the court in his first year as a Crusader. Most recently, Wood dropped a game-high 24 points at Michigan State, including a 9-of-10 effort from the free throw line. Wood scored 25 points on Ball State in Valpo’s season opener, the most points by a Crusader in their debut since Lubos Barton scored 27 against South Carolina on Nov. 7, 1998, and then one-upped himself with 30 points, including six 3-pointers, against North Carolina. When his 12 points against IUSB are factored in, Wood still leads the league with 22.8 ppg.
More on Wood: The 55 points Wood combined for in his first two outings is the most by any Valpo player since Bryce Drew scored 59 in a two-game stretch Feb. 25 and Mar. 2, 1998. Wood also became just the ninth Crusader in the last 15 years, dating back to the start of the 1994-95 season, to score 30 or more in a single game, joining Shawn Huff, Samuel Haanpaa, Dan Oppland (2x), Lubos Barton, Raitis Grafs, Bryce Drew (5x), Anthony Allison and Chris Ensminger.
McPherson Gets Hot at Right Time: Fifth year senior Brandon McPherson single-handedly pulled the Crusaders back into the lead against IUSB with 14 straight points of his own, turning a nine-point deficit into a five-point lead and sparking a 21-0 spurt. McPherson scored 19 of his game-high and career-best 25 points in the second half, going 7-of-9 from the field and 5-of-6 from the 3-point line for the game. Despite failing to reach double figures for the first time this season at Michigan State, McPherson still ranks fifth in the league with 16.3 ppg.
Johnson Doubles Up: Redshirt junior Cory Johnson tallied the first double-double of his career against IUSB, going for 16 points and 12 rebounds in the victory, and then added 16 more points on Sunday at Michigan State. Johnson, who also scored 21 points in Valpo’s season opener at Ball State, is ninth in the league in scoring (15.0 ppg) and tied for sixth in rebounding (7.0 rpg).
Quickly: Valpo committed just nine turnovers at Michigan State, the third game this year it has kept the turnover total to single digits ... the Crusaders lead the Horizon League in assist/turnover ratio (1.24) ... junior guard Howard Little grabbed a team-high six rebounds at Michigan State ... sophomore forward Milos Milosevic played 11 minutes against the Spartans after playing just four minutes in the season’s first three games ... sophomore walk-on guard Nick Shelton, the Crusaders’ only Michigan native, scored his first career field goal at MSU on Sunday ... Valpo’s Dec. 5 game at Butler has been moved to a 6 p.m. CST start.