Valparaiso (6-10, 1-3 Horizon) at Wright State (10-6, 3-2 Horizon) - Sunday, Jan. 10, 2010 - 3 p.m. CST
The Matchup: Valparaiso (6-10, 1-3 Horizon) looks to earn a split on the weekend Horizon League road swing, as the Crusaders play at Wright State (10-6, 3-2 Horizon) Sunday afternoon.
Last Time Out: Cory Johnson scored a career-high 31 points Friday evening, but it was not enough for Valparaiso, as the Crusaders saw a ten-point halftime lead erased as Detroit prevailed 77-67 in Detroit, Mich. Valpo held the Titans to just 24 first-half points to jump out to a double-digit advantage, but Detroit responded with 53 points in the final 20 minutes, including a late 21-6 run that gave them the lead for good. Johnson knocked down 10-of-16 from the floor, including his first three 3-pointers of the season, and 8-of-10 from the foul line for his 31 points, while he was joined in double figures by Brandon Wood, who poured in 13 points of his own.
Series History: Wright State leads the all-time series with the Crusaders by an 8-5 count, but the two teams have split six games since Valpo joined the Horizon League. The two teams last met in the first round of the Horizon League Championship on March 3, 2009 in Dayton, with the Raiders coming out on top, 68-56. Valpo trailed by double digits just 3:33 into the game, but fought back and eventually took the lead early in the second half before Wright State went on a 14-0 run to take control. The Crusaders got 14 points apiece from Jake Diebler and Michael Rogers, while De’Andre Haskins scored 13 first-half points to keep Valpo in the contest.
Following the Crusaders: Saturday’s game, as always, can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WLPR, 89.1 FM, Lowell). 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. Video for the game will be available through the Horizon League Network, while links for VSRN audio, video and live statistics can be found at www.valpoathletics.com.
Tale of Two Halves: Friday’s loss at Detroit was the epitome of a tale of two halves on the defensive side of the ball for the Crusaders. The offense was consistent, as Valpo scored 34 points in the first half and 33 in the second half, hitting at a 51% clip from the floor for the game. But the Crusader defense, which held Detroit to just 34.8% shooting in the first half and just 24 points, allowed the Titans to connect on 64.3% of their attempts from the field in the final 20 minutes as Detroit scored 53 second-half points. In fact, Valpo’s defense, which gave up points on just four of Detroit’s final 16 possessions of the first half, gave up points on 18 of the Titans’ final 21 possessions in the second stanza.
Change of Pace: The start of Horizon League play has brought a different style of play for the Crusaders to contend with. In non-league action, Valpo averaged over 70 possessions per game and scored 74.6 PPG while giving up 75.8 PPG. But in the Crusaders’ four league games so far, they have averaged just 62.5 possessions per game. The lower number of possessions is a big part of the reason for the reduction in scoring for Valpo in league action, as the Crusaders are averaging just 61.8 PPG and giving up just 69.8 PPG within the league.
Turnovers Key: With fewer possessions, each one becomes that much more important, a theory which has played out in each of Valpo’s last three games. Against Milwaukee, the Crusaders forced 19 turnovers while committing just 15 and held a 24-13 edge in points off turnovers, with every point proving important in their one-point win. Against Green Bay, however, Valpo forced just nine turnovers and committed 13 of its own in a six-point loss. Most recently at Detroit, the Crusaders committed 17 turnovers while forcing just 14 and trailed in the points off turnovers column, 21-9.
Multiple-Threat Offense: The Crusader offense, which leads the Horizon League with an average of 71.4 points/game, has four times this season featured two players with 20 or more points in the same game. Brandon Wood went for 25 in the season opener at Ball State and was joined by Cory Johnson with 21 points. Wood then dropped 30 on #6/4 North Carolina while Brandon McPherson scored 20 as well. Most recently, Wood tallied 21 points and Johnson 20 against Concordia, and the duo went for 23 and 22 points, respectively, at IPFW.
Division I Scoring Record: Since Valparaiso made its move to the Division I ranks in the late 1970’s, the Crusaders have had a number of players who could fill up the scoring column. Names like Lubos Barton, David Redmon, Casey Schmidt, Tracy Gipson, Raitis Grafs, Dan Oppland and of course Bryce Drew reside atop the Crusaders’ career points and points per game charts. None of them, however, have scored as many points in a single game as Brandon Wood did Nov. 27 at Georgia Southern. Wood connected on 13-of-18 from the floor, including three 3-pointers, and 10-of-12 from the foul line to score a Valpo Division I record 39 points, also setting a new Legends Classic single-game scoring mark.
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.
Wood Scores in Bunches...: Redshirt sophomore guard Brandon Wood has proven to be among the most prolific scorers the Crusaders have seen in their D-I history, scoring 30 or more points twice already to join Bryce Drew and Dan Oppland as the only players in the last 15 years to score 30 multiple times in a career. Wood, who currently paces the Horizon League and is 24th in the nation with 19.8 points/game and also ranks third in the league in field goal percentage and fourth in 3-point percentage, also has reached at least 20 points on six other occasions, including a game-high 22 points in Valpo’s thrilling win over Milwaukee.
...and Rebounds as Well: Not to be overlooked, the redshirt sophomore has also been a force on the glass in recent games. While Wood only pulled down two rebounds last time out at Detroit, he had averaged 6.3 rebounds/game over the previous seven games, pacing the Crusaders on the boards in four of those games. On the year, Wood is second on the team with 4.9 rebounds/game.
Johnson Has Career Game: Redshirt junior Cory Johnson entered this week having already scored 20 or more points four times on the season, but turned it up another level at Detroit on Friday, pouring in a career-best 31 points. Johnson connected on 10-of-16 from the floor, including going 3-for-3 from behind the arc after starting the season 0-for-4 from downtown in the first 15 games. He also connected on 8-for-10 from the foul line to close out his line.
Maintaining Consistency: Johnson has been among the Crusaders’ most consistent players this season, pacing Valpo on the glass in nine games and reaching double figures in scoring on 14 occasions. On the year, he ranks among the league leaders in a number of categories, as he is second in the Horizon League in field goal percentage (.572), fifth in scoring (16.1 PPG) and seventh in rebounding (6.0 RPG).
Kenney Handles the Rock: Freshman guard Matt Kenney has shown an uncanny abillity to make smart decisions with the ball in his first season as a Crusader. The freshman has been superb this year at handling the basketball, dishing out 37 assists through 16 games while committing just nine turnovers, an assist/turnover ratio of 4.11. His ratio is tied for second-best nationally among all players averaging at least two assists/game. In fact, over the last nine games, the freshman has handed out 25 assists and only totaled four turnovers.
Quickly: Junior guard Howard Little paced the Crusaders in rebounding at Detroit with seven boards, the second time he has led Valpo in the category this year ... despite being just 6’3”, Little is third on the team this season in rebounding (4.3 RPG) ... Valpo lost when leading at the half for the first time since Feb. 15 of last season, when it led UIC 43-40 at the break before falling 83-76 ... Friday was the third time this season that the Crusaders have lost despite shooting 50% or better from the floor ... Valpo leads all Horizon League schools in league-only play in 3-point percentage (.403) and is second in free throw percentage (.780).