Cleveland State at Valparaiso - Saturday, January 16, 2010 - 1 p.m.
The Matchup: Valparaiso (7-11, 2-4 Horizon) aims for its second win in a row in league play as the Crusaders host Cleveland State (7-11, 3-3 Horizon) on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. in the HLN Game of the Week.
Last Time Out: Crusader guards Brandon McPherson and Brandon Wood got Valparaiso off to a hot start Thursday evening and then combined to bring the Crusaders back from behind in the second half as Valpo defeated Youngstown State, 70-66, in Horizon League action at the ARC. The duo combined for 25 first-half points as Valpo jumped to a 41-29 halftime lead and then each hit a 3-pointer after the Crusaders fell behind by three in the second half to give Valpo the lead for good. McPherson set a new career high with nine makes from the floor en route to a game-high 22 points, while Wood finished the night with 20 points, six rebounds and six assists.
Series History: The Vikings hold a 26-7 advantage in the all-time series over the Crusaders and are one of just two Horizon League schools that Valpo is looking for its first win against since joining the league. Their most recent matchup came at the ARC on Feb. 26, 2009, when Cleveland State prevailed by a 71-64 count on the back of 82.4% shooting in the second half. De’Andre Haskins and Michael Rogers tied for team-high honors with 18 points apiece, while Urule Igbavboa posted 17 points and eight rebounds.
Following the Crusaders: Saturday’s game is the Horizon League Network Game of the Week, available live on television in a number of league markets and online at www.horizonleaguenetwork.tv with Will Haskett and Damon Lewis on the call. Also, as always, the game can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WLPR, 89.1 FM, Merrillville). 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. Links for VSRN audio, video and live statistics can be found at www.valpoathletics.com.
Back Home at the ARC: Following Valpo’s win over Youngstown State Thursday evening, the Crusaders are 5-1 overall at the Athletics-Recreation Center this year, right in line with their home dominance in the recent past. Since the start of the 1993-1994 campaign, Valpo boasts a stellar 175-38 (.822) record at the ARC, and has finished above .500 on its home hardwood in each of those 16 seasons.
Connecting From Downtown: The Crusaders have been by far the Horizon League’s best 3-point shooting team in league play thus far. Valpo has connected on 42-of-98 (42.9%) attempts from behind the arc through six league games, over five percentage points better than the second-ranked team in the category. In fact, Valpo has made two more 3-pointers than its opponents in league play (42-40) despite taking 25 fewer attempts (98-123).
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’ five league games so far, they have averaged just 62.2 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 62.3 PPG and giving up just 67.3 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 Horizon League 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. And most recently, Valpo committed just ten turnovers and forced 13 miscues while also holding a 13-10 advantage in points off turnovers in a four-point win over Youngstown State. But in Valpo’s four league losses, it has committed more turnovers than it has forced, averaging 16.0 turnovers/game while forcing just 11.0 turnovers/game.
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.
McPherson Finds the Basket: Fifth-year senior guard Brandon McPherson, one of Valpo’s most established scorers over the first month of the season, had reached double figures just once in the Crusaders’ last ten games entering Thursday’s contest. But McPherson blew up against the Penguins, setting a career best with nine field goals made, including four triples, on his way to a game-high 22 points. The effort was the ninth time in his career McPherson has scored at least 20 points. It also moves McPherson to 994 career points, just six shy of becoming the 29th player in Crusader history to score 1,000 career points.
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 with 19.1 points/game and also ranks fourth in the league in field goal percentage (.484) and second in 3-point percentage (.453), also has reached at least 20 points on seven other occasions, including 20 points most recently in Valpo’s win Thursday over Youngstown Staete.
...and Fills Up the Stat Sheet: Not to be overlooked, the redshirt sophomore has also been a force on the glass in recent games. Over the last ten outings, Wood has pulled down a team-best 5.7 rebounds/game and has corraled at least five caroms in nine of those games. Thursday night, he tied for team-high honors with six rebounds while also matching his career best for the third time with six assists.
Johnson Continues to Produce: Redshirt junior forward Cory Johnson stood out for the Crusaders last weekend in their pair of road games. In front of a national TV audience on ESPNU, Johnson poured in a career-best 31 points at Detroit, going 10-of-16 from the floor and 8-of-10 from the free throw line. He then registered team highs of 17 points and nine rebounds in Sunday’s game at Wright State. Most recently, the redshirt junior posted his 16th double-figure scoring performance of the season with ten points to go with a team-high six boards Thursday against YSU. On the year, Johnson ranks fifth in the league in scoring (15.8 PPG), ninth in rebounding (6.2 RPG) and second in field goal percentage (.570).
Another Deep Threat: Johnson was just 0-of-4 from behind the 3-point line in Valpo’s first 15 games of the season, but has showcased his touch from downtown over the last three games, going 6-of-7 from deep since the start of the Detroit game. His long-range ability adds another threat to a Crusader squad that is connecting at a 39.1% clip overall and 42.9% clip in league play from 3-point range on the season.
Quickly: Valpo improved to a perfect 5-0 against YSU since joining the Horizon League with Thursday’s win ... the Crusaders reached the 70-point plateau for the first time since 12/22 at IPFW ... Thursday was the fifth time this year that multiple Crusaders have scored 20 or more points in the same game ... Valpo’s ten turnovers was its fewest since 12/12 against Toledo.