Official Athletic Site of the Valparaiso University Crusaders
Valpo Resumes Horizon League Play at Butler
Cory Johnson ranks sixth in the league in scoring this season. (Laura Jacobsen)
Cory Johnson ranks sixth in the league in scoring this season. (Laura Jacobsen)

Friday, December 31, 2010

Valparaiso (10-4, 2-0 Horizon)
Game #15: Saturday, Jan. 1 - 1 p.m. CST
at Butler (9-4, 1-0 Horizon)
Hinkle Fieldhouse (10,000) - Indianapolis, Ind.
 
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso rings in the New Year in Indianapolis as the Crusaders face off against defending Horizon League champion and national runner-up Butler on Saturday.  The Crusaders enter the contest riding their second four-game winning streak of the year, while Butler owns a five-game winning streak.

Last Time Out: Valparaiso ended the 2010 calendar year on a four-game winning streak as the Crusaders led for the final 28 minutes in a 69-52 victory over Ball State at the Athletics-Recreation Center on Tuesday evening.  Four Crusader starters finished in double figures in the scoring column, led by 17 from Brandon Wood, who scored 15 in the first half alone to stake Valpo to a 12-point halftime edge.

Following the Crusaders: Every game this season will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with Saturday'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 Saturday.  The live audio will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com, with live stats and live video available through the official Crusader website as well.  The game will be televised locally in Indianapolis on WNDY 23, throughout Chicagoland on Lakeshore Public Television and nationwide on the ESPN Full Court package.

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 Saturday's game with a 358-297 record in 21 seasons at the helm of the Crusader program and a 627-419 record in 32 years overall as a head coach.

Series Notes:
The Crusaders and Bulldogs are meeting for the 99th time on the hardwood, making Butler Valpo’s most common all-time opponent.  Butler owns a 66-32 advantage in the series, including wins in all six meetings since Valpo joined the Horizon League, most recently a 74-69 decision at the ARC on Feb. 26, 2010.  Cory Johnson led the Crusaders with 28 points and 10 rebounds in that contest, while Willie Veasley paced Butler with 20 points.

The Road Ahead: The Crusaders return to the ARC for their first home games of the league slate next weekend, hosting Youngstown St. and Cleveland St. on Friday and Sunday.  The next weekend has Valpo traveling to Wright St. and Detroit.

Scouting Butler:
The Bulldogs enter Saturday’s game at 9-4 overall and 1-0 in league action and have won five straight games, including a tournament victory at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii over the Christmas holiday.  Butler is outscoring its opponents by nearly 10 points per game and is paced offensively by 18.1 ppg from Matt Howard, who also registers 8.2 rpg.  Shelvin Mack chips in 15.2 ppg and 3.6 apg.

4 Wins x 2:
Valpo’s win over Ball State Tuesday gave the Crusaders their second four-game winning streak of the 2010-2011 campaign, something that has only happened one other time for the Crusaders in the last seven years.  The 2007-2008 Valpo squad featured an eight-game winning streak during November-December and then won six in a row spanning late February and early March.

10 Wins Before the New Year: The Crusaders’ win over the Cardinals 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.

Winning With Defense: Valpo has improved its defensive efficiency from 109.4 points per 100 possessions (304th nationally) a year ago to 98.7/100 possessions (128th nationally) this year, a big key to their 10 early-season wins.  Valpo held Ball State most recently to just 52 points, its third time holding a D-I opponent under 60 points this season, and is a perfect 9-0 on the year when holding opponents under 70 points.

Dominating Defensively:
While defense has keyed most of the Crusaders' victories this season, Dec. 11's win over IPFW was easily the most dominant performance on the defensive end of the court by Valpo this year.  The Crusaders held the Mastodons to just 13 field goals on 26% shooting and limited IPFW to just 47 points overall.  In addition, Valpo held IPFW to just three 3-pointers on the evening and limited the Mastodons to just three assists, the fewest by a Valpo opponent since Dec. 30, 1999.

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.  Following are some notes regarding that one-of-a-kind win:
 
Flow of the Game - Valpo jumped out to a quick lead and led by seven (14-7) at the first media timeout
-The Crusaders led by as many as nine in the first half, as late as 24-15
-Oakland took over the lead just 4:41 after Valpo led by nine, and led by as much as eight in the first half (47-39) before going into the locker room up 52-45
-The Grizzlies scored a 3-point play on their first possession of the second half to go up by 10
-Valpo re-gained the lead just 3:58 later
-The Crusaders led by double digits for the first time at 87-76 with 5:59 to go and led by 12 three times, the latest coming with 1:09 to play
-Oakland went on a 15-4 run over the final 69 seconds to close to within the final margin

Team Scoring - Second game this year Valpo has broken 100 points (Nov. 12; IU Northwest; 111); only second season since 1996-1997 the Crusaders have scored 100+ twice in same year (2005-2006)
- First time scoring 100 against D-I opponent since Feb. 7, 2002 (Chicago State; 100)
- First time allowing 100 since Dec. 18, 2005 (at Duke; 104)
- First time both scoring and allowing 100 in regulation in same game since Jan. 15, 1996 (at Troy State; L 115-104)
- Also most combined points in same game since Jan. 15, 1996
- Valpo and Oakland combined for more points than all five NBA games which ended in regulation on the night of Dec. 22
- Second-most points ever allowed in Crusader regulation victory (March 1, 1969; Wheaton; W 121-104)
- First time this season in Division I that both teams have broken 100 in regulation; happened five times in 2009-2010 (M.R. March 9, 2010; at Seton Hall 109, Providence 106)

Other Team Notes - Valpo won the Lou Henson Award Tournament with the win over Oakland, earning their second trophy of the season (Upper Division Championship at Las Vegas Invitational)
- Crusaders won at the O'rena for the first time since Jan. 10, 2005; also extended their series lead over Oakland to 17-3
- Valpo shot at a 63.2% clip (36-of-57) from the floor in the win, its best shooting performance against a D-I team since Dec. 8, 2007 at Detroit (30-of-45; 66.7%)
- Crusaders tied a season-high with 10 made 3-pointers and hit 52.6% (10-of-19) from behind the arc, their best effort since Feb. 13, 2010 at Youngstown St. (10-of-18; 55.6%)
- Valpo out-rebounded the Grizzlies 28-27, including a 19-8 advantage in the final 20 minutes, despite entering the game being out-rebounded by its opponents and Oakland out-rebounding foes by seven boards/game
- Crusaders snapped Oakland's 16-game home winning streak

Individual Efforts - Redshirt junior Brandon Wood (35) and fifth-year senior Cory Johnson (33) both scored 30+ in the win over Oakland; last time done by a pair of Crusaders unknown
- First time this year in D-I that a pair of teammates have both scored 30+ points in the same game; happened just three times in regulation games last year (M.R. March 4, 2010; Houston Baptist; Andrew Gonzalez (31) and Wendell Preadom (30))
- Wood's effort was the second-highest scoring output of his career (39 at Georgia Southern; Nov. 27, 2009) and also had second-most FG makes (12) of his career (13 at Georgia Southern)
- Wood set new season highs for points and FG makes and matched season highs for 3-point makes (4), FT makes (7) and rebounds (7)
- Johnson set a new career high in the scoring column with his 33 points, breaking his previous high of 31 (at Detroit; Jan. 8, 2010)
- Johnson also matched his career-best with 12 FG makes (vs. Ark.-Fort Smith; Nov. 29, 2009)
- Johnson hit 12-of-13 from the floor, the best shooting performance (92.3%) by a Horizon League player this year
- Johnson's only FG miss came on his first attempt 52 seconds in, meaning he hit 12 FGs in a row over the final 39:08 of the ballgame
- Johnson's only FT miss came on his second try 4:32 in as he hit his final six attempts from the line
- Wood and Johnson now own the top two scoring performances in the Horizon League this season
- Valpo had just 16 30+ individual scoring efforts in the last 16 years prior to the Oakland game
- Wood (3x) and Johnson (2x) are two of just four Crusaders to have multiple 30+ point games over that span, joining Bryce Drew (5x) and Dan Oppland (2x)

There Was Defense Too?:
Talking about defense in a 103-102 game might seem counter-intuitive, but the Crusaders completely shut down last year's Mid-Major Player of the Year and Naismith Award nominee Keith Benson in the win over Oakland.  Valpo held Benson to just 1-of-2 shooting, five points, one rebound and no blocked shots.  The five points was his fewest since Nov. 29, 2008 and his one rebound his fewest since Nov. 23, 2008.  Also, Benson's streak of 26 games with a blocked shot was also snapped.

Crusaders Match Attendance Record:
Welcoming a top-20 team in Purdue to the ARC proved to be a formula for a packed house on Dec. 7.  The game officially sold out four days in advance, and the attendance was announced at 5,432, matching the all-time attendance record at the ARC, first set on Feb. 5, 2008 when Valpo hosted 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.

Early Start Beneficial This Year: All four years the Crusaders have been in the Horizon League, they have played an early December league weekend.  This year’s road sweep at UIC and Loyola was the second time in four years Valpo has started 2-0 on the road in early play, joining the 2007-2008 squad, which won at Wright State and Detroit to start the league slate.

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.

Valpo Tabbed Fourth in Preseason Poll: Valparaiso was picked to finish in fourth place in the Horizon League preseason poll conducted of the league’s coaches, sports information directors, and media members.  The Crusaders tallied 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, while Milwaukee and Wright State were picked fifth and sixth, respectively.  Green Bay, Loyola, UIC and Youngstown State rounded out the polling.

A Look Back at 2009-2010: Valparaiso improved throughout the 2009-2010 season, closing the year with 15 wins.  The Crusaders went 10-8 in league play, finishing in a tie for fourth place in the Horizon League regular season standings.  It marked the second time in Valpo’s first three seasons as a Horizon League institution that it had finished in the top half of the standings.

A Lot of Production Returns:
Having lost just one regular and three players in all from last year’s squad, Valparaiso returns the vast majority of its production from last season.  The 10 letterwinners, including four starters, who return for the Crusaders in 2010-2011 comprised 82.8% of the team’s scoring and 91.2% of the team’s rebounding from a year ago.

Wood Named Preseason First Team All-League: Redshirt junior guard Brandon Wood was one of five players named to the preseason Horizon League First Team All-League squad as announced in mid-October.  Wood, the league’s Newcomer of the Year and a Second Team All-League honoree in 2009-2010, led the circuit in scoring at 17.7 ppg a year ago, while his 565 total points tied for ninth-most in a single season in Valpo history.  Also an NABC All-District 12 Second Team choice, he ranked among the league's best as well in 3-pointers per game (1.8, 6th) and free throw percentage (.813, 7th).

Johnson a Second Team Honoree: Fifth-year senior forward Cory Johnson also earned a spot on the preseason All-League Second Team after receiving Second Team and All-Newcomer Team honors last year in his first year with the Crusaders.  Johnson averaged 15.6 ppg and 5.8 rpg a year ago, good for fourth and eighth among Horizon League players, respectively.  He connected at a 55.6% clip from the floor, second-best in the league and 20th nationally, and hit better than half of his three-point attempts as well.

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.

Johnson Earns MVP Honors: Fifth-year senior forward Cory Johnson was named the MVP of the Lou Henson Award Tournament following his career-best 33-point performance on 12-of-13 shooting in the title game against Oakland.  Johnson, who also chipped in six rebounds against the Grizzlies, added 12 points and five rebounds in the first game against Eastern Michigan.  After a 16-point effort in Valpo’s most recent win over Ball State, Johnson is averaging 15.9 ppg, second-most on the team and sixth in the Horizon League.  Johnson also ranks sixth in the league in field goal pct. (.519) and is just 35 attempts shy of qualifying for Valpo’s career chart in the category, where he would currently rank fourth.

Wood Leads the Way:
Redshirt junior guard Brandon Wood, who led the league in scoring last year, paced the Crusaders in the scoring column in just three of their first 11 games.  Wood has led Valpo in each of the last three games, however, setting a new season high with 21 points, going 7-of-11 from the floor in the Lou Henson Award Tournament opener against Eastern Michigan.  But that was just a precursor to his performance against Oakland, where he went for 35 points on 12-of-20 shooting and also posted a season-best seven rebounds.  Wood, an All-Tournament selection, added a team-best 17 points, including 15 in the first half, in Tuesday’s win over Ball State and again tied his season high with seven boards.  The junior leads the team and ranks fifth in the league with 16.3 ppg and is also averaging 4.9 rpg and 3.9 apg.

Buggs With the Boards: Redshirt sophomore guard Erik Buggs is often the shortest player on the court at 5’10”, such as he was Tuesday against Ball State.  But that didn’t stop Buggs from grabbing a game-high and new career best eight rebounds in the win over the Cardinals.  The sophomore also played a season-high 31 minutes while matching his season-best with seven points and also handing out four assists.

Doing the Little Things: Senior guard Howard Little showcased his ability to contribute in a number of ways with a career-high seven assists in the win over Ball State Tuesday while also scoring 11 points and grabbing five rebounds.  Little, who ranks second in the HL in field goal pct. (.586), leads the Crusaders in rebounding (5.1 rpg), averages an even 10 ppg and also has tallied a team-best 23 steals.
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