Official Athletic Site of the Valparaiso University Crusaders
Valpo Closes Regular Season at ARC Saturday
Howard Little is one of three Crusaders being honored on Senior Night Saturday. (William Liu)
Howard Little is one of three Crusaders being honored on Senior Night Saturday. (William Liu)

Friday, February 25, 2011

#-/RV Valparaiso (20-10, 11-6 Horizon)
Game #31: Saturday, Feb. 26 - 7:05 p.m.
UIC (7-22, 2-15 Horizon)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
 
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso concludes the 2010-2011 regular season Saturday evening as the Crusaders host UIC at the ARC.  It is the Crusaders’ Senior Night, as Cory Johnson, Howard Little and Michael Rogers will all be recognized prior to the game and will address the crowd following the game.

Last Time Out: Valparaiso shot just 35.2% from the floor and hit just two 3-pointers in a 68-48 loss to Loyola Thursday evening at the Athletics-Recreation Center.  Cory Johnson was the only Crusader to finish in double figures, scoring 15 points.

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) and WEFM (95.9 FM, Michigan City).  Todd Ickow is back for his 19th season on play-by-play, while Adam Amin will handle the color commentary Saturday.  The game can also be seen live throughout Chicagoland on Comcast SportsNet Chicago.  The live audio will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com, as well as live video through the Horizon League Network and 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 368-303 record in 21 seasons at the helm of the Crusader program and a 637-425 record in 32 years overall as a head coach.

Series Notes: UIC holds a 29-13 advantage in the all-time series against Valpo, but the Crusaders are 4-3 against the Flames since joining the Horizon League, including three consecutive victories.  Most recently, Valpo overcame a 14-point deficit with 7:30 to play to force overtime and eventually earn a 68-66 victory in Chicago on Dec. 2, 2010.  Brandon Wood led the Crusaders with 19 points and six rebounds in the victory, while Cory Johnson added 15 points.

The Road Ahead: Horizon League Championship action begins Tuesday night, with the Crusaders almost assuredly hosting a home game as the 3 or 4 seed against the 9 or 10 seed.

Scouting UIC: The Flames are 7-22 overall this year and just 2-15 in Horizon League play, fighting to stay out of the league basement.  Saturday marks UIC’s first road game since Feb. 7, when it played at Butler, and the Flames are just 1-12 on the road this season.  It’s mainly a two-threat attack for UIC, as Robo Kreps leads the way with 15.8 ppg.  Paul Carter adds 14.4 ppg and a team-high 8.0 rpg.

Where Will the Crusaders End Up?: Valpo enters the final day of the regular season in fourth place in the Horizon League standings at 11-6, one game back of a three-way tie for the top spot. 
- The Crusaders can fall no lower than the fourth seed for the Horizon League Championship, even if they were to lose Saturday.
- The Crusaders can only finish as the second seed (earning the corresponding double-bye) with a win and losses by Butler, Cleveland State and Milwaukee. 
- The Crusaders will be the third seed with any combination of one or two losses by the three teams currently tied at 12-5 EXCEPT FOR
- The Crusaders will be the fourth seed if Butler and Cleveland State win and Milwaukee loses.

Best League Finish: While the Crusaders are still in a fight near the top of the league standings, they have already guaranteed themselves their best seed for the Horizon League Championship since joining the league.  Valpo can finish no lower than the #4 seed, surpassing the #6 seed it has been on two occasions.  The Crusaders also have already won 11 Horizon League contests this year, surpassing the 10 they won a season ago for their most wins in league play since joining the league.

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 three points in this week’s edition of the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll to be listed among the others receiving votes for the fourth consecutive week.  Prior to this season, 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.

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 last 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: Last 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.

20 Wins, 10 Times: Last 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 97.4/100 possessions (93rd 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 16-2 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 67.0 ppg overall and just 66.8 ppg in league action.

Higher Numbers on Both Sides: If it seems like the Crusaders’ scores on both sides of the scoreboard have been higher lately, it’s because they have been.  Over the season’s first 21 games, Valpo scored 72.2 ppg and surrendered just 64.4 ppg.  But over the last eight games, the Crusaders have averaged 73.3 ppg and given up 73.1 ppg.

A Look at RPI:
The Crusaders enter the regular season finale as one of three Horizon League teams in the top-70 in the nation in RPI.  According to the latest figures from WarrenNolan.com, Valpo sits at #67 heading into the UIC game, joining Cleveland State (#42) and Butler (#45) 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 just below .500 this year in games where they have trailed by 10 or more points at any juncture, going 6-8 in such contests, and have actually led after trailing by 10+ points in three of the losses.  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 month as well.

Sharp Shooters From Inside:
Valpo has cemented itself as one of the best shooting teams in the nation this year, entering this weekend tied for 18th nationally with a .478 field goal percentage.  The Crusaders have been especially proficient inside the arc, hitting at a .558 clip from two-point range, good for third nationally.  Valpo has hit at least half of their two-point attempts in 16 of its last 20 games.  Among Valpo’s nine-man rotation, eight players are hitting at least 50% from inside the arc this season.

Stop, Thief!: The Crusaders lead the league and rank 43rd nationally with an average of 7.9 steals/game this season, and have proven very consistent as pickpockets throughout the year.  In 28 of 30 games, Valpo has tallied at least five steals, the only exceptions being when the Crusaders registered just four at Kansas and last time out, when the Crusaders picked up just three picks.  Valpo had a nation’s-best streak of 25 straight games with at least six steals snapped against Missouri State last Saturday.

Working Extra Time: Three of Valpo’s last eight league games have required an overtime session to decide, with the Crusaders now 3-1 in overtime games this year within league play and 3-2 overall this season when playing extra time.  Valpo’s five 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 have a pair of captains on their squad for the 2010-2011 season.  Cory Johnson and Howard Little are serving 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 21 of his 27 games this season and ranks fourth in the league, averaging 16.3 points per game.  Wood has scored at least 20 points in three of the last four games and nine times overall this year.  The junior currently leads the team in scoring, assists (3.4 apg) and steals (1.8 spg) and ranks third in rebounding (4.3 rpg).  Wood finds himself among the league leaders in a number of categories outside scoring as well, ranking second in steals and seventh in assists.

Hitting 1,000: With a 3-pointer with 4:24 to play in the first half at Green Bay Monday, Wood became the 30th player in Valpo history to score 1,000 career points.  Wood is also just the fourth Crusader in program history to reach the 1K milestone in just their second season of play, and enters Saturday’s game with 1,022 career points, a Valpo record through two seasons.  Dick Jones (1,020 pts, 1965-1967), John Meyne (1,013 pts, 1982-1984) and Dave Redmon (1,005 pts, 1992-1994) are the only other Crusaders to reach 1,000 in their first two seasons.

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 11 of Valpo’s last 12 contests.  Over that stretch, he has scored in double figures seven times, including 11 points Monday at Green Bay.  The senior, who averages 9.8 points and is tied for team-high honors with 4.8 rebounds per game, continues to rank among the league’s most accurate shooters, currently ranking third with a .550 field goal percentage, and hits at a .636 clip inside the arc.

Johnson in the Post: Fifth-year senior Cory Johnson scored in double figures for his team-leading 22nd time on Thursday evening, leading the Crusaders with 15 points in Thursday’s game against Loyola.  Johnson ranks second on the team with 14.1 ppg and hits at a .564 clip inside the arc on the season.

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 has tallied 144 career steals, good for eighth in Valpo history and just six thefts shy of Jamie Sykes in seventh place.  Little also is now in second place in career games played (128) and will tie the program record of 129, set by Brandon McPherson last season, on Saturday night, barring injury.  Broekhoff’s career 3-point percentage of .429 ranks fourth in Crusader history.  Wood and Johnson are ranked ninth (17.0 ppg) and 11th (14.9 ppg) on the scoring average chart, while Johnson is also seventh in career field goal percentage, shooting at a .520 clip.

...and the Single-Season Charts: Nearing the end of the season, a number of players are also threatening the single-season charts.  Broekhoff’s current 3-point percentage of .484 would place him third in a season all-time.  Broekhoff is also just four blocked shots and 11 3-pointers outside the top-10s in those respective categories.  Wood moved into a tie for ninth place for single-season steals earlier thsi week, and his total of 50 is just 13 shy of Valpo’s record of 63..  In addition, both Rogers/Little are less than 2% away from cracking the single-season field goal percentage chart, with tenth place currently at .565.
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