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Crusaders Look to Rebound at Milwaukee Saturday
Valparaiso (15-8, 8-3 HL)
Milwaukee (14-9, 7-4 HL)
1/27/2012 | Milwaukee, Wis. (U.S. Cellular Arena) | Attendance: 5773
Friday, January 27, 2012
Valparaiso (14-8, 7-3 Horizon)
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Valparaiso closes out a four-game road trip, its longest road swing of the season, Saturday afternoon in the Horizon League Network Game of the Week at Milwaukee. Both squads enter Saturday’s contest tied for second place in the league standings, just one-half game out of the league lead.
Last Time Out: Junior Ben Boggs hit all five of his 3-point attempts en route to a career-best 17 points, but Valparaiso fell to Green Bay to start the second half of Horizon League play, 75-60, Thursday evening in Green Bay, Wis. Ryan Broekhoff added 14 points and nine rebounds as well for the Crusaders, who never led in the ballgame.
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 20th season on play-by-play, while Keaton Gillogly will join him on color commentary Thursday. As the Horizon League Network Game of the Week, it will also be televised locally on Comcast SportsNet Chicago, with Jim Barbar and Joel Cornette on the call. As always with every league game, there will be a live free video webcast through the Horizon League Network as well. Links to the live audio and video webcasts, as well as a link to live statistics, will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com.
Head Coach Bryce Drew: Bryce Drew made his head coaching debut at Arizona on Nov. 7, as he was named the 21st head coach in the history of the Valparaiso men’s basketball program on May 17, 2011. Just the fourth new head coach to grace the Crusader sidelines in the last 31 years, Drew had spent the last six seasons as a member of the Crusader coaching staff before earning the head position. He famously hit the game-winning shot against Ole Miss for Valpo in the first round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament to cap an illustrious Crusader career, before going on to a seven-year professional career, six of which were spent in the NBA.
Series Notes: One of the Crusaders’ tightest series since joining the Horizon League, Valpo and Milwaukee have split 22 meetings all-time. The Panthers hold a 6-4 edge since Valpo joined the league, with five of those 10 contests being decided by three points or less. One of those close calls happened in the last meeting on Dec. 29, as a Kaylon Williams 3-pointer inside the final minute was the key basket in a 57-55 Milwaukee win. Ryan Broekhoff paced Valpo with 18 points and 12 rebounds in that contest.
The Road Ahead: Valparaiso returns home for the first time in three weekends next Thursday and Saturday, hosting Detroit (Feb. 2) and Wright State (Feb. 4). The Crusaders then face their final Horizon League road trip the following weekend, traveling to Cleveland State (Feb. 9) and Youngstown State (Feb. 11).
Scouting Milwaukee: The Panthers enter Saturday afternoon’s showdown with identical records as the Crusaders: 14-8 overall and 7-3 in league play. Milwaukee, which defeated Butler on Thursday 53-42, holds opponents to just 59.5 points per game and is among the nation’s leaders in 3-point FG% defense, allowing opponents to hit just 25.2% from deep. Kaylon Williams paces the Panthers with 11.2 ppg and 6.5 apg, while James Haarsma averages 10.6 ppg and 6.2 rpg.
The Difference Between Ws and Ls: Comparing the stats from the Crusaders’ seven Horizon League wins to their three league losses, including the most recent one Thursday at Green Bay, it’s easy to see the difference in the two sets of games is the offense and rebounding. In Valpo’s league wins, it is averaging 73.9 ppg on 51.7% FG/37.6% 3PT/72.1% FT and out-rebounding the opposition by two boards per game. Meanwhile, in the losses, the Crusaders have averaged just 56.7 ppg on 40.5% FG/23.5% 3PT/61.3% FT and are getting out-rebounded by three boards per game.
No More Close Games: After the first four games of the Horizon League slate were decided by a combined 13 points, Valpo has had no games come right down to the wire. Over the last six league games, the losing team has never had a chance to tie in the final minute, with four of those six games being decided by double digits. Last time out at Green Bay marked just Valpo’s second double-digit loss in league play this year, but the good news for the Crusaders is that they’ve followed their last four double-digit league losses (1 this year, 3 last year) with victories in their next game.
A Big Road Win: Valparaiso led by 20+ points for much of the second half last Thursday night at Loyola, eventually ending the night with a 21-point win. That easy of a victory on the road was something that hasn’t been seen from a Crusader squad in over a decade. The last time Valpo won a road game by more than 21 points was back on Feb. 7, 2000, when the Crusaders downed Belmont, 86-60, while their last league road win by that kind of margin came Jan. 21, 1999 at Chicago State (74-42). It also marked Valpo’s fourth win by at least 20 points in Horizon League play since joining the league in 2007-08.
Proficiency Inside the Arc: Valparaiso’s success shooting from 2-point range has carried over into the 2011-2012 season. Last season, the Crusaders finished the year hitting 55.3% of their 2-point attempts, good for third nationally. So far this year, Valpo has connected at an even better clip from inside, knocking down 56.7% of its tries from inside the arc, second in the nation in the category. In fact, of Valpo’s seven rotation players who have been playing the entire season, six are hitting at least half of their 2-point attempts. Last time out was not as kind for the Crusaders, as for just the fourth time this season, they failed to hit at least half their shots from inside the arc, connecting on just 11-of-28 (39.3%) at Green Bay.
Valpo Tabbed Fifth in Preseason Poll: Valparaiso was picked to finish in fifth place in the Horizon League preseason poll conducted of the league’s coaches, sports information directors, and media members. The Crusaders tallied 255 points in the polling. Preseason league favorite Butler received 28 of the 50 first-place votes, while Detroit was picked second and received 19 first-place votes. Cleveland State (2 first-place votes) and Milwaukee (1 first-place vote) were chosen third and fourth ahead of the Crusaders, while Green Bay was just behind Valpo in sixth position. Youngstown State, Wright State, Loyola and UIC rounded out the polling in order.
A Look Back at 2010-2011: Valparaiso is coming off of its tenth postseason appearance in the last 16 seasons, having earned a berth into the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT) last season. The Crusaders won 23 total games in 2010-2011, their greatest number of victories since the 2001-2002 season. Valpo also went 12-6 in Horizon League, posting its best record in league play since entering the HL and finishing just one game out of a share of the regular season title.
Home Court Advantage: With 15 regular season home games slated for the ARC this year, Valparaiso has plenty of opportunities to utilize its home court advantage. With the win over Cleveland State on Jan. 15, the Crusaders are now 8-2 at home this year and now own a 254-112 (.694) all-time record at the ARC, including a 201-47 (.810) mark over the last 18-plus years at home. The Crusaders have also finished above .500 on their home court in each of the last 18 years.
High-Scoring Coaching Staff: Valparaiso boasts the third-highest scoring coaching staff in Division I basketball, as judged by points scored by the core four coaches at the Division I level. Head coach Bryce Drew scored 2,142 points at Valpo, while assistant coach Jake Diebler scored 826 points as a Crusader. Assistant coach Roger Powell Jr. added 1,178 points during his time at Illinois. Valpo’s total of 4,146 Division I points trails just Tennessee and Auburn.
Shots From the Heart: Both Valpo head coach Bryce Drew and assistant coach Roger Powell Jr. are participating in the 2nd Annual Shots From the Heart Tournament, in benefit of the Skip Prosser Foundation. The tournament was started last year to help create more awareness for the growing problem of heart disease, and consists of two 64-coach fields (one bracket of head coaches and one bracket of assistant coaches) participating in a free throw shooting contest. Drew was eliminated in the second round, while Powell has advanced to a third-round matchup against Wake Forest’s Rusty LaRue, having defeated Mike Blaine (Cornell) and James Whitford (Arizona).
A Lonely Banner: Each year’s senior class has banners hung inside the ARC during their senior season, but this season, there is just one men’s basketball banner hanging from the rafters. Walk-on guard Nick Shelton started the season as the lone member of this year’s senior class, as fellow senior walk-on Nathan Stegelmann was added to the roster in mid-November.
Calling All Captains: With no scholarship seniors on this year’s squad, Valpo looks to a trio of juniors to lead the way as the captains for the 2011-2012 team. Ryan Broekhoff, Erik Buggs and Matt Kenney will share the captaincy this season.
Short Bench: Just one game this season has Valpo been able to play all 10 scholarship athletes who are eligible, Dec. 17 against Oakland. Prior to that point, Ben Boggs had to sit out the first semester after transferring in from Virginia Tech, while Tommy Kurth has missed the last nine games due to illness. Valpo is also without scholarship players Bobby Capobianco, who must sit out the entire season after transferring to Valpo from Indiana, and Vashil Fernandez, who will be sitting out this season.
A Set Rotation: Head coach Bryce Drew seems to have settled into a regular eight-man rotation as the Crusaders hit the heart of Horizon League play. Over the last six games, all eight regulars have played at least 10 minutes in every game, while over the same stretch, only once (Broekhoff at Wright State) has any Crusader been asked to play more than 35 minutes. At Green Bay on Thursday, Erik Buggs was limited to just 10 minutes due to foul trouble, necessitating 31 minutes off the bench from Jay Harris, his second-most minutes played this year.
Getting Defensive: Valpo surrendered just 38 points to Holy Cross on Nov. 14, holding the Saints to just 23.3% shooting from the floor. The 38 points allowed was the least by a Crusader squad since Valpo pulled out a 35-33 nailbiter against Green Bay on Jan. 21, 1984.
Boggs Bombs Away: For the second time in three games, junior guard Ben Boggs was perfect from behind the arc on Thursday night at Green Bay. Boggs drilled all five of his 3-point attempts and also added a basket inside the arc for a career-high 17 points in 34 minutes against the Phoenix. That effort came just two games after he hit all three of his tries from beyond the arc en route to 14 points last Thursday at Loyola. The Virginia Tech transfer also grabbed seven rebounds against Green Bay and is now averaging five rebounds per game over the last five games.
Mr. Accuracy: Junior forward Kevin Van Wijk has been simply one of the nation’s most accurate shooters from the floor this year. While Van Wijk went just 3-for-5 from the floor on Thursday at Green Bay, he maintained his ranking among the nation’s top-10 and leading the Horizon League with a .626 field goal percentage. The junior, a two-time HL Player of the Week and also the league’s scoring leader overall (15.7 ppg) and second in league-only play (16.2 ppg), has been consistently accurate as well, hitting at least 50% of his field goal attempts in 18 of his 21 games. Thursday’s effort at Green Bay was just his third single-digit scoring output of the season, as the junior has six 20+ scoring efforts on the year and has scored at least 15 points on 14 occasions.
Model of Consistency: Junior Ryan Broekhoff has simply been one of the Horizon League’s best and most versatile players through the first half of the season. The Australian has scored at least 12 points in 14 of Valpo’s last 15 contests, only failing to do so in an IUPUI game in which he was limited by injury, and has grabbed at least five rebounds in 13 straight games. Broekhoff has eight double-doubles on the season, easily pacing the Horizon League and more than the entire Valpo team has had in a single season since 2006-2007. In league play, the junior leads the league in rebounding (8.8 rpg) and ranks fifth in scoring (14.5 ppg). Overall, Broekhoff now ranks third in scoring (14.9 ppg) and leads the league in rebounding (8.9 rpg), trying to become the first player since Youngstown State's Quin Humphrey (2005-2006) to lead the league in both categories in the same season.