GAME NOTES: The Valparaiso Crusaders conclude their three-game road trip with a visit to the Athletics Center O'rena to face their former Mid-Continent Conference rival Oakland Golden Grizzlies on Monday.
Bryce Drew's Crusaders improved to 7-3 on Saturday with a 62-54 decision over Missouri State. All three of Valpo's losses have come on the road at Nebraska (50-48), Saint Louis (62-49), and New Mexico (65-52). The Crusaders also had seven wins through 10 games last season before going on to win the Horizon League regular season title. While Drew's squad is decent on the offensive end with a 66 ppg average, its strength is on the defensive end of the floor where its opposition has managed only 57.6 ppg.
Oakland is off to a 3-7 start and has lost four of its last five games with the only victory during that span coming over NAIA foe Rochester. However, the Golden Grizzlies are a perfect 2-0 at home and have the 10th ranked non- conference strength of schedule. They are producing 71.1 ppg on 43.1 percent shooting from the floor. Their opposition is netting 75.9 ppg and grabbing 3.1 more boards per outing. Coach Greg Kampe has only received 9.4 points per game from his bench.
While Valparaiso owns a 17-4 all-time series lead over Oakland, the Golden Grizzlies have won four of the last five, including an 82-80 decision on Dec. 12, 2011 on the Crusaders' home court.
Valpo held a dominant 37-19 edge in the rebounding battle and outscored Missouri State 25-6 at the free-throw line to pick up the win last time out. The Crusaders overcome a narrow two-point halftime deficit and LaVonte Dority scored a team-high 20 points off the bench in his debut with the team. Dority transferred to Valpo from South Florida at the semester break last year. Senior forward Ryan Broekhoff scored 15 points and was a rebound shy of a double-double. The Australian native is second in the Horizon League in scoring (17.5) and rebounding (7.5). Kevin Van Wijk (13.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg) just missed a double-double his last time out with nine points and the same number of rebounds.
Oakland has been off since its 78-61 setback to Ohio University in Athens on Dec. 8. The Golden Grizzlies overcame a 10-point halftime deficit and were tied with the Bobcats at 53 midway through the second half, but Ohio responded with a 21-2 to put the game away. Oakland committed 20 turnovers which Ohio turned into 28 points. Junior guard Travis Bader led all scorers with 29 points while Raphael Carter chipped in with 10 points in a reserve role. Bader is second in the country with 40 makes from 3-point range and third in the Summit League in scoring with 20 ppg. Sophomore center Corey Petros (14.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg) is providing solid post play and is converting 63 percent of his field goal attempts. Providence transfer Duke Mondy (12.8 ppg, 4.3 apg, 2.5 spg) is doing a decent job running the show despite Oakland's poor start.
The Golden Grizzles have won their last six games at home and are much better than their record indicates, but Valpo is going to be a tough guest to fend off. The Crusaders are more likely to be knocked off in the O'rena, but Oakland's recent success against them should have Valpo on guard in this one.