Valparaiso (6-3) at Missouri State (2-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 15, 8:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: JQH Arena (11,000) -- Springfield, Missouri. Television: None. Home Record: Valpo 5-0, MSU 2-3. Away Record: Valpo 1-3, MSU 0-2. Neutral Record: Valpo 0-0, MSU 0-2. Conference Record: Valpo 0-0, MSU 0-0. Series Record: Missouri State leads, 14-4.
GAME NOTES: The Valparaiso Crusaders continue their three-game road swing on Saturday night when they visit the Missouri State Bears at JQH Arena.
Valparaiso's season started off well with wins in five of its first six games, but since then the team has dropped two of three. The Crusaders faced perhaps their toughest test to date last Saturday when they traveled to nationally- ranked New Mexico and lost, 65-52.
As for the Bears, they have not found much success in the season's first month, winning just two of their nine matchups. However, Missouri State can hang its hat on the fact that the strength of its non-conference schedule ranks in the top-30 nationally, having lost games to San Diego State (60-44), South Carolina (74-67 in OT), SMU (62-61), Tulsa (61-42), and most recently, 22nd-ranked Oklahoma State (62-42).
Missouri State holds a 14-4 advantage over Valparaiso in the all-time series, although the Crusaders won the last meeting on Feb. 19, 2011, 80-67.
Valparaiso put forth a solid effort from the field against New Mexico, draining 45 percent of its total shots, but it grabbed just one offensive rebound on the night and turned the ball over 23 times in the 13-point defeat. The only Crusader to score in double figures was Ryan Broekhoff, who continued his fantastic season with 24 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field (5- of-10 from three-point range), while adding seven rebounds and two steals. Broekhoff is making an early push for Horizon League Player of the Year, as he averages 17.4 ppg and 7.3 rpg while sporting impressive percentages from the field (.490), beyond the arc (.426), and the free throw line (.923). As a team, Valpo drains 45.5 percent of its attempts from the floor for 66.4 ppg, 6.4 ppg more than its opponents. Kevin Van Wijk has been a solid second scoring option with 13.9 ppg, and while Erik Buggs isn't a big shooting threat (5.7 ppg), he has dished out more than four assists per contest.
Missouri State has actually played well at the defensive end of the court this season, holding its opponents to 62.8 ppg and a lowly 26.2 percent shooting from long range, but it has won just two games due to a very poor shooting effort (.375, 59.7 ppg). The team's offensive woes continued against Oklahoma State the last time out, as it shot just 33.3 percent from the field and scored 13 points in the first half en route to the blowout loss. No player reached double figures for the Bears, but Christian Kirk and Anthony Downing each scored eight points while grabbing seven and six rebounds, respectively. Downing is the team's leading scorer on the season, putting up 13.3 ppg, but he does so on just 36.4 percent from the field (including 23.6 percent from three-point range). Kirk nets 10.2 ppg and has been much more efficient with his shot (.545).
Missouri State has been respectable at home, and it should be able to play well enough on defense to keep this game close. But in the end, the Bears simply won't have enough to keep pace with Broekhoff and the Crusaders.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Valparaiso 65, Missouri State 59
12/15 10:35:49 ET