The Valparaiso contest is the first of two home games in the Las Vegas Invitational. Kansas will host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the second game of the event on Nov. 23 and play Ohio University on Nov. 26 and Arizona on Nov. 27 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
Valparaiso, located in Valparaiso, Ind. (enrollment of 3,980), returns
four starters and 10 letterwinners off last year's team, which went
15-17 and tied for fourth in the Horizon League with a 10-8 record.
Valpo, which was picked to finish fourth in the preseason conference
poll, returns 82.8 percent of its scoring and 91.2 percent of its
rebounding from last season.
Valpo began the season with a 111-64 victory over IU Northwest Friday
at home. Junior guard Brandon Wood led four players in double figures
with 20 points in 20 minutes. The Crusaders shot 58.1 percent from the
field, including 62.2 percent in the second half, while holding IU
Northwest to just 31.8 percent shooting.
"I thought it was a great display of unselfish basketball from our
team," said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. "We had three guys with six
assists each and ended up with 29 assists on 43 baskets. We were doing
a good job looking for the open man and made some beautiful passes to
get ourselves good shots."
Still, Drew was not completely satisfied.
"We really have to improve our rebounding," Drew said. "We gave up 20
offensive rebounds, which is a major concern for us heading into
Kansas. But I thought our shooting, our defense and the way we shared
the ball were all very superb."
Wood leads the Crusaders' attack after being named the Horizon League
Newcomer of the Year and second-team all-conference last season. He led
the league in scoring last year with 17.7 points per game. Senior
forward Cory Johnson is also a potent weapon who earned second-team
all-league honors last season while averaging 15.6 points and 5.8
rebounds per game. Other returning starters are senior forward Michael Rogers (5.1 ppg in 2009-10) and sophomore guard Tommy Kurth (1.9
Additional players to watch are sophomore forward Ryan Broekhoff (18
points in season opener), senior guard Howard Little (17 points),
freshman guard Jay Harris, 7-1 redshirt freshman center Hrvoje Vucic,
sophomore guards Matt Kenney and Erik Buggs, and sophomore forward
Kevin Van Wijk.
Coach Drew, the father of Baylor head coach Scott Drew, has posted a
349-293 record in 21 seasons at Valpo. Drew ranks seventh among active
Division I head coaches in career victories (618-415 in his 33rd season
SELF ON VALPO
KU coach Bill Self said Valparaiso presents a strong challenge and
stressed his Jayhawks must defend better. Longwood shot 45.2 percent
against Kansas in the season opener Friday night, including 52.8
percent in the second half during KU's 113-75 victory.
The Lancers were the third straight team to shoot over 40 percent
against KU at home thus far.
"It will be a real hard game," Self said. "(Valpo is) great
offensively. And the way we've guarded, I certainly would think that
would be something they probably feel they can do (score) because we
haven't locked anybody up yet, at least over the span of more than 20
minutes. This will be one of the hardest non-league games we have this
year. ... These guys can play in our league without question."
"They will play a lot of the same zone that Baylor plays and really
extend out," Self added. "Making shots will become a premium. Their big
guys can all shoot threes. This is not coach speak; they are very good.
They are picked (fourth) in their league behind Butler (BU played in
the national title game last season) and everyone knows what a great
league that is. They returned four starters and almost a fifth from
their team last year. They've added some nice pieces and they went on a
foreign trip (Cancun in August). They share the ball well so we're
going to have to play much better defensively."
Kansas is 2-0 all time against Valparaiso. The Jayhawks first defeated
Valpo, 74-58, on Jan. 24, 1970 in Allen Fieldhouse behind 21 points
from Bud Stallworth and 17 from Dave Robisch. KU's other victory came
on Jan. 2, 2002 in the Phog (81-73), as Drew Gooden had a monster night
with 30 points and 18 rebounds, while Nick Collison also posted a
double-double with 14 points and 15 boards.
KU is 14-1 all time against current membership of the Horizon League.
KU sophomore guard Elijah Johnson didn't suit up in the season opener
against Longwood due to disciplinary reasons.
"He's been irresponsible in some areas off the court and I don't know
if he's going to have time to correct some of those by Monday, so I
wouldn't look for him to play Monday either," Self said after the
Longwood game Friday.
Johnson's teammates are supporting him.
"That comes with maturity," sophomore center Jeff Withey said of
Johnson becoming more responsible. "I think Elijah will be fine. ...
Everybody in the program is behind him. We're all rooting for him, and
we're always going to be behind him and try helping him out."
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