Northern Illinois (0-1) at Valparaiso (1-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, November 13, 8 a.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) -- Valparaiso, Indiana. Television: ESPN. Home Record: NIU 0-0, Valpo 1-0. Away Record: NIU 0-0, Valpo 0-0. Neutral Record: NIU 0-0, Valpo 0-0. Conference Record: NIU 0-0, Valpo 0-0. Series Record: Northern Illinois leads, 14-10.
GAME NOTES: The Valparaiso Crusaders are set to host the Northern Illinois Huskies at Athletics-Recreation Center for an early morning non-conference bout.
The Huskies come in with an 0-1 record after falling, 77-64, to Nebraska Omaha in their season opener on Friday. NIU turned the ball over 24 times and missed 13 free throws in its opener. Despite the loss, the Huskies managed to win the rebounding battle, 35-28. Coach Mark Montgomery had a rocky first season at the helm of the program in 2011-2012, as it finished 3-22. Montgomery's initial struggle was expected as the team has lost at least 20 games in each of the past six seasons.
Valparaiso was impressive in its season opening 85-54 victory over Georgia Southern at the ARC. The Crusaders jumped out to a 17-2 lead and never looked back. Bryce Drew is considered one of the best up and coming coaches in the nation after leading his alma mater to a 22-win season, including a 14-4 Horizon League mark and regular season title last season. Drew took over the helm of the program after serving as an assistant and associate head coach under his father Homer Drew for six seasons.
NIU holds a 14-10 edge in its all-time series with Valpo, but the Crusaders have won eight of the last nine meetings. After a nine-year break from the series, it resumed last season with Valparaiso earning a 59-48 victory in DeKalb.
For NIU, junior Aksel Bolin led the way with 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in its opener. Freshman point guard Akeem Springs made his starting debut, but went just 3-of-11 from the floor and 1-of-7 from three-point range. Sophomore twin forwards Kevin and Keith Gray made it evident they will play much bigger roles this season. Keith led the team with seven rebounds. Deveon Balls provided a spark off the bench with 10 points.
The Crusaders are one of the toughest mid-major teams in the nation this season due to their dynamic one-two punch at forward. Valpo returned Horizon League Player of the Year Ryan Broekhoff (14.9 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and Kevin Van Wijk (14.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg). They scored 14 and 16 points, respectively, in the season opening win over Georgia Southern. Jordan Coleman was a spark off the bench with 15 points and Erik Buggs distributed nine assists. Valpo showed off its precise shooting ability by making 13-of-24 from long distance and 18- of-21 at the charity stripe in the contest.
Northern Illinois is a big-time underdog entering the ARC. The Crusaders will be a tough opponent for every team they face this season and an impossible one for schools in rebuilding mode.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Valparaiso 83, Northern Illinois 60
11/12 10:51:59 ET