VALPARAISO (3-5) at BALL STATE (3-6)
JOHN E. WORTHEN ARENA - MUNCIE, IND.
DECEMBER 16, 2006 - 1 p.m.
TODAY'S MATCHUP: Valparaiso will look to break a five-game losing skid Saturday afternoon as the Crusaders travel to Ball State. Valpo is coming off of an 11-day hiatus for final exams, prior to which the Crusaders dropped a 69-64 decision to Evansville. Ball State enters the game having dropped its last two outings as well. The two squads have matched up 55 times prior to today's game, with the Cardinals holding a 29-26 advantage in the series.
THE LAST MEETING: In one of eight games that went into extra time during Valpo's 1992-93 campaign, the Crusaders rallied from nine points down with 2:31 to play to force overtime and went on to defeat Ball State in double overtime, 78-75, on December 12, 1992. Four of the Crusader starters played at least 40 minutes, and each of them posted double-figure point totals, led by 19 points and six assists from Tracy Gipson. David Redmon and Casey Schmidt added 18 points apiece in the win. Five Cardinal players reached double figures, led by Steve Payne's 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Payne also added a game-high 13 rebounds.
LAST TIME OUT: Valparaiso tied the game for the eighth time on an Arden Skoglund three-point play with 4:03 to play, but Evansville ran off an 8-0 run over the next two-plus minutes to seize control and eventually take the win, 69-64. The Crusaders trailed by as many as eight in the early portions of the game before coming back to lead by as many as eight points in the middle of the second half. Brandon McPherson led the Crusader attack with a career-best 20 points, while Jarryd Loyd was the only other Valpo player to reach double digits with 11 points. Matt Webster led the Purple Aces with a game-high 30 points, 15 of them coming from the free throw line.
ON THE AIR: Today's game, like every game this season, can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, a three-station entity carrying Crusader athletics all over Northwest Indiana, and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics. Originating from WVUR, 95.1 FM in Valparaiso, the Valpo Sports Radio Network also includes WEFM, 95.9 FM in Michigan City and WAKE, 1500 AM in Valparaiso. Veteran broadcaster Todd Ickow returns for his 16th season on play-by-play, while WVUR's Mike Haase will handle the color commentary. The game will also be picked up by Lakeshore Public Television, with Vince Welch and Jerry Peirson on the call.
BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA: Valparaiso is renewing some old in-state rivalries this season, and continuing others, as a good portion of the Crusaders' non-conference slate is composed of fellow Hoosier State schools. Valpo kicked off the season with a game against NAIA foe Calumet, located in Whiting, and followed with the front end of a home-and-home series with IPFW. The Crusaders took on Butler, Valpo's all-time most common opponent, at the ARC for the first time in 13 seasons. Last time out, Valpo faced off against Evansville, the third-most common opponent in program history, and follow today with a game at Ball State, whom they have not faced since the 1992-93 campaign and their fifth most-common opponent.
THREE IN A ROW, PART 1: The Crusaders took on three ranked teams in a six-day span two weeks ago. Valpo kicked off the brutal slate with a heartbreaker against #8/9 Marquette, falling 65-62 on a Dominic James 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds to play. The Crusaders followed with another game at the ARC, this time against #19/18 Butler, one which the Bulldogs won 60-47. The week ended at #3/1 Ohio State, where Valpo suffered a 78-58 loss.
THREE IN A ROW, PART 2: With their game against #3/1 Ohio State on December 2, the Crusaders found themselves on the court with the nation's top-ranked team for the third year in a row. Valpo traveled to Champaign, Ill. to take on the Ilini while they were #1 during the 2004-05 campaign, and last year the Crusaders played at Cameron Indoor Stadium and #1 Duke. The only other time in the 90 years of Crusader basketball that Valpo has faced the nation's top team was during the 1979-80 season, when DePaul, led by Mark Aguirre, played in Hilltop Gym.
DETERMINED DEFENSE: Valparaiso ranks atop the Mid-Con charts in multiple defensive categories. The Crusaders lead the league in field goal percentage defense, holding their opponents to just 40.7% shooting from the field. Valpo also paces the Mid-Con in three-point field goal percentage defense, as Crusader opponents are hitting a meager 28.8% of their shot attempts from behind the arc, a mark which ranks 29th-best in the nation. Six of Valpo's eight opponents to date have connected on six or fewer shots from behind the arc.
PRESEASON POLL PLACES VALPO FOURTH: The Crusaders received 156 points in the Mid-Continent Conference's preseason polling of coaches, sports information directors, and selected media members, placing them fourth out of the league's eight teams. Projected league champs Oral Roberts registered 260 points. IUPUI and UMKC are projected second and third, respectively, while Oakland, Western Illinois, Southern Utah, and Centenary round out the fifth through eighth spots.
CRUSADER ALUMNI RETURN TO THE BENCH: Valpo head coach Dr. Homer Drew has always found places for former players as assistant coaches, and this year is no exception. Bryce Drew is back for his second year on the bench, having been promoted to the title of associate head coach during the offseason. Jason Hawkins, who served as the director of basketball operations during the 2003-04 campaign, returns for his first year as an assistant coach, while Tarrance Price, who played for Valpo from 1998-2000, returns as the director of basketball operations.
A LOT OF HANDS TO SHAKE: Pregame captains meetings at center court will be crowded on Valpo's side this year, as five Crusaders have been designated as captains by Coach Drew. Senior Moussa Mbaye, juniors Shawn Huff and Jarryd Loyd, and sophomores Jake Diebler and Brandon McPherson will share this year's captaincy.
B-MAC ATTACK: Sophomore guard Brandon McPherson continued his string of outstanding recent performances against Evansville. McPherson nailed each of his first eight shots from the field against the Purple Aces before missing his final attempt, and drained all three of his shots from behind the arc. His 20 points set a new career high for points in a game, the third time this season that he has raised that mark. The Evansville game marked McPherson's fourth consecutive stellar outing, dating back to the Marquette tilt. During that four-game stretch, McPherson has hit 77.8% of his shots from the field, including 6-of-8 from behind the arc, and is averaging a team-best 13.0 points per game. He has also dished out 17 assists while turning the ball over just eight times, and has registered six steals in those four games. McPherson sits third in the Mid-Con in assists (3.9 apg) and leads the league with a 2.21 assist-to-turnover ratio.
U RULE, URULE: Sophomore forward Urule Igbavboa scored just seven points against Evansville, his second-lowest output of the season, but made a big impact on the defensive end, grabbing 11 defensive rebounds and swatting two shots. Igbavboa falls to second on the team in scoring (11.1 ppg), but still paces the Crusaders in rebounds (8.8 rpg) and blocks (1.3 bpg), and is third in field goal percentage (.478). Igbavboa's rebounding numbers are good for second in the Mid-Con, while his average of eight defensive rebounds per game leads the league by a wide margin. On the season, he has pulled down 27.5% of all shots missed by Valpo opponents, the 14th-best defensive rebounding percentage in the nation.
DIEBLER DOES IT ALL: Playing on the same court where he helped Upper Sandusky win the 2005 Ohio Division II state championship, Jake Diebler played 28 minutes and registered five points and a team-best six rebounds for the Crusaders against Ohio State. Diebler has done a little bit of everything so far this year for Valpo, as he leads the team in steals (nine) and free throw percentage (.895) and is third in rebounding with 3.8 per game. His free throw percentage also ranks as the best in the Mid-Con.
LOYD LIGHTS IT UP: Junior guard Jarryd Loyd joined McPherson in double figures at Evansville, scoring 11 points while dishing out three assists. It was Loyd's fourth double-digit scoring effort of the season. This season, he is averaging 7.3 points per game and is second on the team with 22 assists. His 3-point shooting percentage of .417 is third on the team, while his career percentage from behind the arc now sits at .456, which puts him among Valpo's all-time bests in the category.
ON A SKID: Ball State enters today's game having lost six of its last seven games after beginning the season with back-to-back wins. A tough early-season schedule is part of the reason for the Cardinals' current record, as three of their six losses have come to teams currently ranked inside the Associated Press Top 25. Their lone win in the last three weeks was an overtime victory at home over Indiana State.
SHOOTING WOES: The Cardinals have struggled shooting the ball in the early part of their schedule, hitting just 37% of their shot attempts through the first nine games of the season. The inaccuracy has been even more pronounced behind the arc, as Ball State has hit just 22.3% of its shots from 3-point range, the 2nd-worst 3-point percentage in NCAA Division I.
A NEWELL DAY: Sophomore forward Anthony Newell has been one of the bright spots for the Cardinals in the early going this season. Newell leads the team in scoring (11.7 ppg), field goal percentage (.440), and rebounding (7.2 rpg); is second in 3-point percentage (.318); and third in assists (10).