BUTLER (7-0) at VALPARAISO (3-2)
ATHLETICS-RECREATION CENTER, VALPARAISO, IND.
NOVEMBER 29, 2006 - 7:05 p.m.
TODAY'S MATCHUP: After hosting just two ranked teams in a nine-year span prior to this season, Valparaiso takes on a ranked team at the ARC for the second time in three days in the form of #19/18 Butler. The Bulldogs are Valpo's most common opponent, as the two teams have squared off 91 times on the hardwood, with Butler holding a 59-32 edge. The last time the two squads faced off at the ARC, December 4, 1993, the Crusaders earned a 90-73 victory behind 26 points from David Redmon.
THE LAST MEETING: Valparaiso and Butler matched up for the first time in ten seasons on February 19, 2005 at Hinkle Fieldhouse, with the Bulldogs earning a 72-69 victory. Butler led almost the entire way, extending a 3-point halftime lead to 13 midway through the second half, and Valpo would get no closer than the final margin the rest of the way. Ron Howard led Valpo with 20 points, while Dan Oppland registered 16 and Kenny Harris chipped in 14. Brandon Polk led four Bulldogs in double figures with 19 points.
LAST TIME OUT: Jarryd Loyd hit a 3-pointer with 23 seconds to play to tie the game, but Dominic James answered with a triple of his own with 3.4 seconds left to help #8/9 Marquette escape the ARC with a 65-62 victory Monday night. The capacity crowd saw the Crusaders rally from a 15-point first-half deficit to gain the lead on multiple occasions in the second stanza. Valpo used 12-of-23 shooting from behind the arc to hang with Marquette, including an astounding 8-of-10 mark in the second half. Shawn Huff scored a career-high 22 points, while Loyd added 11 and Brandon McPherson chipped in nine assists. James scored the last 18 points of the game for Marquette, and ended with 22.
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. Tonight's game can also be seen live locally on Lakeshore Public Television and online on the Horizon League Network at www.horizonleague.org.
YOU CAN ALWAYS GO DOWNTOWN: Valparaiso has shot the lights out from behind the arc through five games this season, hitting at a 44.7% clip from 3-point range, as compared to just 38.9% shooting from downtown last season. Five Crusaders have attempted nine or more trifectas so far this year, and all of them are hitting better than 40% from behind the arc. Freshman Samuel Haanpaa leads the team with 24 attempts and is hitting 41.7% of his tries, while Jarryd Loyd and Shawn Huff, Valpo's top-two 3-point percentage shooters from last year, are both hitting at better than a 50% clip. The 3-point line has also been good for Valpo on the defensive end, as Crusader opponents have attempted 30 more 3-pointers than Valpo, but have connected on 12 fewer, a meager 24.2% mark from behind the arc.
POWER ALLEY: The Crusaders have two more chances this week to earn their first win over a top-25 team since their victory over Ole Miss in the 1998 NCAA Tournament after losing a heartbreaker to #8/9 Marquette on Monday. The challenging schedule continues with #19/18 Butler tonight, which defeated Notre Dame, Indiana, #22/21 Tennessee and #NR/23 Gonzaga in succession to capture the Preseason NIT. The Crusaders close the ultra-challenging week with a trip to Columbus, Ohio on Saturday for a 3 p.m. Central matchup against #3/1 Ohio State, which has won each of its six games this season by double-digit margins and will be coming off of a game against #7/6 North Carolina.
KEEPING THE HANDLE: Valparaiso has utilized a trio of players at the point guard position this season, and all of them have done an excellent job of distributing the ball. Brandon McPherson leads the team and is second in the Mid-Con in assists with 23, and has only turned the ball over nine times, for a league-best 2.56 ratio. Jake Diebler has 10 assists versus just four turnovers, while Jarryd Loyd has contributed 15 assists and has lost possession just eight times. The triumverate have been largely responsible for Valpo's team assist-to-turnover ratio being at 1.01, the only team in the Mid-Con to have more assists than turnovers.
RIGHT AT HOME IN THE ARC: Valpo has traditionally been dominant at the ARC, finishing with a better than .500 record at home in each of its last 14 seasons and holding a 195-90 (.684) all-time record in the building.
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.
RULING THE PAINT: While he had an off night against Marquette, with just four points and four rebounds in a foul-plagued 22 minutes, Urule Igbavboa has been one of the Crusaders' go-to players in the early part of the season. Igbavboa opened the 2006-07 campaign with three consecutive double-doubles and four straight games with at least 10 points. He currently leads the Crusaders and is second in the league in rebounding, averaging 10 caroms per game, and is second on the team in scoring, with 13 points per game. Igbavboa has especially been a strong presence in the post on the defensive end for Valpo, where he has grabbed 46 of his 50 rebounds on the year and also leads the squad with eight blocked shots.
FLYING FINN: Junior guard/forward Shawn Huff missed the second half of his sophomore season due to injury, but has shown he has not lost a step through Valpo's first five games this year. Huff has scored in double-figures in each of the five games, setting a new career-high in the win over IPFW with 21 points, and then breaking it again with 22 points against Marquette. Huff continued his hot 3-point shooting against the Golden Eagles, hitting four-of-seven shots from behind the arc to improve to 55.0% on the season. Huff is now hitting 46.7% of his 3-pointers for his career, a mark that will be tops in Crusader history if he can maintain it. He currently leads Valpo and is sixth in the league in scoring with 15.8 PPG, and also ranks among the league's best in free throw percentage (.824, 5th) and 3-point percentage (.550, 4th).
LOYD LAYS OUT: Junior guard Jarryd Loyd has also been extremely accurate from behind the arc, hitting at a 53.3% rate after shooting 51% from three last year. Loyd hit three triples against Marquette, including one with six minutes to go to cut the Golden Eagle lead to two and another with 23 seconds to play to knot the score at 62. Loyd finished the game with 11 points and four assists in just 17 minutes of play. He currently ranks second on the team in three-point shooting and assists, with 15.
DIEBLER TAKES CHARGE: Valparaiso took seven charges as a team against Marquette, led by sophomore guard Jake Diebler. The masked man (Diebler suffered a broken nose during a Midnight Mayhem scrimmage) also showed off offensively against the Golden Eagles, knocking down three trifectas, a career-best. Through five games, he is averaging 30 minutes per game and is among the team's best in scoring and rebounding. His free throw percentage of .882 leads Valpo and ranks second in the Mid-Con.
NIT CHAMPIONS: Butler enters Wednesday's game as the #19/18 team in the nation, thanks in large part to its Cinderella run through the 2006 NIT Season Tip-Off. Wins over in-state rivals Notre Dame and Indiana were followed by victories over nationally-ranked Tennessee and Gonzaga squads in Madison Square Garden.
UNFAMILIAR TERRITORY: The Bulldogs find themselves in a position nationally that very few people can remember, as they have achieved their highest ranking since the 1948-49 campaign, when they were ranked #11 for three consecutive weeks. The last time Butler appeared in the Associated Press top-25 poll was January of 2002, when they were as high as #20.
SENDING OPPONENTS TO THEIR GRAVES: Junior guard A.J. Graves has been named the Horizon League Player of the Week for two consecutive weeks. Most recently, Graves put up 26 points to lead Butler past #NR/23 Gonzaga in the NIT championship game, earning tournament Most Valuable Player honors, and followed with another 26-point effort less than 24 hours later in the Bulldogs' double-overtime thriller over Kent State.