VALPARAISO (13-11, 6-3) at IUPUI (10-12, 3-5)
THE JUNGLE - INDIANAPOLIS, IND.
FEBRUARY 8, 2007 - 6 p.m.
TODAY'S MATCHUP: Valparaiso, winners of its last three games and seven of its last eight, begins its final Mid-Con road trip Thursday night, taking on IUPUI. The Jaguars come into the game on a ten-game streak of earning a win followed by a loss, with their most recent outing being a 70-60 loss to Oakland. Valpo earned a 69-55 victory over IUPUI earlier this season at the ARC, extending its edge in the all-time series to 15-6. The Crusaders are also 6-1 all-time at the Jungle, with the only loss in the building coming last season.
LAST TIME OUT: Urule Igbavboa registered a triple-double with 18 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists, and Valparaiso used its best shooting performance of the season to defeat Chicago State Monday night in Chicago, Ill., 91-76. The Crusaders hit 33 of their 49 attempts from the field for a .673 shooting percentage, over 100 points better than their next-best effort this year. Valpo also set season highs for points scored and assists (27). Shawn Huff, fresh off of being named the Mid-Continent Conference Player of the Week, set a new career high with 25 points, hitting nine of his 13 shots from the field, including three 3-pointers. The junior had 16 of his points after halftime, and led Valpo on a key run early in the second half. Samuel Haanpaa added 17 points for Valpo, hitting four of his five 3-point attempts.
LAST MEETING: Trailing by four at halftime, Valparaiso scored 20 of the first 27 points in the second half and never looked back, defeating IUPUI on January 13, 69-55, at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The Crusaders used runs of 7-0, 13-4, and 14-1 to extend their lead to as many as 17 points and secure the victory. Samuel Haanpaa led three Valpo players in double figures with 19 points, including a 5-of-7 performance from behind the arc. Haanpaa also pulled down a game-high seven rebounds. Brandon McPherson hit three triples on his way to 13 points, while Urule Igbavboa added 12 points and six rebounds. Gary Patterson led IUPUI with 17 points.
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.
TAKING AIM AT 300: Valparaiso head coach Dr. Homer Drew is just one win shy of his 300th win at the helm of the Crusader program. Since taking over the coaching reins in 1988, Drew holds a 299-235 (.560) record as head coach, including a 263-132 (.666) mark since the start of the 1993-94 campaign. Drew's first win as the Crusader head coach came on Dec. 3, 1988 over Illinois Tech, with one of his most memorable victories coming two weeks later as Valpo downed nationally-ranked Notre Dame at the ARC.
OFFENSE STANDS OUT: Monday's game against Chicago State marked a departure from the norm this year for the Crusaders, as Valpo used a high-octane offense to deliver the victory. Valparaiso connected on each of its last 14 shots from the field to finish the game with a 67.3% field goal percentage, the highest by a Crusader squad in at least nine seasons. Valpo did not miss any shot (field goal or free throw) after Shawn Huff missed a jumper with 12:22 to play. The Crusaders also dished out 27 assists on 33 baskets, with Igbavboa, McPherson and Diebler combining for 21 dimes and just four turnovers.
GETTING DEFENSIVE: Saturday's game marked the third time in the last four games Valpo has held an opponent without a field goal for at least an 11-minute stretch, all victories. The Gents went a total of 11:53 spanning the two halves without a field goal. UMKC did not hit a shot from the field until 11:48 into the game on Thursday, Jan. 25, and Valpo held Oral Roberts without a field goal for the final 11:05 of the matchup this past Thursday night. The Gents' .273 field goal percentage marked the lowest by a Crusader opponent in over four seasons, dating back to Dec. 23, 2002, when Central Michigan shot the ball at just a .250 clip against Valpo.
BALANCED ATTACK: This season's incarnation of the Crusaders have taken the term ?balanced offense' to the extreme, as four Valpo players are averaging between 11 and 12 points per game. Freshman Samuel Haanpaa leads the pack with 11.5 ppg, while sophomore Urule Igbavboa is right on his tail at 11.4 ppg. Sophomore Brandon McPherson is right behind both players with 11.3 ppg, while junior Shawn Huff is only Valpo's fourth-leading scorer despite averaging 11.1 ppg. The Crusaders are the only team in the Mid-Con who can boast four players averaging double figures, with all four players ranking 18th or better in the league in scoring.
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.
DOUBLE-DOUBLES NOT ENOUGH: Sophomore forward Urule Igbavboa was second among all Mid-Con players entering this week with six double-doubles, but decided to take it to the next level Monday against Chicago State. With a rebound and outlet pass to Brandon McPherson for a breakaway layup in the final minute, Igbavboa registered his first career triple-double, finishing with 18 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. The triple-double was the first in the Mid-Con this season, and just the 13th in Division I this year. Igbavboa's last three games have been nothing short of spectacular, as the sophomore is averaging 16.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game while shooting the ball at a 75.9% clip. His 56.4% shooting percentage on the season ranks second in the league, as does his 7.3 rebounds per game.
HUFF HONORED BY MID-CON: Junior guard/forward Shawn Huff was named the Mid-Continent Conference Player of the Week Monday afternoon for his performances against Oral Roberts and Centenary last week. Huff nailed three crucial triples to lead Valpo to an overtime victory over the conference-leading Golden Eagles, and followed with 11 points and eight rebounds in a romp of the Gents. Monday night, Huff followed up the league accolades with the best offensive night of his career, hitting 9-of-13 shots from the field, including 3-of-5 from behind the arc, en route to a career-high 25 points. Huff also added four rebounds and two blocks in the victory over the Cougars. He currently ranks seventh all-time at Valpo with a 40.4% shooting percentage from 3-point range.
McPHERSON IS BACK: After playing just six minutes against Centenary while recovering from an injury, sophomore guard Brandon McPherson showed he was 100% Monday, playing 34 minutes of solid basketball. McPherson, who is in the top-5 in the league in assists, 3-point percentage, and assist-to-turnover ratio, scored 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, pulled down three rebounds, and dished out six assists while committing just two turnovers. He also improved his 3-point percentage this season to 46.6% (34-of-73), which if maintained, would be the fourth-best single season performance in Valpo history.
HAANPAA FROM DEEP: Freshman guard Samuel Haanpaa played just 24 minutes in the win over Chicago State, but made good use of those minutes shooting the ball, hitting 4-of-5 shots from behind the arc on his way to 17 points. That performance followed five 3-pointers Saturday against Centenary, when he scored a team-high 20 points. Haanpaa currently leads the Crusaders with 11.5 points per game, and is hitting at a 43.8% clip from behind the arc this season.
SEASON TO DATE: IUPUI owns a 10-12 record overall and is 3-5 in the Mid-Con to date. The Jaguars were picked second in the Mid-Con preseason poll, but have been without the services of standout George Hill for all but five games this season due to injury. The Jags are 5-5 over their last 10 games, alternating wins and losses dating back to December 30.
FILLING THE VOID: With the absence of Hill, senior guard David Barlow and junior guard Austin Montgomery have been the players to take on most of the load. Barlow is averaging 13.2 points per game and 3.5 assists per game, while Montgomery, a transfer from Bowling Green, is leading all regulars with 13.4 points per game while also grabbing 4.6 rebounds per contest.