TODAY'S MATCHUP: The Crusaders look for their fifth win in as many matchups against the Mastodons of IPFW Monday night at 6 p.m. Central time. Valpo won the only prior meeting between the two squads in Fort Wayne to kick off the 2005-06 campaign. The Crusaders enter Monday's game coming off a solid win over Calumet to start the season, while IPFW is 0-1 after a 92-49 loss at Notre Dame.
LAST MEETING: Valparaiso finished off the sweep of a home-and-home series last year against IPFW with a 88-72 victory over the Mastodons at the ARC on January 11. The Crusaders placed six players in double figures and shot 61.8% from the floor as they jumped out to a 45-30 halftime lead and extended the margin to as many as 27 points in the second half. Mohamed Kone led Valpo with 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Dan Oppland chipped in 13 points of his own. Shawn Huff (12), Ali Berdiel (11), Seth Colclasure (11) and Ron Howard (10) all found double figures as well. Brad Pompey led the Mastodons with a game-high 17 points.
LAST TIME OUT: The Crusaders opened the regular season with a win for the second straight year, downing the Crimson Wave of Calumet College Saturday night, 84-65. A Brandon McPherson 3-pointer just over six minutes into the game gave Valpo a 12 point lead, and the margin never fell under double digits after that point. Calum MacLeod paced Valpo in his first game donning the Crusader uniform, hitting 8-of-11 shots from the field for 18 points, while also pulling down eight boards. Urule Igbavboa had a breakout night as well, setting career-high marks of 15 points, 15 rebounds (13 defensive) and four blocked shots while playing 31 minutes. Jarryd Loyd notched 13 points, while Shawn Huff registered 12 and McPherson scored 10 of his own.
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. 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. All Crusader basketball action this year can also be heard around the world via www.valpo.edu/athletics by clicking on the webcast link.
NEW FACES, SAME OLD STATS: Valparaiso's starting lineup in its opening game against Calumet was an unfamiliar one to many fans, as just one of the five players on the court had ever started a game for the Crusaders, and that one player, Shawn Huff, had made just two starts last season. Another starter, Calum MacLeod, was making his Valpo regular season debut, while the other three starts, Jake Diebler, Urule Igbavboa, and Brandon McPherson, were sophomores who had seen sporadic playing time during their freshman campaign. Between the five players, they had averaged 41.3 minutes per game during the 2005-06 season, barely more than one position on the court during the game. But when they did see the floor last year, they produced 13.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Against Calumet, the starters combined for 48 points and 30 rebounds, and each saw at least 23 minutes of playing time, with four of the five setting new career highs in minutes played.
TOUGH ROAD AWAITING CRUSADERS: Three teams ranked in the top-20 of the Associated Press preseason poll highlight Valpo's non-conference schedule. Tonight's game marks the start of a three-game road trip that also takes the Crusaders to Niagara and ACC foe North Carolina State, matching up against the Wolfpack for the first time in program history. Valpo then hosts #16 Marquette and in-state rival Butler at the ARC in the final week of November. The Crusaders follow with a matchup at #7 Ohio State Dec. 2, which has the potential to be the third top-ranked team in the nation Valpo has faced in the past three seasons (Illinois in 2004-05, Duke in 2005-06). Games at Evansville and Ball State follow before the Crusaders head to Hawai'i to take part in the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic. Valpo drew a difficult first-round opponent, facing off against #19 Creighton.
ROAD OPENERS HAVE BEEN UNKIND: The Crusaders have struggled through the years in their initial road game of the season, as Valpo holds just an 8-42 record over the past 50 seasons in its road openers, dating back to the 1957-58 campaign. But the numbers don't tell the whole story, as many of the road openers have come against major conference teams, such as Notre Dame, Purdue, and Illinois. Also, five of the eight wins have come during the Homer Drew era, including a win in last season's road opener over the Mastodons.
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.
15/15 VISION: Urule Igbavboa proved that his play in the Crusaders' two exhibition games was no fluke, starting the regular season off on a strong note against Calumet. Igbavboa poured in 15 points and pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds for his first career double-double. Both numbers marked new career highs for Urule, who also set career bests in blocked shots (four), field goals made (six), and minutes played (31). He also continued his sharp-shooting, something he demonstrated as a freshman with his .605 shooting percentage. While Igbavboa did not hit a perfect 10-of-10 from the field, as he did in the exhibition game against Indiana Wesleyan, he did knock down six of his nine field goal attempts, including his first career 3-point attempt.
MARKSMAN MacLEOD: Calum MacLeod looked like he had been playing for the Crusaders for years instead of just transferring in prior to this season in the opener Saturday against Calumet. MacLeod led Valpo in scoring with 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting, many of them coming on short jump hooks in the lane. He also continued to show a nice touch from the free throw line, hitting both attempts after going 10-for-10 from the line during exhibition play. MacLeod used his 7'1" frame against the smaller Crimson Wave players to pull down eight rebounds, including four offensive, and swat two shots.
B-MAC ON THE COURT: Sophomore Brandon McPherson played 23 minutes in last year's finale against Oral Roberts, his greatest amount of playing time as a freshman. He saw 28 minutes of action against Calumet, earning his first Crusader start, and took full advantage, setting career highs with 10 points and four assists.
JUNIOR LEADERS: Shawn Huff and Jarryd Loyd were the most experienced Crusaders on the court Saturday night, as senior Moussa Mbaye was out due to injury. The two did not disappoint, as they combined for 25 points, including five 3-pointers, and five rebounds. Huff dished out a career-best six assists, while Loyd added five helpers. Both players were also asked to play significant minutes, as Huff took the floor for 30 minutes, while Loyd came off the bench to play 29 minutes.
NEWCOMERS PRODUCING: Calum MacLeod is not the only Crusader newcomer being counted on for significant playing time this year. Three other newcomers saw the floor against the Crimson Wave for the first time in a Valpo uniform. Playing a combined 30 minutes, Matt Bennett, Keaton Frye, and Arden Skoglund combined to hit 4-of-7 shots from the field, including a 3-pointer, and 3-of-4 attempts from the free throw line for 12 points. They also pulled down three rebounds, dished out two assists, and blocked two shots between them.
APPLICATION ACCEPTED: IPFW received an invitation to join the Mid-Continent Conference to begin competition in the 2007-08 academic year on August 30. The Mastodons have been competing as an Independent institution since making the leap to NCAA Division I.
YOUNG LEADER: Mastodons head coach Dane Fife is in his second season on the sidelines for IPFW. Fife is currently the youngest men's basketball head coach at the Division I level at 27 years old. Fife arrived at IPFW prior to last season after spending two seasons on the staff of former Indiana coach Mike Davis.
TOUGH WAY TO START: The Mastodons had upset aspirations as they opened the 2006-2007 campaign at Notre Dame Friday night. The Irish quickly squashed any idea of an upset, however, running out to a 55-23 halftime lead on the way to a 92-49 win. Russell Carter led four Fighting Irish players in double figures with 20 points, while both Rob Kurz and Zach Hillesland registered double-doubles. Zeljko Egeric was the only Mastodon to reach double figures, pouring in 11 points while also pulling down a team-best six rebounds. IPFW struggled with its shot all game, hitting just 27.4% from the floor.