Valpo Taking Aim at Fourth Straight Win
RBC CENTER - RALEIGH, N.C.
NOVEMBER 21, 2006 - 6:00 p.m.
TODAY'S MATCHUP: The Crusaders look to begin the season 4-0 for the first time since the 1998-1999 campaign as they close out a three-game road trip at North Carolina State. The Wolfpack enter the game 2-0, winning over Wofford and Delaware State to start the season. The two teams have never met on the basketball court.
VALPO AGAINST THE ACC: The Crusaders are 2-5 all-time against current Atlantic Coast Conference squads. Most recently, Valpo dropped all three games in a series with perennial power Duke, including a 104-77 loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium last year. Three of Valpo's games against ACC foes have come in the NCAA Tournament, with one of those games being the Crusaders' 83-77 upset of Florida State in the 1998 tournament in overtime to advance to the Sweet 16. Valpo has lost to Boston College and Maryland in NCAA action, and defeated Miami at its own Orange Bowl Classic, 81-76, in the 1956-57 season.
LAST TIME OUT: 3-pointers late in the game from Shawn Huff and Samuel Haanpaa helped the Crusaders pull away late from Niagara, 70-58. Haanpaa nailed five triples, a season-high for any Crusader, on his way to 15 points, while Huff chipped in 10 points and eight rebounds. Urule Igbavboa registered his third double-double in as many games with game-high totals of 19 points and 11 rebounds. Valpo held the Purple Eagles to just 31.9% shooting from the floor, including just 2-of-26 (7.7%) from behind the arc, while the Crusaders hit 24-of-46 (52.2%) from the field, including 10 triples.
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. Tonight's game can also be seen live online through ACC Select at www.accselect.com.
GETTING IT DONE ON BOTH ENDS: Valparaiso sits at 3-0 for the second consecutive year, and the Crusaders have used both offense and defense to earn their victories. Valpo is hitting at better than a 50% clip from the field, while holding opponents to just 35.8% shooting. From behind the arc, the Crusaders hold an even more pronounced advantage, hitting 42.0% of their 3-point attempts through three games while holding the opposition to just a 23.8% success rate from behind the arc. Valpo also has been successful getting to the free throw line, registering 80 attempts from the charity stripe and hitting 56, a 70% success rate. The Crusaders' opponents have only attempted 48 free throws and are only hitting 56.3% from the line. Valpo has recorded 17 steals to opponents' 16, and have registered 10 more blocked shots (17-7). Rebounding is the only spot where the Crusaders haven't exhibited dominance of their opponents so far, holding just a slight 113-109 edge on the boards. Opponents have succeeded in grabbing much more offensive boards: 48 to just 23 for Valpo.
BUILDING TO A CRESCENDO: Three teams ranked in the top-20 of the Associated Press preseason poll highlight Valpo's non-conference schedule. Tonight's game is the finale of a three-game road trip for the Crusaders. Valpo returns home to face preseason #16 Marquette, the first ranked team to come to the ARC in nine seasons, and in-state rival Butler at the ARC in the final week of November. The Crusaders follow with a matchup at preseason #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 preseason #19 Creighton.
ROAD WARRIORS: With their win over Niagara Saturday, the Crusaders did something that a Valpo squad had not accomplished in 40 seasons: win their first two road games of the season. The last time Valpo had started a season 2-0 on the road was the 1966-67 campaign, when the Crusaders defeated Hope, Wabash and Pacific before dropping their first road game of the season to Long Beach State.
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.
U RULE, URULE: During his freshman year, Urule Igbavboa reached double figures in points just once and topped out at eight rebounds. Through the first three games of his sophomore year, however, Urule has proved that he can get it done in the frontcourt for Valpo, registering a double-double in each of the Crusaders' three contests. Most recently, Igbavboa registered game-high totals of 19 points (a career-high) and 11 rebounds in Valpo's win over Niagara. Igbavboa leads the Crusaders so far this season in scoring (17.0 points per game), rebounds (12.7 rpg), and blocks (2.3 bpg), and ranks 4th, 1st, and 2nd in the Mid-Con, respectively, in those categories.
HUFF HITS FROM ALL OVER: Igbavboa is not the only Crusader to have reached double digits in scoring in all three games this year. Junior guard/forward Shawn Huff reached the mark for the third straight game at Niagara, scoring 10 points while also pulling down a career-best eight rebounds. Huff only had one field goal attempt in the second half of the win, but it was a huge one, as he knocked down a wide open 3-pointer to double Valpo's lead from three to six after the final media timeout of the game. Through three games, Huff is hitting 55.6% of his shots, including 5-of-10 3-pointers, and ranks second on the team in scoring (14.3 ppg) and assists (3.7 apg) and third in rebounding (5.0 rpg).
B-MAC ATTACK: Sophomore guard Brandon McPherson did not serve as a scoring threat for the Crusaders as a freshman, scoring more than four points just three times. McPherson has developed himself into a well-rounded threat in the backcourt for Valpo, earning the starting point guard position. Brandon set new career highs with 10 points and four assists in the first game of the season against Calumet, but exhibited his best all-around game to date at Niagara, hitting multiple 3-pointers for the first time in his career on his way to nine points. He also pulled down a career-high five rebounds and dished out a career-best seven assists. McPherson leads the Crusaders and is tied for fourth in the Mid-Con with 4.3 assists per game.
PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM: Freshman Samuel Haanpaa played just nine minutes in Valpo's first two games of the year, but found himself in the lineup at Niagara during crunch time. Haanpaa proved he belonged on the court with five 3-pointers, including a 25-foot dagger with 2:21 to play that extended Valpo's lead to nine. Haanpaa tallied 15 points in the game, all from behind the arc, and pulled down two rebounds in his 24 minutes of action.
SOMEONE'S GOT TO FALL: North Carolina State enters tonight's game undefeated, owning a 2-0 record with home wins over Wofford and Delaware State. The Wolfpack got into a shootout with Wofford, coming out with a 92-88 victory, thanks to 54.7% shooting from the field. NCSU enjoyed an even better shooting performance against Delaware State, hitting 63.4% of its shots to cruise to a 63-43 victory.
THE LITTLE ENGIN THAT COULD: Senior guard Engin Atsur has paced the Wolfpack in the early portion of the season, as he currently leads the team with 17.0 points per game, one of four NCSU players averaging double figures. Atsur hit 9-of-14 shots on his way to 24 points against Wofford while also dishing out five assists. Atsur added 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting in the Wolfpack win over Delaware State.
BIG BEN: Sophomore forward Ben McCauley has been the Wolfpack's biggest force in the frontcourt early on this year. McCauley has hit 70.6% of his shots from the field through the first two games, and sits second on North Carolina State in scoring (15.5 ppg) and leads the Wolfpack in assists (5.5 apg). McCauley led NCSU against Wofford with 26 points on 10-of-13 shooting while also pulling down five boards.