IUPUI (7-8, 1-1) at VALPARAISO (6-10, 1-2)
ATHLETICS-RECREATION CENTER - VALPARAISO, IND.
JANUARY 13, 2007 - 7:05 p.m.
TODAY'S MATCHUP: The Crusaders look to get back in the win column this evening as they host IUPUI in Mid-Con action. Valpo has dropped its last two conference matchups against Oral Roberts and Oakland, while the Jaguars sit at 1-1 in league play after defeating Western Illinois on Thursday, 68-55. The Crusaders own a 14-6 advantage in the all-time series against the Jaguars, but have dropped the last three against their in-state foe. The two squads have split their eight matchups at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
LAST TIME OUT: Samuel Haanpaa's fifth 3-pointer of the ballgame gave Valpo a 72-71 lead with just over a minute to play, but Oakland's Erik Kangas hit a 3-pointer on the Golden Grizzlies' ensuing possession, and the Crusaders could not regain the lead, falling 81-76 Thursday night at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Urule Igbavboa pulled the Crusaders back to within one possession with two seconds to play, but Valpo could not get the ball back. Igbavboa paced four Crusaders in double figures with a career-high 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting while also grabbing a game-high eight rebounds. Brandon McPherson added 16 points for Valpo, while Haanpaa hit five triples for 15 points and Shawn Huff chipped in 11 points.
LAST MEETING: IUPUI extended a five-point halftime lead to double digits at 43-32 to start the second stanza and never looked back, downing Valpo 75-67 at the IUPUI Gymnasium in Indianapolis, Ind. on February 9, 2006. Ron Howard led the Crusaders with 22 points, while Ali Berdiel scored 15 points and Mohamed Kone chipped in 14 points and seven rebounds. Brandon Cole registered a double-double for the Jags, posting 21 points and 11 rebounds, while George Hill led all scorers with 26 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. The game will also be videocast on www.valpo.edu/athletics, with commentary from Ickow and Haase.
ONE FINAL GO-ROUND: Last weekend marked the start of the final year of Mid-Con play for Valpo, one of just two institutions [Western Illinois] to be a member of the league since its inception as the AMCU in 1982-83. The Crusaders have been the league's most dominant program over the past decade plus, winning at least eight games in conference play in each of the last 13 seasons, including at least 10 league wins in 12 of those years. Valpo has also captured nine Mid-Con regular season crowns and eight Mid-Con tournament championships during its tenure in the league.
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. Also during December, Valpo faced off against Evansville, the third-most common opponent in program history, and followed with a game at Ball State, whom they had not faced since the 1992-93 campaign and their fifth most-common opponent all-time.
USING THE FREEBIES: Valpo has taken advanatage of its trips to the free throw line much more over the past month than the Crusaders did to start the season. Valpo was hitting at just a 64.9% clip from the charity stripe over its first nine games, but has connected on 84% of its free throws since. The improvement coincided with the Crusaders' trip to Hawai'i, where they hit 90.6% of their free throws, a tournament best. Included in that trip was a perfect 13-of-13 effort from the foul line against Charlotte.
BALANCED ATTACK: One of the trademarks of this year's Crusader squad has been balance, as no one player can be keyed upon by opposing defenses. Four Valpo players are averaging at least 10 points per game, led by 11.8 per contest from Brandon McPherson. Freshman Samuel Haanpaa and sophomore Urule Igbavboa are both putting up 10.3 points per game, while junior Shawn Huff is averaging 10 even. Those four have paced the Crusaders in scoring in 13 of 16 contests this season, with Calum MacLeod leading Valpo in two games and Jake Diebler in one.
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.
URULE RULES THE POST: Sophomore forward Urule Igbavboa was one of many options coach Homer Drew had at his disposal to replace the production lost from last year's squad. Halfway through the 2006-07 season, Igbavboa has stepped up as Valpo's go-to guy in the post, averaging 10.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, the latter mark pacing the Crusaders and ranking second in the Mid-Con. Igbavboa also ranks second in the league with five double-doubles, the most recent coming in Valpo's win at Centenary, when he had 14 points and 11 caroms. Urule surpassed his previous career high in the scoring column against Oakland, hitting 8-of-9 shots form the floor on his way to 20 points. The sophomore, who also ranks sixth in the conference with 14 blocked shots, is among the nation's best at grabbing defensive rebounds, pulling down 25.8% of all opponents' missed shots, 19th best in the country.
BACK ON AGAIN: Freshman guard Samuel Haanpaa struggled last weekend against Centenary and Oral Roberts, hitting just 1-of-16 shots over the two games, but in Valpo's Mid-Con home opener against Oakland, he lit up the ARC. Haanpaa nailed all four of his 3-point attempts in the second half, giving Valpo the lead with just over a minute to play with his final shot. He ended the game with 15 points on five triples, his third time this year hitting five 3-pointers. Haanpaa is second on the Crusaders with 10.3 points per game, and leads the squad with 2.2 3-pointers per game, fourth in the Mid-Con. He is also connecting on a 39.3% clip from behind the arc this season.
MAC IS BACK: Sophomore guard Brandon McPherson had a string of four straight double-digit performances broken last Saturday at ORU, but bounced back with a 16-point effort Thursday against Oakland. For McPherson, it was the fourth time this year he has scored at least 16 points, and marked the ninth time in 11 games he had reached the 10-point mark. McPherson is leading the Crusaders in scoring (11.8 ppg), 3-point percentage (52.4%), assists (3.3 apg) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.37) halfway through the 2006-07 campaign.
SEASON TO DATE: IUPUI comes into tonight's matchup sitting on a 7-8 record so far, including a 1-1 mark in Mid-Con play. The Jaguars earned their first conference win of the season Thursday night, defeating Western Illinois in Macomb, 68-55. IUPUI won despite playing without star guard George Hill, who has been sidelined for all but five games this season due to injury. The Jaguars are looking for their fourth consecutive win at the ARC, a feat no current Mid-Con team has ever accomplished.
NOT MISSING A BEAT: Despite the absence of Hill, the Jaguars have received offensive production from many sources midway through this season. David Barlow leads the Jags' regulars with 13.9 points per game, while Austin Montgomery has chipped in 12.9 per game. Four other IUPUI players have put up 6.7 points per contest or better as well.