Game 16 - Milwaukee (8-7, 3-2 HL) at Valparaiso (11-4, 2-1 HL) - Thursday, January 10, 2008 - 7:05 p.m.
The Matchup: Valparaiso enters today’s contest with the Panthers of Milwaukee at 11-4 on the season, including a 2-1 record in Horizon League play. Today marks the first home league game for the Crusaders, who enter with a 13-game home winning streak at the ARC, which ranks among the top-10 homecourt streaks in the nation. The Crusaders and Panthers have met 12 times on the hardwood in a series dating back to the 1976-77 campaign. Valpo holds a 7-5 advantage in the series.
Last Meeting: The Crusaders earned their first victory of the 2004-05 season on Dec. 11, 2004 as Valpo defeated previously unbeaten Milwaukee at the ARC, 72-71, thanks to a Jarryd Loyd free throw with under a second to play. The hotly contested game was tied at 41 at the half, and while Valpo held the lead almost the entire second half, its advantage never climbed above seven points. The Panthers rallied from down 65-58 to tie the game at 71, but Loyd was fouled in the final second and split a pair of free throws to give Valpo the win. Dan Oppland led four Crusaders in double figures with 20 points, while Joah Tucker scored 20 for Milwaukee. Milwaukee would go on to reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament later that season.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso was tied with Horizon League rival #16/17 Butler Saturday afternoon in Indianapolis, Ind. at 31 at halftime and trailed by just one point with 11:36 to play, but the Bulldogs put together a critical 18-6 run to gain a decisive edge and go on to win by a 73-65 count. Butler pushed the lead back up to 12 points with 2:29 to play, but the Crusaders scored on each of their next four possessions to slice the margin to five points. But the Bulldogs would not let Valpo get any closer, hitting 7-of-8 free throws in the game’s final minute to secure the victory.
On the Air: Today’s game, like every game this season, can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, a four-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; WAKE, 1500 AM in Valparaiso; and WWLO, 89.1 FM in Lowell. Veteran broadcaster Todd Ickow returns for his 17th season on play-by-play, while WVUR’s Adam Amin will handle the color commentary. The game can also be seen on the internet through the Horizon League Network.
Comfort Zone: Valparaiso returns home to the ARC today for the first of two straight league games to open the Horizon League home slate. Through the first six home games of the season, Valpo has enjoyed a considerable edge over its opponents. The Crusaders are out-scoring opponents at home by over 23 points per game and have won five of their six home games by double digits. Valpo is shooting over 50% from the floor at the ARC, and has connected on 45.6% of its 3-point attempts while holding opponents to just 18.9% accuracy from behind the 3-point line.
Rugged Road: Every season, the Crusaders face a number of early challenges, and this year has been no different. Already through 15 games, Valpo has faced off against four teams currently ranked among the nation’s top-25 squads, with all four matchups coming on the opponent’s home court (Vanderbilt, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Butler). While the Crusaders were unable to win any of the four games, they did showcase their ability to play with some of the best teams in the nation, as they led in the second half at Vanderbilt, Wisconsin and Butler, and rallied from an early 17-point deficit to tie the game at North Carolina in the second half.
Sagarin Rising: With its impressive start to the season, Valparaiso has seen its Sagarin rating skyrocket. The Crusaders are currently ranked 41st in the rating system, the second-highest Horizon League squad, behind only Butler.
Best Start: Nine conference championships. Seven NCAA Tournament appearances. A magical run to the Sweet 16. 302 wins. These are just some of the accomplishments that Crusader head coach Homer Drew and his players had piled up during Drew’s first 18 seasons at the helm of the Valpo men’s basketball program. But none of Drew’s teams had accomplished what this year’s squad has: winning ten of the season’s first 11 games. The previous best start under Drew came from the 1996-1997 team, which started 9-2 in its first 11 contests.
There’s No Place Like Home: Valparaiso enters this weekend’s contests with one of the nation’s longest home winning streaks, as the Crusaders have captured 13 consecutive home games. Winning at home is nothing new for Valpo, however. Since the ARC opened prior to the 1984-85 season, the Crusaders are 209-92 (.694) at home, including a sterling 155-27 (.852) mark over the last 15 years. The program record for longest winning streak at the ARC is a 20-game stretch spanning the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons, while the current streak is the fifth-longest in team history at the ARC.
Bringing Experience With Them: The Crusaders make the step up to the Horizon League with a core group of experienced players. Valpo returns eight of 11 players who took the court last season, including each of its top seven scorers. 93.6% of last year’s scoring, 86.6% of last year’s rebounding and 90.4% of last year’s minutes played are back for the 2007-08 campaign, the highest returning percentage in each category among Horizon League squads.
RPI Update: The overall strength of the Horizon League can be seen by looking at the Rating Percentage Index, where the league ranks ninth out of 31 conferences. The Horizon League is in front of leagues such as the Mountain West, Mid-American and Conference USA. Five Horizon League squads currently rank among the top-89 in the nation in RPI (as of Jan. 7), including the Crusaders, who stand at 36.
Cracking the Top 25: Valpo broke into the Mid-Major Top 25 poll for the first time this season on Dec. 3. The Crusaders debuted at #21 and moved up to #12 in the poll of Dec. 10. After defeating Evansville and Chicago State, Valpo jumped again, climbing two spots to #10. The Crusaders currently sit 20th in the polling. It is the first season that the Crusaders have been ranked in the poll since the 2003-04 campaign.
Haanpää’s Magical Night: Sophomore guard Samuel Haanpää enjoyed one of the best performances in Crusader history Dec. 15 against Chicago State, breaking current associate head coach Bryce Drew’s team record for 3-pointers in a game. Haanpää knocked down 10 triples in the contest, matching the most by any Division I player against a D-I opponent this year. He also set a new career high with 32 points in the 90-61 victory.
Proficiency Behind the Arc: Buoyed by Haanpää’s 10-of-12 performance from behind the 3-point stripe, the Crusaders knocked down a season-high 16 trifectas against Chicago State on just 28 attempts. While the number of makes was the most by Valpo this year, it was no aberration, as the Crusaders have hit at least 10 triples in nine of 14 games this year. They also rank among the nation’s best in both 3-pointers per game (10.1, 10th) and 3-point percentage (41.4%, 25th).
Half of Dominance: Valparaiso put together one of its most dominating halves of basketball in recent history against Indiana Wesleyan on Jan. 2. The Crusaders outscored the Wildcats by a 58-15 margin in the second half, hitting 61.3% of their shots for the half and allowing IWU to hit just 21.2%. Five different Valpo players had at least eight points in the second 20 minutes, and the Crusaders put together runs of 13-0, 10-0, 14-0 and 17-0 during the half.
Efficient Offense: Valparaiso’s offense took full advantage of its opportunities Dec. 8 at Detroit, connecting on 66.7% (30-of-45) of its field goal attempts, one of the top-10 single game efforts in Division I this year. The Crusaders’ shooting percentage rose even higher inside the arc, as Valpo connected on a staggering 80% (20-of-25) of its two-point attempts.
Hitting the Boards: Valparaiso outrebounded Vanderbilt on Nov. 20 by a 45-37 margin, but was especially effective on the offensive end, pulling down 21 offensive rebounds. The 21 offensive caroms were the most by a Crusader team since they grabbed 23 offensive boards at Duke on February 26, 2004. In addition, Valpo’s offensive rebounding led to 79 shot attempts, the most by a Crusader team in the last ten seasons.
Pick Your Poison: Crusader opponents have been unable to key upon one scoring threat for Valpo this season, as six different players are averaging at least eight points per game, including four in double figures. Six different players have also led Valpo in scoring at least once.