The Matchup: Valparaiso travels downstate for its first road game of the season, facing the Mastodons of IPFW. This marks the third consecutive year that Valpo has taken on the Mastodons in Fort Wayne during the month of November. The Crusaders are a perfect 6-0 all-time against IPFW, including two wins last season.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso used a balanced scoring attack to pull away from Grace in the second half Monday night at the Athletics-Recreation Center, as the Crusaders outscored the Lancers by 24 points over the final 20 minutes to earn a 90-59 victory. Seven different Crusaders scored at least eight points in the winning effort, which extended Valpo’s home winning streak to eight games dating back to last season. Four Valpo players reached double figures, led by 15 points from Samuel Haanpää. Jarryd Loyd matched his career-high with 14 points, while Brandon McPherson scored 14 as well. Freshman Bryan bouchie chipped in 11 points in his collegiate debut.
Last Meeting: Valparaiso used a stifling defensive effort Jan. 22, 2007 to down IPFW in non-conference action at the Athletics-Recreation Center, 59-45. The Mastodons' point total was the lowest by a Division I Valpo opponent since the Crusaders held Southern Utah to 44 points on January 16, 2003. Valpo held IPFW to just 34.0% (16-of-47) shooting from the field. DeWitt Scott, IPFW's leading scorer entering the game at 12.1 points per game, scored just two points on 1-of-8 shooting. Urule Igbavboa paced the Crusaders with 14 points, hitting 6-of-9 shots from the field while also corralling a game-high eight rebounds. Shawn Huff joined him in double digits with 10 points, including a perfect 8-of-8 night from the charity stripe.
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 17th season on play-by-play, while WVUR’s Adam Amin will handle the color commentary.
Changing Leagues: Valparaiso moves to the Horizon League this season after a very successful 25-year run in the Mid-Continent Conference (now known as the Summit League). The Crusaders captured nine regular season championships and eight tournament championships during their quarter-century tenure in the Mid-Con, advancing to seven NCAA Tournaments. Valpo also holds conference records for overall wins (385), league wins (208), conference tournament wins (29) and conference tournament winning percentage (.707).
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.
Been a Long Time: Never in Homer’s Drew tenure as Crusader head coach has Valpo returned such a high percentage of scoring, rebounding and minutes played from the previous year’s squad. 20 years ago, under Tom Smith, the 1987-88 team returned each of its top seven scorers (Harry Bell, Scott Anselm, Jim Ford, Mike Jones, David Morgan, Todd Smith, Mike Hanson) from the 1986-87 Crusader squad. The returnees accounted for 95.7% of the scoring, 90.6% of the rebounding and 90.7% of the minutes played the previous season.
Getting it Done From Outside: While Valpo struggled shooting the ball from the perimeter in the first half against Grace, the Crusaders hit at a 58.3% clip (7-of-12) from downtown in the second half to bump their percentage to 37.0% for the game. Last season, Valpo drained 38.8% of its three-point attempts, among the top-40 teams in the nation.
Crusader Alums Return to the Bench: Valpo head coach Homer Drew has always found places for former players as assistant coaches, and this year is no exception. Bryce Drew is back for his third year on the bench and his second as associate head coach. Tarrance Price, who played for Valpo from 1998-2000, is in his second season as director of basketball operations, while Chris Sparks, who donned the Crusader uniform from 1997-2000, returns this year as an assistant coach.
Valpo Tabbed Sixth in Horizon: The Crusaders have been projected to finish in sixth place in their inaugural season of Horizon League play in polling of the league’s head coaches, sports information directors and media representatives. Butler was picked to win the league, receiving 42 of 46 first-place votes. 2007 tournament champion Wright State was projected second, followed by Green Bay, Milwaukee and Loyola. Detroit was chosen seventh, with UIC, Cleveland State and Youngstown State rounding out the polling.
B-Mac Shows His Touch: Junior Brandon McPherson became the first Crusader guard since Casey Schmidt in 1991-92 to hit at least 50% of his field goal attempts last season. If the season opener against Grace is any indication, McPherson could repeat the feat this year. The 6’1” guard drilled six of his nine field goal attempts Monday, including hitting two trifects, on his way to 14 points in just 19 minutes of action. McPherson stepped up at the beginning of the second half, scoring the Crusaders’ first eight points to extend their advantage from four points to 12 points.
Loyd Lighting it Up: Senior guard Jarryd Loyd has been used as a high-energy sixth man for the past two seasons and showed why on Monday, matching his career high with 14 points against the Lancers. Loyd helped spark the Crusaders’ run in the early stages of the second half, hitting both of his three-point attempts during the spurt. The senior also grabbed five rebounds, including three on the offensive end, and handed out four assists in his 23 minutes of action.
Versatile Haanpää: Sophomore guard Samuel Haanpää proved to be one of the nation’s preeminent threats from beyond the 3-point arc as a freshman, but showed Monday he can still produce even when having an off night with his shot. The sophomore hit just 2-of-8 3-point attempts, but showcased his improved ability to drive the lane, getting to the foul line eight times and hitting seven free throws, matching a career-best. His success from the free throw stripe helped Haanpää to a team-high 15 points. The 6’8” guard also grabbed five caroms, including a career-high three offensive boards.
A Little Bit of Everything: Senior forward Shawn Huff struggled shooting the ball Monday against Grace, hitting just 4-of-12 shots from the floor on his way to nine points. But Huff more than made up for his off night in all other aspects of the game. The 6’7” Finn set a new career high by dishing out a game-high seven assists. Huff also matched his career bests for rebounds (eight) and steals (two).
Bouchie Begins With a Bang: Freshman forward Bryan Bouchie got his Crusader career off to a rousing start Monday night against Grace. The 6’11” newcomer was one of four Valpo players to record double figures in scoring, pouring in 11 points, all in the second half of play. Bouchie hit five of his nine field goal attempts and even stepped outside to show his range, hitting a 3-pointer. The freshman also grabbed four rebounds in his 12 minutes on the court.
NOTES ON IPFW
Mastodons Gain Conference Affiliation: IPFW was one of three schools invited to join the Summit League (formerly the Mid-Con) beginning with the 2007-2008 athletic season. It is the first conference affiliation for the Mastodons since moving to Division I.
Difference in Experience: Coach Homer Drew will be facing off against Division I’s youngest head coach, as the Mastodons are guided by 28-year-old Dane Fife. Fife, in his third season at IPFW, has gone 22-35 over his first two years.
Wisconsin Pulls Away: IPFW held a double-digit lead with 8:01 to play in the first half, but Wisconsin rallied to take a six-point lead at the break and pulled away for a 83-55 victory in the Mastodons’ opener. Ben Botts paced IPFW with 14 points off the bench, while Jaraun Burrows added 12 points and a team-high eight rebounds.