Game 12 - Valparaiso (10-1) at Wisconsin (8-2) - Saturday, Dec. 22, 2007 - 7:30 p.m.
The Matchup: Valparaiso puts its eight-game winning streak on the line as the Crusaders begin a tough two-game road trip with a game against Big 10 foe Wisconsin. The two squads have met just two times previously, as the Badgers won both matchups in the mid-1990s. This is the fourth consecutive year and ninth out of the last 10 seassons that Valpo has faced at least one Big 10 opponent. The Crusaders are looking for their first win over a Big 10 foe since a 67-64 victory over Ohio State at the Great Alaska Shootout in 2000.
Last Meeting: Anthony Allison scored 22 points and Bryce Drew added 21, but it was not enough to overcome five Badgers in double figures as Wisconsin downed Valpo, 90-73, on Dec. 14, 1995. The Crusaders trailed by eight at the half, but started the second stanza on an 8-0 run to tie the game at 38. Wisconsin scored 18 of the next 22 points to seize control, however, and Valpo could not cut the deficit back under seven points. Chris Ensminger registered a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds for Valpo. Sam Okev led the five Badgers in double figures with 23 points while also pulling down nine rebounds and dishing out five assists.
Last Time Out: Sophomore guard Samuel Haanpää drilled six 3-pointers in the first half to help stake Valparaiso to a 22-point halftime advantage, and added four more trifectas in the second half to finish with 10 for the game, breaking Crusader associate head coach Bryce Drew’s mark for 3-pointers in a single game as Valpo defeated Chicago State Saturday night, 90-61. Haanpää was not alone on the offensive end, as three other Crusaders found double figures in the scoring column. Bryan Bouchie ended the game with 12 points, while Shawn Huff and Urule Igbavboa each added 11 points.
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 nationally on the Big Ten Network, with Matt Devlin and Trent Tucker on the call.
10-1: 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 have piled up during Drew’s first 18 seasons at the helm of the Valpo men’s basketball program. But none of Drew’s teams have 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.
It’s Been Over Sixty Years: Not only is this the best start by a Homer Drew-coached team at Valpo, it’s also the best start since the Crusaders moved to Division I. In fact, you have to go back to 1944-45 to find a Crusader team with a better start. That year’s squad won each of its first 11 games on the way to a 21-3 campaign. The only other team in program history to win at least ten of its first 11 games in the 1923-24 team, which started the season with 22 consecutive victories.
300th Game at the ARC: Last Saturday’s game against Chicago State marks the 300th Valpo men’s basketball game in the history of the Athletics-Recreation Center. The venue, which opened Nov. 27, 1984 with a game against Western Michigan, has provided the Crusaders with one of the best home-court advantages in all of college basketball. Valpo is 208-92 (.693) all-time at the ARC, and has finished above .500 at the facility each of the last 15 seasons. With Saturday’s win, the Crusaders own an 12-game home winning streak dating back to last season, the ninth-longest home winning streak in the country.
RPI Update: The overall strength of the Horizon League can be seen by looking at the Rating Percentage Index, where the league ranks 10th out of 31 conferences. The Horizon League is in front of leagues such as the Mountain West, Mid-American and Conference USA.. Four Horizon League squads currently rank among the top-100 in RPI (as of Dec. 19), including the Crusaders, who stand at 66.
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.
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 last week, Valpo jumped again, climbing two spots to #10. Valpo is the second-highest Horizon squad in the polling, trailing only Butler, which sits second in the poll. 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 Saturday 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.
Honors Roll In: Following his record-breaking performance, Haanpää was the recipient of numerous honors earlier this week. On Monday, the sophomore was named the Horizon League’s Player of the Week. He also received national recognition, being cited by The Mid-Majority as its Baller of the Week. Tuesday brought another accolade from the league office, as Haanpää was recognized as the U.S. Army Horizon League Male Scholar-Athlete of the Week. It was the second straight week that a Crusader men’s basketball player has received Scholar-Athlete honors, following Jake Diebler last week.
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 eight of 11 games this year. They also rank among the nation’s best in both 3-pointers per game (10.1, 10th) and 3-point percentage (41.9%, 25th).
Sharing is Caring: Valpo showcased its ability to distribute the basketball against the Cougars, recording a season-best 23 assists on its 30 successful field goals. The Crusaders also turned the ball over just 11 times, maintaining their spots among the nation’s top 10% teams in fewest turnovers per game (13.0, 32nd) and assist/turnover ratio (1.20, 28th).
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.
Perfect Versus Mid-Majors: Valpo’s 10-1 record to date include victories over teams from the nation’s most prestigious “mid-major” conferences. The Crusaders have started out 2-0 in the Horizon League, downing Wright State and Detroit in road games. They have also defeated two teams from the Mid-American Conference (Western Michigan, Ball State) and one from the Missouri Valley Conference (Evansville).
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. Perhaps illustrating the Crusader balance the best is the fact that Urule Igbavboa, who is tied for the team scoring lead with 12.1 PPG, has not led the team in any single game this year.