Game 29 - Valparaiso (16-12, 6-9) at Milwaukee (13-13, 8-7) - Monday, February 25, 2008 - 8 p.m.
The Matchup: After a thrilling double-overtime victory over Miami on Saturday, Valparaiso begins a stretch of three Horizon League games over a six-day span today when the Crusaders take on Milwaukee. Valpo is currently in a fight for one of the top six seeds heading into the Horizon League tournament, which would give the Crusaders a first-round home game. An evenly-matched series, Valpo has won seven of the 13 previous matchups between the two squads.
Last Meeting: Valparaiso led by six points with under six minutes to play Jan. 10 in its Horizon League home opener at the Athletics-Recreation Center, but Milwaukee rallied to down the Crusaders by a 71-69 count. The loss snapped Valpo’s 13-game home winning streak at the ARC. The Crusaders led throughout most of the second half and extended the lead to an seven point advantage on a three-point play by Urule Igbavboa with 8:44 to play. Valpo still led by six with 5:30 remaining, but Milwaukee would be almost perfect offensively from that point forward, going 5-for-6 from the field over the last 5:30, including 3-for-3 from behind the 3-point line. Jarryd Loyd led Valpo with 18 points off the bench, while Brandon McPherson added 15 of his own.
Last Time Out: Senior Shawn Huff scored 26 of his career-best 32 points after halftime and fellow senior Jarryd Loyd scored the Crusaders’ last seven points in the final two minutes of the second overtime period as Valparaiso defeated Miami (Ohio) at the Athletics-Recreation Center Saturday afternoon, 99-94, in double overtime. The game was broadcast live nationwide on ESPN Classic on part of the O’Reilly ESPNU BracketBusters event. Urule Igbavboa also picked up a career-best in the scoring column, going for 22 points and 13 rebounds, his second consecutive double-double.
On the Air: Tonight’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.
Fight for the Top Six: With the change in conference affiliation this season for the Crusaders comes a new post-season tournament format. In the Horizon League, the top two seeds earn a double bye to the tournament semifinals. In the first round, the 3 through 6 seeds host games against the 7 through 10 seeds. Valpo is currently seventh in the league standings, but is just one-half game out of the sixth seed (Green Bay) and is also within striking distance of fifth (UIC) and fourth (Milwaukee) place. The last time Valpo hosted a league tournament game was the 1994-95 championship game, when the Crusaders defeated Western Illinois in a triple-overtime thriller.
Crusaders Taking Over the Worldwide Leader: Valparaiso hosted its second game at the ARC on an ESPN network in February on Saturday when the Crusaders took on Miami on ESPN Classic. But that won’t be the Crusaders’ last appearance on the Worldwide Leader, as tt was announced two weeks ago that Valpo’s regular-season finale at the ARC against Wright State on March 1 will be broadcast live at 11 a.m. CST on ESPN2 as part of ESPN’s Judgement Week. Valpo is one of just six schools to host three home games over that time span on one of the three ESPN networks, joining Indiana, Louisville, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Villanova.
National Exposure: The three games on ESPN platforms in under a month’s time means the Crusaders will have at least five of their games broadcast nationwide this season. Valpo’s December 22 tilt at Wisconsin was shown on the Big Ten Network, while its December 30 game at North Carolina was carried on Fox Sports Net.
Playing Free Basketball: The Crusaders did not play an overtime game in their first 22 games of the year, but have now played extra time in two of their last six contests. Valpo’s double-overtime win over Miami on Saturday was the first time Crusader fans have seen Valpo play in a multiple-overtime contest since Dec. 14, 2002 at the ARC, when the Crusaders defeated Samford 87-79 in double OT.
Bringing Experience With Them: The Crusaders made the step up to the Horizon League this season 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 returned for the 2007-08 campaign, the highest returning percentage in each category among Horizon League squads.
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 did: 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.
Offensive Proficiency: Valparaiso put up a season-best 99 points in its victory Saturday over Miami, the highest by a Crusader squad since Valpo dropped 99 on Centenary on Feb. 2, 2006 in a 99-73 win. The Crusaders also had one of their best shooting performances of the season, hitting 51.5% of their field goal attempts and 55% of their 3-point attempts, the first time since Jan. 2 that Valpo has broken the 50% mark in both categories.
Career Marks All Around: With Valpo’s 99-point performance Saturday came numerous career highs for Crusader players. Shawn Huff led the way with 32 points on 10 field goals and six 3-pointers, all of which marked new career bests. Urule Igbavboa surpassed his previous career-best point total, putting up 22 points on eight makes from the field, tying a career-high. Freshman Michael Rogers took full advantage of the two extra sessions to play a season-best 29 minutes and score a career-high 10 points.
Huff Moves Up Charts: With his 32-point game on Saturday, Shawn Huff has scored 922 career points, just 78 shy of the 1,000 point milestone with at least four games remaining to be played. His 6-for-8 performance from behind the arc bumped his career 3-point percentage to 42.5%, fifth-best in Valpo history and just percentage points behind the third spot. Huff has also drained 69 triples on the season, among the top-10 in a single season in Valpo history.
Shakeup in the Starting Lineup: Valparaiso used the same starting lineup in each of the season’s first 23 games, but since then, the lineup has been anything but stable. Four different quintets have been on the floor at the tip over the last five games. Jarryd Loyd and Calum MacLeod earned the start at UIC, while freshman Bryan Bouchie started games last week versus Youngstown State and at Loyola. On Saturday, two more freshman were given their first crack at the starting five, as Howard Little and Michael Rogers both were part of the starting lineup. 10 of the 11 Valpo players who have seen the court this season have now started at least one game.
Shooting From 19’9”: Valparaiso has proven to be one of the nation’s best 3-point shooting teams so far this season. The Crusaders are connecting on 40.8% of their attempts from behind the arc, 14th best among the 341 Division I teams. The team average of 9.5 made 3-pointers per game is good for seventh nationally as well. It’s not just one player that has been a threat for Valpo from behind the arc either, as the team’s top four 3-point shooters are all averaging better than one make per game and are all connecting on at least 42% of their attempts from downtown. The Crusaders have been consistent from behind the arc as well, nailing at least seven 3-pointers in 26 of their 28 games, including reaching double figures on 13 occasions.
Handling the Basketball: The Crusaders got a shot at the basket on almost every possession Jan. 12 against Green Bay, dishing out 17 assists and committing just five turnovers. Valpo point guards Jarryd Loyd and Brandon McPherson combined for 11 assists and did not commit a turnover. For Valpo, it was the fewest number of turnovers in a game since it committed just five miscues Dec. 9, 1991 against Notre Dame.
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, needing just 11 attempts. He also set a new career high with 32 points in the 90-61 victory.