Game 14 - Indiana Wesleyan at Valpo (10-3) - Wednesday, January 2, 2008 - 7:05 p.m.
The Matchup: Valparaiso returns home tonight for one final non-conference game before Horizon League play begins in earnest, taking on NAIA foe Indiana Wesleyan. The Crusaders are coming off of two tough non-conference losses at Wisconsin and top-ranked North Carolina, dropping their record to 10-3. The Wildcats of IWU enter the game, which counts as an exhibition contest for them, at 11-4 on the season. Indiana Wesleyan is guided by former Crusader guard Greg Tonagel. The two teams have met just twice in regular season action, on Jan. 11, 1989 and Dec. 4, 1996, with Valpo earning 20+ point victories in both contests.
Last Meeting: Urule Igbavboa enjoyed a perfect 10-for-10 night from the field as Valparaiso defeated Indiana Wesleyan Nov. 4, 2006 at the ARC, 83-65, in the Crusaders' first exhibition game of the season. Igbavboa, who played just 24 minutes due to foul trouble, hit seven of his ten shots in the first half. He would end the game with 24 points, six rebounds, and two blocked shots. Joining Igbavboa in the low post was Calum MacLeod, who poured in 21 points, including 17 in the second half, and pulled down seven rebounds in his Crusader debut.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso rallied from an early 17-point deficit to close the gap to five points at the half, and briefly tied the game early in the second stanza, but North Carolina showed why it came in ranked as the top team in the nation, scoring 27 of the next 29 points and pulling away for a 90-58 victory Sunday in Chapel Hill, N.C. Jarryd Loyd led all players with a career-best 24 points, hitting a personal-high five 3-pointers, but no other Crusaders could reach double figures. Tyler Hansbrough paced the Tar Heels with 23 points and 13 rebounds.
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.
Wrapping Up the Calendar Year: After going 16-16 in the 2006 calendar year, the Crusaders made a 5 1/2 game improvement in the last calendar year, going 21-10 over their 31 contests in the year 2007. Over the course of the year, Valpo put together an eight-game winning streak and three other winning streaks of at least three games. In addition, the Crusaders won each of their last 12 home games during the year after dropping the first one to Oakland. Valpo’s improvement mirrors the Horizon League as a whole, which won just 49.8% of its games in 2006, but improved to 55.4% in 2007.
Calendar Year Openers: Valparaiso has won each of its last four year-opening games. In 2007, the Crusaders won at Centenary to extend the streak to four games, which also includes wins over Oakland in 2004 and 2006 and a victory against Western Illinois in 2005.
300th Game at the ARC: Valparaiso’s game against Chicago State on Dec. 15 marked 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 the win against the Cougars, the Crusaders own an 12-game home winning streak dating back to last season, the ninth-longest home winning streak in the country.
Sagarin Rising: With its impressive start to the season, Valparaiso has seen its Sagarin rating skyrocket. The Crusaders are currently ranked 39th 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.
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. Four Horizon League squads currently rank among the top-100 in RPI and three among the top-40 (as of Jan. 1), 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 in the poll of Dec. 17, climbing two spots to #10, and currently sit at #18. Valpo is the second-highest Horizon squad in the polling, trailing only Butler, which sits atop 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 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 eight of 13 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).
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.
Perfect Versus Mid-Majors: Valpo’s 10-2 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).