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Crusader Men Face Nation's Best for Fourth Consecutive Year
Friday, December 28, 2007
Game 13 - Valparaiso (10-2) at #1/1 North Carolina (12-0) - Sunday, December 30, 2007 - 6:30 p.m. CST
The Matchup: Coming off of just its second loss of the season, Valparaiso faces its toughest challenge yet on Sunday, as the Crusaders travel to Chapel Hill to take on the nation’s top-ranked team in North Carolina. This marks the fourth straight year that Valpo has faced the #1 team in the nation during the non-conference portion of its schedule. The Crusaders and Tar Heels are meeting for the first time on the hardwood. This marks the ninth time Valpo has faced a current member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, registering a 2-6 record in the first eight meetings.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso held or shared the lead for the first 17 minutes of the second half, but Wisconsin went ahead for good on a Trevon Hughes 3-pointer with 2:20 to play and pulled away for a 68-58 victory over the Crusaders in Madison, Wis. on December 22. Valpo gained its largest edge early at 13-4, and rallied after Wisconsin took an eight-point advantage, ending the first half on a 15-4 spurt to take a 31-28 lead into the break. The Crusaders extended the lead to seven just two possessions into the second half and held the advantage for most of the stanza. Wisconsin attempted numerous times to re-gain the lead, but each time Valpo would hit a big basket to keep the advantage. Even when the Crusaders went through a nearly five-minute stretch without scoring a point, their defense allowed the Badgers just three points over the same time frame to maintain the lead. A Brandon McPherson 3-pointer with 7:05 to play gave Valpo a six-point lead at 50-44. Wisconsin got a triple the next time down, however, to kick off a 13-4 spurt over the next 4:45, capped by the Hughes triple to give the Badgers their first lead since late in the opening half. Haanpää led the Crusaders with 16 points, while McPherson added 14 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 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. The game can also be seen nationally on Fox Sports Net, with Ron Thulin and Dan Bonner 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 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. This also marked the best start by a Valpo team since 1944-45.
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.
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.
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 (as of Dec. 27), including the Crusaders, who stand at 53.
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, before falling to #13 in the most-recent poll. 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.
Facing the Best: The game against the Tar Heels marks the fourth consecutive year that Valpo has hit the road to take on the nation’s top-ranked team. A run that started with a game at Illinois during the 2004-05 season, the Crusaders faced Duke during the 2005-06 campaign and matched up with Ohio State last season.
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.
Honors Roll In: Following his record-breaking performance against the Cougars, Haanpää was the recipient of numerous honors. 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 12 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).