Game 18 - Valparaiso (12-5, 3-2) at Youngstown State (7-9, 3-3) - Thursday, January 17, 2008 - 6:35 p.m. CST
The Matchup: Another of Valparaiso’s old rivalries gets renewed Thursday night, as the Crusaders travel to Youngstown, Ohio to face off against the Penguins of Youngstown State. The two teams were previously conference foes from 1992-93 through 2000-01. The Crusaders and Penguins have met on the hardwood 23 times in a series that began during the 1989-90 season, with Valpo owning a 16-7 advantage in the series.
Last Meeting: Valparaiso led almost the entire way on its way to an easy 80-50 victory over Youngstown State at the ARC on November 29, 2001. The Penguins hit a 3-pointer to kick off the scoring, but the Crusaders scored the next seven points and would not trail again, taking a 11-point lead into the half and eventually pulling away in the second stanza. Four Valpo players finished in double figures, led by 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting by Raitis Grafs, while Tony Falu added 14 points off the bench. Stephen Flores and Doug Underwood scored 12 points apiece to pace the Penguins.
Last Time Out: In a back-and-forth affair that featured eight ties and 15 lead changes, it was Valparaiso which closed out the game with a flurry, as the Crusaders put together a 16-4 run over the final 4:30 to rally for the victory over Green Bay Saturday night at the ARC, 82-73. Jarryd Loyd registered back-to-back assists, first to Brandon McPherson for a layup and then Shawn Huff for a 3-pointer, to give Valpo a 71-69 lead. The defense then came to the forefront for the Crusaders, as it forced back-to-back Phoenix turnovers, with Urule Igbavboa converting a layup after the second miscue to extend the lead to four points. After two more defensive stops, it was again the senior connection for the Crusaders that stepped up, as Huff threw a perfect ¾-court pass to Loyd on an inbounds play for a breakaway basket to put the game away. Samuel Haanpää scored a team-high 24 points, while Huff scored 16 of his 18 in the second half.
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.
There’s No Place Like Home: While the Crusaders had their 13-game home winning streak snapped Thursday night, they still enjoy a tremendous home-court advantage at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Since the ARC opened prior to the 1984-85 season, the Crusaders are 210-92 (.695) at home, including a sterling 156-27 (.852) mark over the last 15 years. The program record for longest winning streak at the ARC is a 20-game stretch spanning the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons, while the just-snapped streak was the fifth longest in program history.
Rugged Road: Every season, the Crusaders face a number of early challenges, and this year has been no different. Through the season’s first 15 games, Valpo had faced off against four teams currently ranked among the nation’s top-17 squads, with all four matchups coming on the opponent’s home court (Vanderbilt, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Butler). While the Crusaders were unable to win any of the four games, they did showcase their ability to play with some of the best teams in the nation, as they led in the second half at Vanderbilt, Wisconsin and Butler, and rallied from an early 17-point deficit to tie the game at North Carolina in the second half.
All About the Ratings: Valparaiso’s move to the Horizon League has proven to be a win-win for both parties in a number of rating systems so far this year. Valpo is currently 57th in the RPI, one of five HL squads in the top-100 nationally, and the league is ranked ninth. In the Sagarin ratings, the Crusaders sit 67th, while the Horizon ranks 10th among the 31 Division I leagues.
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.
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 40.6% of their attempts from behind the arc, 18th best among the 341 Division I teams. The team average of 9.5 made 3-pointers per game is good for 10th 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 40% of their attempts from downtown.
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.
Moving Up the Charts: A number of current Crusader players are moving up various career record charts this year. Senior guard Jarryd Loyd currently sits ninth in career assists with 325, just four helpers shy of the eighth spot. Meanwhile, sophomore guard Samuel Haanpää and senior forward Shawn Huff are both within striking distance of Valpo’s all-time top-10 in career 3-point field goals. Haanpää has made 119 career triples and Huff has made 116 3-pointers, while tenth place on the current chart is Jim Ford with 128 triples.
One Finn Starts Strong...: Samuel Haanpää single-handedly jumpstarted the Crusaders’ offense Saturday night against Green Bay. The sophomore scored 17 of Valpo’s first 19 points, spanning the opening 6:32 of the ballgame. Haanpää hit six of his first eight shots, including three 3-pointers, and added two old-fashioned three-point plays.
...and The Other Finnishes: Haanpää’s fellow Finn, Shawn Huff, was a big part of Valpo’s comeback effort in the second half against the Phoenix. Huff scored 16 second-half points, including a 3-pointer with 2:30 remaining to give the Crusaders the lead for good.
Handling the Basketball: The Crusaders got a shot at the basket on almost every possession Saturday 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.
Spreading the Wealth: This year’s Crusaders have spread the ball around on the offensive end of the court, as four players are averaging in double figures and six are scoring at least 8.2 points per game. Six different players have scored in double figures in at least five games for Valpo, with Loyd, Shawn Huff and Urule Igbavboa each breaking the 10-point barrier on 10 occasions.
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.
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.
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-20 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.
Half of Dominance: Valparaiso put together one of its most dominating halves of basketball in recent history against Indiana Wesleyan on Jan. 2. The Crusaders outscored the Wildcats by a 58-15 margin in the second half, hitting 61.3% of their shots for the half and allowing IWU to hit just 21.2%. Five different Valpo players had at least eight points in the second 20 minutes, and the Crusaders put together runs of 13-0, 10-0, 14-0 and 17-0 during the half.