Game 30 - Detroit (7-20, 3-13 Horizon) at Valparaiso (17-12, 7-9 Horizon) - Thursday, February 28, 2008 - 7:05 p.m.
The Matchup: Valparaiso celebrates Senior Day today, honoring three players: Shawn Huff, Jarryd Loyd and Calum MacLeod. The trio, and the rest of the Crusader squad, is in the midst of a six-day stretch with three key Horizon League contests as they face off against Detroit. 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. It is just the 13th all-time meeting between the Crusaders and the Titans, with Detroit holding an 8-4 edge in the all-time series.
Last Meeting: Valparaiso placed four players in double figures and shot at a 66.7% clip from the field to win at Detroit on Dec. 8, 81-68. The win gives the Crusaders a sweep of two road games in their first weekend of Horizon League action. Valpo scored 14 points in a five-possession span midway through the first half to extend a 3-point lead out to 10 points and would never trail again. Brandon McPherson led the Crusaders in scoring with 19 points, hitting six of his eight field goal attempts. He also dished out three assists without committing a turnover. Bryan Bouchie scored 16 points off the bench, missing just one of his nine shots. Valpo hit 30-of-45 shots for its 66.7% shooting percentage, and missed just five of its 25 attempts from inside the arc.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso allowed Milwaukee to hit just four first-half field goals on its way to a 12-point halftime advantage, and never trailed in the second half, as the Crusaders won 66-57 Monday evening in Milwaukee, Wis. Milwaukee would make one last attempt at a comeback, as Jason Averkamp converted a layup with one minute to play to slice the lead down to 59-56. But the Crusaders closed out the game from the free throw line, connecting on seven of their eight attempts in the final 60 seconds to secure the win. Brandon McPherson led the Crusaders with 17 points in 30 minutes of action off the bench, including four 3-pointers. Jarryd Loyd added 12 points, while Shawn Huff scored 11 on 4-of-5 shooting.
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. The game can also be seen on Lakeshore Public Television.
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 tied for sixth place in the league standings with Green Bay, and is also just one game back of a tie for fourth place with Milwaukee and UIC. 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 Judgment 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: Senior forward Shawn Huff, following his 11-point outing on Monday, has now scored 933 career points and is just 67 points shy of 1,000 for his career with at least three games remaining. His career 3-point percentage of 42.7% is fifth-best in Valpo history and just percentage points behind the third spot. Huff has also drained 71 triples on the season, tied for eighth in a single season in Valpo history, and has now connected on 150 career 3-pointers tied for seventh all-time among Crusaders.
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 six 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, eighth 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 27 of their 29 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.