Game 22 - #12/12 Butler (19-2, 8-2) at Valparaiso (14-7, 5-4) - Tuesday, February 5, 2008 - 8 p.m.
The Matchup: Valparaiso welcomes The Worldwide Leader in Sports to the Athletics-Recreation Center today, as the Crusaders take on #12/12 Butler in front of a nationwide audience on ESPN2 as part of the network’s Rivalry Week. Butler is Valpo’s most common all-time opponent, as the Crusaders and Bulldogs have faced off on the hardwood on 93 occasions. Butler currently holds a 61-32 advantage in the all-time series.
Last Meeting: Valparaiso was tied with Horizon League rival #16/17 Butler Jan. 5 in Indianapolis, Ind. at 31 at halftime and trailed by just one point with 11:36 to play, but the Bulldogs put together a critical 18-6 run to gain a decisive edge and go on to win by a 73-65 count. The Crusaders jumped out on top quickly, scoring 10 of the game’s first 14 points and earning a 15-6 edge 7:21 into the ballgame. Butler went on a late 16-5 run in the first half to bring the game even at the break, and the game would stay close until the Bulldogs went on their mid second-half run. Jarryd Loyd led the Crusaders in scoring off the bench for the third straight game, hitting 7-of-12 shots from the field for 15 points.
Last Time Out: J.R. Blount hit a layup with under five seconds to play to complete an 8-0 Loyola run over the game’s final 1:30 as the Ramblers came from behind to defeat Valparaiso Jan. 26, 65-63, at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The Crusaders were down 50-37 four minutes into the second half after Loyola scored nine of the first 12 points out of the locker room. But back-to-back layups by Howard Little jump-started a 10-0 Valpo run to pull the team back to within three points with 13:41 to play. Loyola extended the lead back out to seven points at 57-50 with 7:40 remaining in the game, but the Crusaders scored the next 13 points, including seven from Brandon McPherson, to go up six prior to the Ramblers’ game-ending spurt. McPherson led Valpo with 13 points, while Samuel Haanpää added 11 and Jarryd Loyd 10 off the bench.
On the Air: Today’s game will be broadcast live on ESPN2, with Bob Wischusen on play-by-play, joined by Doug Gottlieb and Tom Brennan for analysis. The game, like every game this season, can also 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.
ESPN Returns: ESPN2 is broadcasting tonight’s game nationwide as part of ESPN’s Rivalry Week. Tonight marks the first time that the Crusaders have hosted a game at the Athletics-Recreation Center on one of the ESPN networks since the early stages of the 1997-98 season, whenValpo brought in local rival Purdue on Nov. 17, 1997 for an ESPN2 telecast. That game drew a record crowd of 5,412 spectators to the ARC.
Dieblers Take Over the Worldwide Leader: When Jake Diebler takes the court tonight against the Bulldogs live across the nation on ESPN2, he won’t be the first Diebler to have played on an ESPN network this evening. Younger brother Jon plays for Ohio State, which takes on Michigan earlier in the night on ESPN.
There’s No Place Like Home: While the Crusaders had their 13-game home winning streak snapped against Milwaukee earlier this year, 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 210-94 (.691) at home, including a sterling 156-29 (.843) 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 streak ended earlier this year is the fifth-longest in building history.
Close Games the Norm: Last weekend featured what has become commonplace for the Crusaders through the first half of the league schedule, as Valpo took part in two more League games decided by single digits. The Crusaders downed UIC by four points before falling to Loyola by just two. Through its first nine league games, Valpo has had eight games decided by nine points or fewer, with the other game featuring just an 11-point margin of victory. The Crusaders’ close games mirror the league’s parity as a whole, as 14 of the first 47 league games have been decided by five or fewer points, with 20 others featuring a six-to-10 point margin of victory.
Bringing Experience With Them: The Crusaders made 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.
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.
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 90th in the RPI, one of five HL squads in the top-100 nationally, and the league is ranked tenth. In the Sagarin ratings, the Crusaders sit 89th, while the Horizon ranks tenth among the 31 Division I leagues.
Beating the Buzzer: The fans at the ARC are starting to become accustomed to buzzer-beating shots at the end of the first half. Jan. 12 against Green Bay, it was Shawn Huff knocking down a 15-footer at the buzzer to cut the Crusaders’ halftime deficit to one point. Jarryd Loyd followed on Jan. 24 with a half-court heave that fell through as the clock read 0:00, bringing Valpo back to within seven points at the break against UIC.
Moving Up the Charts: A number of current Crusader players are moving up various career record charts this year. Senior guard Jarryd Loyd moved into eighth place on Valpo’s career assist chart at Youngstown State, and now has 347 career helpers. Meanwhile, sophomore guard Samuel Haanpää moved into a tie for tenth place on Valpo’s career 3-point field goals chart against Loyola, knocking down his 128th triple to tie him with Jim Ford. Senior forward Shawn Huff is knocking on the door of the top-10 in the same category, as he has connected on 126 career 3-pointers.
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 exactly 40% of their attempts from behind the arc, 22nd best among the 341 Division I teams. The team average of 9.3 made 3-pointers per game is good for 12th 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.
Defense to the Forefront: Valparaiso’s defense carried the team to its victory over UIC on Jan. 24. The Crusaders held the Flames scoreless for the first 7:27 of the second half and allowed them to hit just one of their first 20 shots of the half. UIC ended up connecting on just 17.1% (6-of-35) of its shots in the final 20 minutes and scored just 16 second-half points, Valpo’s second-best defensive half of the season.
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.
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.
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.