The Matchup: Having started 2-0 for the fourth straight season, Valparaiso will look to extend its season-opening winning streak this weekend at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Crusaders will take on San Diego in the opener before facing either Iona or Wisconsin in their second game. Miami (Fla.), La Salle, Southern Miss and UConn are on the other side of the tournament bracket.
Last Time Out: The Crusaders took the lead just over three minutes into the game and held it the rest of the way, defeating UCF 69-52 Tuesday evening at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Valpo was led both offensively and on the boards by senior Urule Igbavboa, who registered a team-high 15 points and pulled down a game-best 14 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. He was joined by sophomore Michael Rogers, who tallied his second career double-double with ten points and 11 rebounds. The Knights held the early lead briefly before an Erik Buggs layup jump-started a 16-3 Crusader run. Benjamin Fumey scored a team-best five points during the spurt, including a 3-pointer that capped the run with 9:40 to play in the opening half, pushing Valpo’s lead to 18-6. The Crusaders’ lead hovered in the low double figures until midway through the second half, when an 11-2 spurt put the game away.
Series History: Valpo and San Diego, despite both being members of the Pioneer Football League, have never met on the hardwood. The Crusaders are 0-3 all-time against Wisconsin, including a close loss last season at the Kohl Center, and have never faced Iona. Against the other side of the bracket, Valpo has never played Southern Miss and UConn, is 1-0 against Miami and 0-2 against La Salle.
Following the Crusaders: Today’s game can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, a four-station entity carrying Crusader athletics all over Northwest Indiana. Originiating from WVUR, 95.1 FM in Valparaiso, the VSRN also includes WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; and WWLO, 89.1 FM, Lowell. Veteran broadcaster Todd Ickow returns for his 18th season on play-by-play for the Crusaders, while WVUR’s David Schroeder will handle the color commentary. Live video links are also available on the Paradise Jam’s official website at www.paradisejam.com.
Outside the 50 States: This is Valparaiso’s first time playing regular season contests outside the United States’ 50 states since becoming a Division I program. In December of 1946, the Crusaders traveled to Puerto Rico to play a series of three games.
Double Double-Doubles: Urule Igbavboa and Michael Rogers both tallied double-doubles against the Knights of UCF on Tuesday, as Igbavboa put up 15 points and 14 rebounds while Rogers registered ten points and 11 rebounds. It was the first time that multiple Crusaders have registered double-doubles in the same contest since February 14, 2005 at Centenary. Dan Oppland tallied 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Ron Howard scored 20 and pulled down ten caroms in Valpo’s 61-51 victory over the Gents.
Mostly Underclassmen: In the first two games of this season, Valpo’s underclassmen, which comprise nine roster spots, have played 76.8% of the team’s minutes and scored 81.4% of the Crusaders’ points. Only senior guard Jake Diebler has played significant minutes in both games among the upperclassmen, as Igbavboa sat out most of Valpo’s opener while senior guard Brandon McPherson has not taken the court yet this year. Also this year, two freshmen started the season opener, guards Erik Buggs and De’Andre Haskins, becoming the first true freshmen to start their first career game since Raitis Grafs on Nov. 21, 1999.
Postseason Trips: Valparaiso’s trip to the inaugural College Basketball Invitational last season was its first postseason berth since the 2003-2004 campaign and extended an impressive streak. 16 consecutive classes of Crusader basketball players have experienced at least one postseason tournament.
Drew Closing In on 600: In his 32nd season as a collegiate head coach and his 20th year at Valpo, Crusader head coach Homer Drew is just five wins shy of his 600th career win. Drew would become just the seventh active coach in Division I with at least 600 wins and just the 33rd coach in NCAA Division I history to reach the milestone.
Tabbed Seventh: The Crusader men’s basketball team has been picked to finish seventh in the Horizon League for the 2008-09 season, according to polling of the league’s head coaches, sports information directors and media members. Cleveland State has been tabbed the preseason favorite with 40 of the possible 49 first-place votes. Wright State was picked second with UIC third and Green Bay fourth. 2007-08 league champion Butler was selected fifth, while Milwaukee was picked just ahead of the Crusaders in sixth. Loyola, Detroit and Youngstown State rounded out the polling.
Which Line Are We Using?: The men’s college 3-point line has been moved back a foot this year, from the previous distance of 19’9” to the current distance of 20’9”. Many courts, such as the ARC, now have multiple 3-point lines on the hardwood, as the women’s 3-point distance remained the same, but the relevant line on the ARC court for the men’s games is the more distant, light brown line.
Rogers Finds the Basket: Sophomore guard Michael Rogers has been Valpo’s leading scorer in the early going this year. Rogers scored a game-high 23 points in the Crusaders’ opener against Marian and added ten points and 11 rebounds for his second career double-double versus UCF. The sophomore, who is connecting on 55.6% of his attempts from the floor through two games, also leads Valpo with 7.5 rebounds per contest.
Buggs Doubles Up: Freshman guard Erik Buggs has been a big part of both of Valpo’s first two victories this season. Buggs scored 13 points and handed out four assists in the season-opener versus Marian, and last time out in the win over UCF, scored 11 points, dished out four helpers and also picked up three steals. He is the first Crusader freshman since Kikas Gomes in November of 2000 to score in double figures in each of his first two games.
Where’s the Masked Man?: Playing without his trademark mask this season, senior guard Jake Diebler has continued to play his trademark style of basketball in his final year. Diebler knocked down a pair of 3-pointers for six points and also added three assists without a turnover in the opener against Marian, and put up eight points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals against UCF. The senior, who finished second in the league in assist/turnover ratio last season, now has had an assist/turnover ratio of 1 or better in each of his last 23 and 37 of his last 38 games.
Igbavboa Earns Preseason Honor: Valpo senior forward Urule Igbavboa was placed on the preseason All-Horizon League Second Team after his stellar junior campaign. The 6’8” Minnesota native led the Crusaders in rebounding (7.3 rpg) and field goal percentage (55.0%) last year, placing second and fourth, respectively, in the league in those categories while also contributing 11.0 ppg. After playing limited minutes against Marian in the opener, Igbavboa exploded against UCF for a team-best 15 points and a game-high 14 rebounds, his 14th career double-double.
Guards Grabbing the Boards: Valpo has outrebounded its opponents by 9.5 rebounds per game so far this year, and a big part of that has been the guards hitting the boards. Against Marian, 6’2” freshman Logan Jones pulled down eight rebounds, while against UCF last time out, 6’3” freshman Howard Little grabbed seven boards.
B-Mac Recovering: Valpo senior guard Brandon McPherson was the only Crusader not to see playing time during Saturday’s win over Marian as he continues to recuperate from offseason surgery. McPherson averaged double figures in scoring for the second straight year last season, putting up 10.1 points per game, and currently ranks ninth in Valpo history in 3-point percentage and 17th in assists.