Valparaiso at Youngstown State - Thursday, Dec. 4 - 6:05 p.m. CST
The Matchup: Valparaiso closes out its brief foray into December league play on Thursday evening when the Crusaders take on the Penguins of Youngstown State. The Crusaders are looking to snap their four-game losing streak.
Last Time Out: Cleveland State held Valparaiso to just five first-half field goals Tuesday evening in both team’s Horizon League opener to open a 17-point halftime lead and went on to defeat the Crusaders, 66-42, in Cleveland, Ohio. The game opened slowly from a scoring perspective, as a jumper in the lane by Urule Igbavboa 7:31 into the game brought Valpo back to within two points at 6-4. But the Vikings would explode for a 14-0 run over the game’s next 4:16 to go ahead 20-4 with just 8:13 remaining in the first half, and never led by less than eight points the rest of the way. Howard Little led the Crusaders with 14 points, his first double-figure scoring output of the season, but he was the only Valpo player to reach double figures. The sophomore also registered a game-high three steals. Freshman De’Andre Haskins led the Crusader effort on the boards with seven rebounds.
Series History: Valpo enjoys an 18-7 edge in the all-time series against the Penguins, including wins in each of the teams’ last six meetings. The Crusaders downed Youngstown State in their last meeting on Feb. 16, 2008, 77-58 at the ARC. The first half was close most of the way, until Valpo exploded for a 10-0 run in the final four minutes of the half to go up 32-22 at the break, and the lead did not fall below six the rest of the way. All seven players in the regular rotation for the Crusaders scored at least seven points, led by 18 from Jarryd Loyd.
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. The audio is also available online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have links for live stats and video.
Avoiding 0-2: Valparaiso is looking to avoid an 0-2 start in league play on Thursday when it takes on the Penguins. The Crusaders have not lost back-to-back conference matchups to open the league slate since the 1999-2000 season, when they dropped games at Oral Roberts, at UMKC and at Southern Utah to open Mid-Con action.
Spreading Out the Scoring: The Crusaders have had a variety of different players contribute in the scoring column during the early stages of the season. Six different players are averaging between 7.5 and 10.2 points per game for Valpo. In addition, seven players have also scored in double figures at least once in Valpo’s first six games, including four players (Buggs, Fumey, Haskins, Witt) who are in their first season on the court and two more (Little, Rogers) who are in just their second season.
Mostly Underclassmen: In the first six games of this season, Valpo’s underclassmen, which comprise nine roster spots, have played 74.4% of the team’s minutes and scored 79.4% of the Crusaders’ points. Senior guard Brandon McPherson has not taken the court yet this year for the Crusaders as he recovers from injury, leaving just two upperclassmen, senior guard Jake Diebler and senior forward Urule Igbavboa, as part of the regular rotation. 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.
Little Registers New Career Best: Sophomore guard Howard Little became the fifth different player to lead Valpo in scoring in its first six games and the seventh different Crusaders to reach double figures at Cleveland State on Tuesday. Little knocked down a career-high six field goals en route to a new career-best 14 points, 12 of which came in the second half. The sophomore is currently third on the team in scoring (8.8 ppg) and second in rebounding (5.3 rpg).
Haskins Provides Spark Off the Bench: Freshman guard De’Andre Haskins seems to have found a home coming off the bench for Valpo. After starting the first three games of the season, Haskins came off the bench against Iona, against which he scored 19 points and grabbed six rebounds, and La Salle, pouring in 20 points, including five 3-pointers. Haskins is second on the team in scoring (9.2 ppg) and led the Crusaders in rebounding last time out at Cleveland State, pulling down a career-best seven rebounds.
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 is currently second on the team with 13 assists and is tied for second with eight steals. 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 27 and 41 of his last 42 games and currently holds a 2.17 assist/turnover ratio on the year.
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. Through five games, Igbavboa is averaging 8.2 ppg and a team-best 5.5 rebounds per game.
B-Mac Recovering: Valpo senior guard Brandon McPherson is the only Crusader not to see playing time yet this season 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.