Valparaiso at UCF - Monday, December 22, 2008 - 6 p.m. CST
The Matchup: Valparaiso plays the back end of a home-and-home
series with UCF Monday evening in Orlando, Fla., the return trip from
the Crusaders’ 69-52 victory at the ARC earlier this season. Valpo,
which has dropped seven of its last eight games, will attempt to hand
the Knights their first loss at the UCF Arena this season, where they
are 3-0 this year.
Series History: Valpo has won both prior meetings with UCF, the first coming in the 1989-90 season with the most recent coming on Nov. 18, a 69-52 victory at the ARC. The Crusaders led for the game’s final 37 minutes and extended their lead to as many as 23 points in the second half. 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. Erik Buggs joined the aforementioned duo in double figures with 11 points.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso jumped out to a 12-3 lead on unanimous #1/1 North Carolina Saturday afternoon at the Windy City Hoops Classic, played at the United Center in Chicago, Ill., and still led midway through the first half, but the Tar Heels eventually pulled away for an 85-63 victory. The Crusaders’ last lead came just past midway through the first half, as they were ahead 19-17, but the Tar Heels gained the lead for good and used a late 10-0 run to seize control of the game. Urule Igbavboa and Michael Rogers led the Crusaders with 16 points apiece, while Howard Little added nine points in his return to his hometown. Tyler Hansbrough led all players with 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting.
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 audio is also available online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have a link for live stats.
Either Hot or Cold: The Valparaiso offense hasn’t had much
in-between so far in the 2008-09 season. In six of their first ten
games, the Crusaders have hit better than 45% of their shots from the
field, but are only 3-3 in those contests. In three of its other four
games, Valpo has shot worse than 32%, resulting in its three
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 6.4 and 10.6 points per game for Valpo. In addition, eight players have also scored in double figures at least once so far this year for Valpo, 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.
Success Right Around the Corner?: While the Crusaders have dropped six of their contests, there is recent precedent for a sustained string of success immediately following a rough stretch. Last season, Valpo lost six of seven games from Jan. 26-Feb. 20 before reeling off six consecutive victories, while the year prior, the Crusaders fell eight straight times (Nov. 21-Dec. 22) and rebounded to win seven of their next nine games.
National Audience Awaits Valpo: After appearing on national television seven times during the 2007-08 campaign, Valparaiso will make at least three nationally televised appearances during the 2008-09 season. Last time out, Valpo was featured on ESPNU in a showdown with top-ranked North Carolina. The Crusaders’ Dec. 28 contest at Purdue will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network, while their Jan. 30 league tilt at Butler will be carried on ESPNU.
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 four 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.
Igbavboa Leads the Way: Preseason Second Team All-Horizon
League selection Urule Igbavboa has led the way for the Crusaders in
the early stages of the 2008-09 campaign, pacing the team in both
scoring (10.6 ppg) and rebounding (5.7 rpg). The senior is just 73
points shy of reaching the 1,000 point milestone for his career and
also ranks 12th in program history in rebounding. Last time out,
Igbavboa used his quickness advantage over North Carolina’s posts
driving to the hoop, finishing with 16 points and also handing out a
team-best four assists.
Rogers Produces Night After Night: Sophomore guard Michael Rogers has stepped into a regular starting role this year after starting each of the last nine games of the season as a freshman. The 6’5” Jamaican is currently second on the team in scoring, averaging 10.3 ppg, and has scored at least eight points in nine of Valpo’s ten games. He also has contributed on the boards, currently ranking third on the Crusaders with 4.2 rpg. Last time out, Rogers connected on six of his eight shot attempts against North Carolina, tying for team-high scoring honors with 16 points.
Return of the Masked Man: Playing without his trademark mask in the first ten games of the season, senior guard Jake Diebler continued to play his trademark style of basketball in his final year. But that style resulted in yet another broken nose for Diebler, who despite suffering the injury in the fifth minute of the game against North Carolina, returned to play 27 minutes against the Tar Heels. When Diebler returns to the lineup, he will be sporting the mask again. The senior leads the team with 16 steals on the season and also paces the Crusaders with a 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Speaking of Returns...: Fellow senior guard Brandon McPherson made his return to the Crusader lineup Saturday against the Tar Heels, playing eight minutes in the first half, scoring two points and dishing out an assist. McPherson had missed the first nine games of the season while recovering from offseason knee surgery. The senior ranks among Valpo’s all-time top-20 in assists and in its top-10 in career 3-point percentage.
Hometown Return: Sophomore guard Howard Little played his third collegiate game in his hometown of Chicago on Saturday when the Crusaders hosted the Tar Heels, making his first start of the three games in the Second City. Little contributed nine points and four rebounds to the Valpo effort against UNC, and currently is third on the team in scoring (8.0 ppg) and second in rebounding (4.7 rpg).