The Matchup: Valparaiso takes on its second top-ten opponent
in a nine-day span on Sunday, as the Crusaders travel downstate to face
off with #10/15 Purdue. Valpo has dropped eight of its last nine
contests, while the Boilermakers come into the contest at 10-2 on the
Series History: This will be the 14th time that the two Indiana schools have faced off on the hardwood, with Purdue enjoying an 11-2 edge in the all-time series. The Boilermakers raced out to a 52-17 halftime lead in the two programs’ last meeting on Dec. 28, 2002 in West Lafayette, on their way to an 87-55 win over the Crusaders. Raitis Grafs led Valpo with 15 points, while freshman Dan Oppland tied for game-high honors with eight rebounds.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso allowed UCF to connect on 13 3-pointers Monday evening in Orlando, Fla., propelling the Knights to an 85-60 victory over the Crusaders. An early 15-6 UCF lead was cut to 17-14 thanks to back-to-back triples by Brandon McPherson, but the Knights responded with a 23-3 run over the next eight minutes to take control of the game. McPherson led the way offensively for the Crusaders, connecting on three 3-pointers on his way to 12 points. Cameron Witt added ten points off the bench, while Erik Buggs handed out eight assists.
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 game is also available nationally on the Big Ten Network, with Brent Stover on play-by-play and Todd Mitchell and Gene Keady providing analysis. Live audio of Ickow and Schroeder’s call will also be available online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have a link for live stats.
Taking on Ranked Foes: The Crusaders are no strangers to
taking on teams ranked among the nation’s top-25. Seven times in the
past eight seasons, Valpo has faced at least two top-25 opponents over
the course of the season, and six times, the Crusaders have faced
multiple top-25 teams within a two-week span. While Valpo has not been
able to topple any of those ranked squads in the past eight years, they
have acquitted themselves well in those contests, playing within single
digits of their nationally-ranked opponent seven times.
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 6.5 and 10.4 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 eight of their last nine 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. On Dec. 20, Valpo was featured on ESPNU in a showdown with top-ranked North Carolina. The Crusaders’ contest at Purdue this afternoon will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network, while their Jan. 30 league tilt at Butler will be carried on ESPNU.
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.
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.
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.
Immediate Impact: Fellow senior guard Brandon McPherson made his return to the Crusader lineup Dec. 20 against #1/1 UNC, playing eight minutes in the first half, scoring two points and dishing out an assist. Last time out, he moved back into the starting lineup at UCF and led the way with a team-high 12 points, including three trifectas. 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.
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 (10.4
ppg) and rebounding (5.4 rpg). The senior is just 65 points shy of
reaching the 1,000 point milestone for his career and also ranks 12th
in program history in rebounding. On Dec. 20, 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 10.1 ppg, and has scored at least eight points in ten of Valpo’s 11 games. He also has contributed on the boards, currently ranking third on the Crusaders with 4.3 rpg. On Dec. 20, 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. Diebler, who was named the U.S. Army Horizon League Scholar-Athlete of the Week for the week ending Dec. 21, did not miss a beat, staying in the starting lineup complete with mask at UCF. The senior currently leads the team with 17 steals on the season and also paces the Crusaders with a 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio.
True Point Guard: Coming off the bench last time out at UCF, freshman Erik Buggs took the point guard’s job description to the extreme. Buggs handed out eight assists while committing just two turnovers in 27 minutes of action, but did not attempt even one shot in his time on the court. The freshman leads the Crusaders with 32 assists on the season to date.