The Matchup: Valparaiso plays the first of two consecutive
games within the Chicago city limits on Thursday, as the Crusaders
travel to the Windy City to face off against UIC.
Series History: The Crusaders and Flames split two matchups during the 2007-08 season, with each club winning on its home court. UIC holds a 27-10 advantage in the all-time series, including a 77-53 victory at the UIC Pavilion last year on Feb. 11 in the two squads’ last meeting. The Crusaders were down just four in that game at the break, but a 22-3 run early in the second half clinched the victory for UIC. Shawn Huff led Valpo with 19 points, knocking down five three-pointers, while Jarryd Loyd added 14 points in his only start of the season.
Last Time Out: Sophomore guard Michael Rogers put up a double-double with 12 points and a game-high 15 rebounds Saturday evening, but Valparaiso came up on the short end of a 64-48 decision against Wright State at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Wright State led by as many as 20 in the first half, but the Crusaders cut the lead down to nine at the break. A 3-pointer coming out of halftime made it a six-point game, but that was as close as Valpo would get. Rogers, who picked up his third career double-double and second against the Raiders, grabbed 11 of his 15 boards in the first half alone, helping the Crusaders to a 37-29 advantage on the glass. De’Andre Haskins joined Rogers in double figures in the scoring column with ten points off the bench.
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 will also be available online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have links for live stats and video.
Getting Defensive: Valparaiso allowed Detroit to connect on
just 14 field goals last Thursday as the Titans scored just 41 points
for the game. The 41 points allowed by the Crusaders was the fewest
any Valpo team has allowed since Feb. 26, 2000, when IUPUI was able to
score just 41 points at the ARC in a 68-41 Valpo victory.
First-Half Defense Stands Out: Detroit scored just 16 first-half points Thursday and Wright State only reached 28 after one half of play Saturday, continuing a trend over the Crusaders’ last six games on the defensive end in the opening half of play. Opponents are shooting just 33.3% in the opening 20 minutes over the last six contests, including just a 26.9% clip from behind the arc. Valpo has held its foes to an average of just 22.7 points in the first half over that time span.
No Drama Here: Very rarely this season have Valpo’s games gone down to the wire. Last year, 21 of the Crusaders’ 36 contests were decided by single digits, but so far this year, only two of their 17 games have been nine-point spreads or less. Valpo has not played a single-digit game since its 75-70 overtime loss to La Salle in the Virgin Islands.
Spreading Out the Scoring: The Crusaders have had a variety of different players contribute in the scoring column this season. Six different players are averaging between 6.4 and 11.3 points per game for Valpo at the midway point of the year. In addition, nine 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.
Drew Nears Milestone: Crusader head coach Homer Drew is now just two wins shy of 600 for his career after Valpo’s victory over Detroit last Thursday evening. Drew would become just the 33rd Division I head coach to reach the 600-win milestone.
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 Dec. 28 was 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.
Doubling Up: Sophomore guard Michael Rogers posted his third
career double-double last time out against Wright State, which was the
second double-double of his career against the Raiders at the ARC.
After going for 21 and 12 versus the Raiders last year, Rogers put up
12 points and a career-best 15 rebounds on Saturday.
Igbavboa Joins 1,000-Point Club: Preseason Second Team All-Horizon League selection Urule Igbavboa, the Crusaders’ leading scorer (11.3 ppg), reached the 1,000-point milestone for his career in the second half Thursday, becoming just the 28th player in Valpo basketball history to score in four figures. The senior, who has scored in double figures in five straight contests, is just 73 points outside Valpo’s all-time top-20 in the category.
Diebler Shoots and Handles: Senior guard Jake Diebler has been one of the Horizon League’s most accurate shooters in league play. Diebler has connected at a 52.2% rate behind the arc in league games, second in the league, and is one of just four players averaging two or more triples per game in league action. Last time out, the senior had an impressive streak snapped, as a turnover in the second half against the Raiders was his first in 206 minutes of court time.
Next Year’s Newcomers: Valparaiso will have six new players on the roster next year, four of whom are freshmen, one junior college transfer and one transfer. The six newcomers are:
- Ryan Broekhoff, a 6’6” guard from Frankston, Victoria, Australia. Broekhoff was named Australian Junior National Male Player of the Year earlier this year and was the MVP of the U20 Australian national championship.
- Chris Halvorsen, a 6’8” forward out of Henry Sibley [Minn.] H.S. Halvorsen helped lead the Warriors to a state championship appearance last year and was selected to the All-Tournament Team. He also has twice earned All-Conference honors.
- Beas Hamga, a 7’0” center who transferred to Valpo from UNLV. Hamga started classes in the spring semester, making him eligible to play at the end of the fall semester next year. The native of Cameroon was ranked 26th in the country in his high school class by Rivals.com, where he was rated a five-star recruit.
- Matt Kenney, a 6’3” guard out of Mooresville [Ind.] H.S. Kenney was an honorable mention All-State honoree last year, while also earning All-Indianapolis Metro West First Team accolades and All-Conference honors.
- Tommy Kurth, a 6’1” guard out of Penn [Ind.] H.S. Kurth was also an honorable mention All-State honoree last year and has been ranked as the #54 point guard in the Class of 2009 by ESPN.com. He has been among the top-25 scorers in the area the last two years.
- Brandon Wood, a 6’3” guard from Kokomo, Ind. Wood is playing this year at Highland [Ill.] C.C. after playing just six games last year at Southern Illinois. A former Indiana All-Star, he is projected as the top incoming point guard in the Horizon League next year by Rivals.com.