The Matchup: The Horizon League schedule continues Saturday
for Valparaiso, as the Crusaders make their second trip to the Windy
City in a three-day span to take on Loyola.
Series History: In a series dating back to the early 1920s, Loyola holds a considerable edge all-time over Valpo, having won 31 of the previous 38 meetings. The Ramblers won both contests last season in Valpo’s first year in the Horizon League, including most recently a 68-61 triumph at the Gentile Center on Feb. 20, 2008. The Crusaders rallied from an eight-point second-half deficit to take a three-point edge with 3:09 to play, but Loyola ended the game on an 11-1 run. Urule Igbavboa paced the Crusaders with 15 points and ten rebounds, while Jake Diebler knocked down three 3-pointers on his way to 11 points.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso held as much as a seven-point lead in the first half Thursday evening in Chicago, Ill., but UIC put together a 17-0 run in the latter stages of the opening stanza on its way to a 77-52 victory over the Crusaders. Howard Little paced the Crusaders, who were playing with just seven scholarship players due to injuries, with 15 points and seven rebounds on the night. Cameron Witt, making his first career start, added ten points, as did Michael Rogers. Logan Jones came off the bench to hand out a game-high seven 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. Live audio will also be available online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have links for live stats and video. The game can also be seen throughout Chicagoland on Lakeshore Public Television and is available nationwide on ESPN Full Court.
Search For A Lineup: The starting lineup of Buggs, Diebler,
Igbavboa, Little and Rogers had started 11 of Valpo’s first 17
contests, but due to an injury to Buggs, coach Homer Drew was forced to
use his sixth different starting quintet of the season against UIC.
Freshman Cameron Witt got the start, the fourth first-year player to
earn a starting role this year for the Crusaders. Nine different
players have now started games this year for Valpo, with seniors
Diebler and Igbavboa being the only players to start every game.
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.
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 18 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 6.1 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.
Diebler Shoots and Handles: Senior guard Jake Diebler has the
Horizon League’s most accurate shooter in league play. Diebler has
connected at a 52.0% rate behind the arc in league games, second in the
league, and ranks sixth in the league with 1.9 made triples per
contest. Last Saturday, 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.
Doubling Up: Sophomore guard Michael Rogers posted his third career double-double last Saturday 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.
Freshmen Take Advantage of PT: With only seven scholarship players dressed at UIC, freshmen Logan Jones and Cameron Witt each set career highs for minutes played and took advantage of the extra time on the court. Jones handed out a career-best seven assists in his 30 minutes of action, while Witt scored ten points in 28 minutes of playing 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.