The Matchup: Valparaiso continues Horizon League play
Thursday night against the Panthers of Milwaukee. The game will close
out the first half of the Crusaders’ 2009 league slate.
Series History: The Crusaders lead the all-time series against Milwaukee, 8-7, but it was the Panthers who came out victorious in the first meeting of the season, a 61-47 decision in Milwaukee on January 5. Valpo led in that game by double figures with six minutes remaining in the opening half, but the Panthers cut the deficit to five at the break and took the lead for good with 17:44 to play. Urule Igbavboa was the only Crusader to reach double figures in that contest, scoring 12 points. Brandon McPherson scored eight off the bench, while Howard Little scored seven points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds, including five on the offensive end.
Last Time Out: Playing with just six scholarship players Saturday afternoon at Loyola, Valparaiso showed determination in fighting back to within five points with under six minutes remaining, but that was as close as the Crusaders would get, as the Ramblers closed out a 71-56 victory. Michael Rogers led the Crusaders with 16 points to lead three Crusaders in double figures. Howard Little connected on 5-of-7 attempts from the floor for 12 points, while Cameron Witt scored ten points for the second straight contest. The freshman also posted team highs of seven rebounds and four 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.
The Iron Six: With the absence of senior Urule Igbavboa from
Saturday’s lineup, Valpo was left with just six scholarship players in
its game at Loyola. Senior Jake Diebler ended up playing all 40
minutes against the Ramblers, while sophomore Michael Rogers played 35
minutes and freshman Cameron Witt saw a career-high 34 minutes.
Sophomore Howard Little played 33 minutes, while freshmen Logan Jones
and De’Andre Haskins took the court for 29 and 28 minutes, respectively.
Search For A Lineup: Igbavboa’s absence necessitated the use of coach Homer Drew’s seventh different starting lineup of the season and his third in as many games. Haskins re-entered the starting five for the first time since starting the first three games of the season, while Witt started for just the second time. Nine different players have now started games this year for Valpo, with the senior Diebler being the only player to start every game.
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 19 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 11.2 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 earlier this month. 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 In the Starting Five: Senior guard Jake Diebler has
had his name announced as a member of Valpo’s starting quintet in every
game since the beginning of his sophomore season, a stretch of 86
consecutive games. Not since Dan Oppland started every single game in
his last three years as a Crusader (91 straight contests) has a Valpo
player been so entrenched in the starting five. Diebler currently
ranks second in the league, connecting on 51.9% of his 3-point attempts
in league play.
Freshmen Take Advantage of PT: With only seven scholarship players dressed at UIC and six at Loyola, 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 career-high 30 minutes of action at UIC, and scored eight points in 29 minutes at Loyola. Witt scored ten points in 28 minutes of playing time against the Flames and took to the court 34 minutes at Loyola, going for ten points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Leading the Way: With the Crusaders’ limited numbers last weekend, sophomore guard Howard Little stepped up his production to lead Valpo. At UIC on Thursday, Little knocked down six of his 11 field goal attempts for a team-best 15 points to go with seven rebounds. Two days later, he hit 5-of-7 shots from the floor for 12 points.
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.