The Matchup: Valparaiso concludes regular season play tonight at the ARC against the Penguins of Youngstown State. It will be the final time that seniors Jake Diebler and Urule Igbavboa step onto the floor at home.
Series History: In a series that dates back 20 years, the Crusaders own a 19-7 advantage all-time against the Penguins. Valpo has captured all three meetings since joining the Horizon League, including most recently a 68-57 victory in Youngstown, Ohio on Dec. 4, 2008. Despite trailing by 14 points 16 minutes into the game, the Crusaders ended the first half on a 15-4 run and took the lead for good with 13 minutes to play. Senior Urule Igbavboa set a new career high with 27 points in the victory. Igbavboa hit nine of his 15 attempts from the field and went 9-of-11 from the foul line, while also ripping down a team-best nine rebounds. Senior Jake Diebler hit 4-of-7 shots from behind the arc on his way to 15 points, while sophomore Michael Rogers added eight points and seven rebounds.
Last Time Out: Valpo led by eight midway through the first half, but Cleveland State took a three-point halftime lead Thursday and then shot at a staggering 82.4% clip in the second half to hold off the Crusaders, 71-64. The Crusaders were down by 17 with 2:42 to play before making one last belated rally, getting to as close as five points in the final minute of play. De’Andre Haskins and Michael Rogers tied for team-high scoring honors with 18 points apiece, as each of them connected on 6-of-10 shots from the field. Urule Igbavboa added 17 points and team-high totals of eight rebounds and four assists.
Following the Crusaders: Today’s game can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, a three-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; and WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso. 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 through the Horizon League Network.
First-Round Scenarios: With the Horizon League Championships beginning next Tuesday, Valparaiso enters the final day of regular season play knowing it will be the tournament’s nine seed and will play on the road in the first round. Valpo’s first-round opponent is still to be determined, however, and all five remaining games could theoretically impact the opponent. The scenarios:
-If Wright State wins against Green Bay and Cleveland State wins at Butler, Valpo plays at Wright State.
-If Wright State wins and Cleveland State loses:
-AND Loyola beats UIC, Valpo plays at Cleveland State (WSU wins 3 seed tiebreak via head-to-head against YSU/Loyola).
-AND UIC beats Loyola and Youngstown State beats Valpo, Valpo plays at Cleveland State (WSU wins 3 seed tiebreak via head-to-head against YSU)
-AND UIC beats Loyola and Valpo beats Youngstown State, Valpo plays at Wright State (All top-to-bottom tiebreakers are the same, Cleveland State wins 3 seed tiebreak via better RPI).
-If Wright State loses and Milwaukee wins at Detroit, Valpo plays at Milwaukee (UWM wins 4 seed tiebreak with WSU via head-to-head against Butler).
-If Wright State loses and Milwaukee loses, Valpo plays at Wright State.
Diebler and Igbavboa Honored: Seniors Jake Diebler and Urule Igbavboa will be honored tonight as part of Senior Night ceremonies. The duo has won 63 games during their four years with the Crusaders and brought Valpo back to the postseason last year, leading the Crusaders to an appearance in the CBI and a first-round win in that tournament over Washington. Diebler will end his career among Valpo’s all-time top-ten in steals and among the top-20 in assists, while Igbavboa ranks among Valpo’s all-time best in both scoring and rebounding.
Homer Reaches 600: Crusader head coach Homer Drew reached a rare milestone Feb. 13 with Valpo’s win over Loyola, winning as head coach for the 600th time in his career. Drew became the eighth current Division I head coach (at least five years DI experience) to reach the 600-win milestone, and is just the 32nd Division I coach all-time (at least ten years D1 experience) to reach the plateau. Drew is in his 32nd year as a collegiate coach and his 20th overall at Valparaiso. He earned 252 wins during an 11-year stint to open his head coaching career at Bethel [Ind.], won 17 games in one season at the helm of IU-South Bend, and has won 331 contests to date at Valpo.
The Comforts of Home: The Crusader offense has been much more successful at home this year than when it steps away from the Athletics-Recreation Center. Valpo is scoring 67.5 ppg at home vs. 55.9 ppg away from home, and is shooting over five percent better both from the field and from behind the 3-point arc. The offensive output at the ARC is a key reason that the Crusaders are 7-6 at home this year and have secured their 16th straight season at .500 or better at home. A win against Youngstown State would give Valpo eight home wins for the 16th straight year as well.
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.
Igbavboa Leads the Way: Senior forward Urule Igbavboa has continued to be among the top Crusaders across the board, going for 17 points and team-high totals of eight rebounds and four assists Thursday against Cleveland State. It continues a trend for Igbavboa, who has always excelled in the scoring and rebounding departments for Valpo, but has added the role of offensive distributor to his resume this year. He currently leads the Crusaders in scoring (12.1 ppg) and rebounding (5.8 rpg). He also paces Valpo in league play in assists (2.9 apg) and is tied for sixth in the Horizon League in league games in the category.
Rogers Scoring Night In Night Out: Sophomore guard Michael Rogers has been Valpo’s most consistent scoring threat recently, putting up double figures in each of the Crusaders’ last six games. Last time out against Cleveland State, Rogers tied for team-high honors with 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting. The sophomore is currently tied for second on the team in both scoring (9.7 ppg) and rebounding (4.8 rpg).
Haskins Produces Big Off the Bench: Freshman guard De’Andre Haskins has stepped up with two of the best games of his young career in Valpo’s last two outings. Haskins played 28 huge minutes off the bench against Akron, scoring 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting while also grabbing six rebounds and tallying two steals. Thursday against Cleveland State, the freshman tied for team-high scoring honors with 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting. On the year, Haskins is averaging 6.1 points and 2.6 rebounds per game.
Diebler Runs the Point: Senior guard Jake Diebler has now made a Crusader Division I 96 consecutive starts, and had another great performance in the starting lineup last Saturday against Akron. Diebler connected on all five of his free throw attempts en route to ten points, but especially stood out running the point for the Crusaders. The senior tied his career highs for assists (6) and steals (4) while not committing a turnover. On the year, Diebler is averaging 7.3 points per game while ranking among the league’s best 3-point shooters.
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. Wood took part in the Indiana North/South All-Star Classic following his senior year and is projected as the top incoming point guard in the Horizon League next year by Rivals.com.