VALPARAISO (6-8, 1-0) at ORAL ROBERTS (8-7, 1-0)
MABEE CENTER - TULSA, OKLA.
JANUARY 6, 2007 - 3:05 p.m.
TODAY'S MATCHUP: Valparaiso looks to win its second straight road game to open Mid-Con play as the Crusaders take on rival Oral Roberts in Tulsa, Okla. Saturday. Valpo is coming off of a 66-62 win over Centenary on Thursday, while Oral Roberts opened the league slate with a 65-46 home win over Western Illinois. The Golden Eagles hold a slim 12-11 advantage in the all-time series, but have won all nine matchups at the Mabee Center.
LAST TIME OUT: Jake Diebler set a new career high with 16 points, including three key 3-pointers in the second half, as Valparaiso defeated Centenary, 66-62, Thursday night in Shreveport, La. in the Mid-Con opener for both squads. Diebler's last triple came with 4:55 to play, giving Valpo a 52-45 advantage. Diebler led four Crusaders in double figures in the game, the third time this year that four players have scored at least 10 points for Valpo, all victories. Igbavboa accounted for 14 points and a team-best 11 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season. McPherson scored 12 points, while Haanpaa chipped in 10 points, going 7-of-8 from the charity stripe.
LAST MEETING: The top-seeded Golden Eagles defended their hometown and advanced to the Mid-Continent Conference Championship Game with a 77-58 win over Valpo on March 6, 2006. Mohamed Kone and Dan Oppland, two of Valpo's six seniors, led the way for the Brown and Gold with 18 points apiece. Kone also pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds, posting his seventh double-double of the season. As for Oppland, the Saint Louis native ended his career with 1,780 points, third most in Crusader history, and 782 rebounds, also third all-time at Valpo. Caleb Green led Oral Roberts with 23 points, one of four players in double-figures for the victors.
ON THE AIR: Today's game, like every game this season, can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, a three-station entity carrying Crusader athletics all over Northwest Indiana, and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics. Originating from WVUR, 95.1 FM in Valparaiso, the Valpo Sports Radio Network also includes WEFM, 95.9 FM in Michigan City and WAKE, 1500 AM in Valparaiso. Veteran broadcaster Todd Ickow returns for his 16th season on play-by-play, while WVUR's Mike Haase will handle the color commentary. The game will also be picked up by Lakeshore Public Television, with Kevin Ward and Mike Wolfe on the call.
ONE FINAL GO-ROUND: This weekend marked the start of the final year of Mid-Con play for Valpo, one of just two institutions [Western Illinois] to be a member of the league since its inception as the AMCU in 1982-83. The Crusaders have been the league's most dominant program over the past decade plus, winning at least eight games in conference play in each of the last 13 seasons, including at least 10 league wins in 12 of those years. Valpo has also captured nine Mid-Con regular season crowns and eight Mid-Con tournament championships during its tenure in the league.
BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA: Valparaiso is renewing some old in-state rivalries this season, and continuing others, as a good portion of the Crusaders' non-conference slate is composed of fellow Hoosier State schools. Valpo kicked off the season with a game against NAIA foe Calumet, located in Whiting, and followed with the front end of a home-and-home series with IPFW. The Crusaders took on Butler, Valpo's all-time most common opponent, at the ARC for the first time in 13 seasons. Also during December, Valpo faced off against Evansville, the third-most common opponent in program history, and followed with a game at Ball State, whom they had not faced since the 1992-93 campaign and their fifth most-common opponent all-time.
USING THE FREEBIES: Valpo has showed a soft touch from the free throw line over the past month, hitting at an 80.4% (90-of-112) clip in its last eight games. The Crusaders missed just three shots from the charity stripe during the Rainbow Classic, and matched a school record by shooting 100% from the line against Charlotte, hitting all 14 attempts. Valpo hit 30-of-33 attempts from the stripe during the three games, a 90.6% clip, by far the best percentage among the tournament's eight teams.
THREE IN A ROW: With their game against #3/1 Ohio State on December 2, the Crusaders found themselves on the court with the nation's top-ranked team for the third year in a row. Valpo traveled to Champaign, Ill. to take on the Ilini while they were #1 during the 2004-05 campaign, and last year the Crusaders played at Cameron Indoor Stadium and #1 Duke. The only other time in the 90 years of Crusader basketball that Valpo has faced the nation's top team was during the 1979-80 season, when DePaul, led by Mark Aguirre, played in Hilltop Gym.
PRESEASON POLL PLACES VALPO FOURTH: The Crusaders received 156 points in the Mid-Continent Conference's preseason polling of coaches, sports information directors, and selected media members, placing them fourth out of the league's eight teams. Projected league champs Oral Roberts registered 260 points. IUPUI and UMKC are projected second and third, respectively, while Oakland, Western Illinois, Southern Utah, and Centenary round out the fifth through eighth spots.
CRUSADER ALUMNI RETURN TO THE BENCH: Valpo head coach Dr. Homer Drew has always found places for former players as assistant coaches, and this year is no exception. Bryce Drew is back for his second year on the bench, having been promoted to the title of associate head coach during the offseason. Jason Hawkins, who served as the director of basketball operations during the 2003-04 campaign, returns for his first year as an assistant coach, while Tarrance Price, who played for Valpo from 1998-2000, returns as the director of basketball operations.
A LOT OF HANDS TO SHAKE: Pregame captains meetings at center court will be crowded on Valpo's side this year, as five Crusaders have been designated as captains by Coach Drew. Senior Moussa Mbaye, juniors Shawn Huff and Jarryd Loyd, and sophomores Jake Diebler and Brandon McPherson will share this year's captaincy.
DOUBLE ZERO DOUBLES UP: Sophomore forward Urule Igbavboa has made a habit of putting up double-doubles for the Crusaders this year. Igbavboa notched his fifth-such effort of the season Thursday night against Centenary, pouring in 14 points and grabbing a team-best 11 rebounds. He went for nine points and seven rebounds in the first half, helping Valpo turn an early 10-2 deficit into a 25-20 halftime advantage. Of his five double-doubles, four of them have come in Crusader victories. Igbavboa leads the Crusaders and is second in the league, grabbing 7.6 rebounds per game. He also leads the team with 14 blocked shots, and is fourth on the squad averaging 9.4 points per game. Igbavboa also ranks among the best in the nation in defensive rebounding, pulling down 26.4% of all opponent misses to date, 18th best in the country.
EVEN WHEN HE'S OFF, HE'S ON: Freshman guard Samuel Haanpaa had the worst-shooting game of his young career Thursday against Centenary, hitting just 1-of-11 shots from the field. But Haanpaa showed veteran poise in finding other ways to contribute to the Valpo win. The freshman grabbed a career-best nine rebounds, more than doubling his previous best effort. He also continued his vastly improved free throw shooting, nailing 7-of-8 attempts from the charity stripe, many of them down the stretch to secure the victory. Since starting the season 4-of-17 from the free throw line, Haanpaa has connected on 22-of-24 freebies.
DIEBLER STEPS UP: Sophomore guard Jake Diebler has taken a back seat on the offensive end to many of the other Crusaders throughout the 2006-07 season, helping to run the offense and letting others score. But when Valpo needed offensive production the most against Centenary, it was Diebler who stepped up. The Upper Sandusky native nailed all four of his shots in the second half, including three from behind the 3-point arc, and finished the game with a career-best 16 points. Diebler currently leads Valpo in steals (16) and is second on the squad in 3-point percentage (.400).
GOLDEN EAGLE NOTES
EAGLES MOVE ABOVE .500: Oral Roberts has won its last two contests to move back above .500 (8-7). Among the Golden Eagles' victories this season are a 78-71 win at then-#3 Kansas and a 76-74 neutral-site victory over Seton Hall. The Golden Eagles' losses include contests at Tulsa, at Georgetown, at Arkansas and at BYU.
IT'S EASY BEING GREEN: Two-time Mid-Con Player of the Year Caleb Green has continued his impressive play halfway through his senior year. Green paces the Mid-Con with 20.6 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. He is one of just two active NCAA Division I players with 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds and is 29 points behind Crusader associate head coach Bryce Drew for 5th on the Mid-Con career scoring list.
KING TUTT: Fellow senior Ken Tutt has also put together a solid first half of the 2006-07 campaign. Tutt ranks second on the Golden Eagles with 16.5 points per game, and has connected on 38 3-pointers, hitting at a 36.9% clip from behind the arc. Tutt also paces ORU in assists with 39, and is second on the team with 20 steals.