VALPARAISO (13-12, 6-4) at OAKLAND (14-11, 7-2)
ATHLETICS CENTER O'RENA - ROCHESTER, MICH.
FEBRUARY 10, 2007 - noon
TODAY'S MATCHUP: Valparaiso looks to stay in the race for one of the top two seeds in the Mid-Con Tournament Saturday, taking on the Golden Grizzlies of Oakland. Both squads are coming off of losses on Thursday, Valpo at IUPUI and Oakland at home against Western Illinois. The Grizzlies currently own a 1 1/2 game edge over Valpo for second place in the league. The Crusaders hold a commanding 16-2 edge in the all-time series against Oakland, but the Grizzlies have won each of the last two meetings.
LAST TIME OUT: Valparaiso took a 31-25 lead into halftime Thursday evening at IUPUI, but the Jaguars scored 13 of the first 17 points of the second half to take the lead for good, eventually pulling away for a 68-54 victory over the Crusaders. The Crusaders owned the halftime lead in large part to 65% shooting from the floor in the opening stanza, hitting 13 of their first 20 shots, including five of seven from behind the arc. Jake Diebler drained all four of his 3-point attempts for 12 first-half points, while Brandon McPherson also hit all four of his shots from the floor, scoring nine points. The second half was a different story, as Valpo turned the ball over five times in the first six minutes, helping the Jaguars take their first lead of the game since the opening minutes. IUPUI used a 12-2 run to pull ahead by double figures, and Valpo could get no closer than nine the rest of the way.
LAST MEETING: Samuel Haanpaa's fifth 3-pointer of the ballgame gave Valpo a 72-71 lead with just over a minute to play, but Oakland's Erik Kangas hit a 3-pointer on the Golden Grizzlies' ensuing possession, and the Crusaders could not regain the lead, falling 81-76 January 11 at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Valpo owned a double-digit lead late in the first half, but Oakland chipped away and eventually re-took the lead with 17:27 to play, setting up a fight to the finish. Urule Igbavboa paced four Crusaders in double figures with a career-high 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting while also grabbing a game-high eight rebounds.
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.
TAKING AIM AT 300: Valparaiso head coach Dr. Homer Drew is just one win shy of his 300th win at the helm of the Crusader program. Since taking over the coaching reins in 1988, Drew holds a 299-236 (.559) record as head coach, including a 263-133 (.664) mark since the start of the 1993-94 campaign. Drew's first win as the Crusader head coach came on Dec. 3, 1988 over Illinois Tech, with one of his most memorable victories coming two weeks later as Valpo downed nationally-ranked Notre Dame at the ARC.
OFFENSE STANDS OUT: Monday's game against Chicago State marked a departure from the norm this year for the Crusaders, as Valpo used a high-octane offense to deliver the victory. Valparaiso connected on each of its last 14 shots from the field to finish the game with a 67.3% field goal percentage, the highest by a Crusader squad in at least nine seasons. Valpo did not miss any shot (field goal or free throw) after Shawn Huff missed a jumper with 12:22 to play. The Crusaders continued their hot shooting against IUPUI Thursday, hitting at a 65% clip from the field in the first half before faltering in the second half.
GETTING DEFENSIVE: Last Saturday's game marked the third time in the last four games Valpo has held an opponent without a field goal for at least an 11-minute stretch, all victories. The Gents went a total of 11:53 spanning the two halves without a field goal. UMKC did not hit a shot from the field until 11:48 into the game on Thursday, Jan. 25, and Valpo held Oral Roberts without a field goal for the final 11:05 of the matchup this past Thursday night. The Gents' .273 field goal percentage marked the lowest by a Crusader opponent in over four seasons, dating back to Dec. 23, 2002, when Central Michigan shot the ball at just a .250 clip against Valpo.
BALANCED ATTACK: This season's incarnation of the Crusaders have taken the term ?balanced offense' to the extreme, as the top four Valpo players are within one point of each other. Sophomore Brandon McPherson leads the Crusaders with 11.4 points per game, while freshman Samuel Haanpaa is right behind him at 11.3 ppg. Sophomore Urule Igbavboa is putting up 11.0 ppg, and junior Shawn Huff rounds out the quartet with 10.7 ppg. The Crusaders are the only team in the Mid-Con who can boast four players averaging double figures, with all four players ranking 18th or better in the league in scoring.
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-DOUBLES NOT ENOUGH: Sophomore forward Urule Igbavboa was second among all Mid-Con players entering this week with six double-doubles, but decided to take it to the next level Monday against Chicago State. With a rebound and outlet pass to Brandon McPherson for a breakaway layup in the final minute, Igbavboa registered his first career triple-double, finishing with 18 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. The triple-double was the first in the Mid-Con this season, and just the 13th in Division I this year. Igbavboa played just eight minutes against IUPUI Thursday due to injury, but maintaind his spot among the Mid-Con leaders in rebounding (7.0 rpg, 2nd) and field goal percentage (55.7%, 3rd).
McPHERSON IS BACK: After playing just six minutes against Centenary while recovering from an injury, sophomore guard Brandon McPherson showed he was 100% Monday, playing 34 minutes of solid basketball. McPherson, who is in the top-5 in the league in assists, 3-point percentage, and assist-to-turnover ratio, scored 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, pulled down three rebounds, and dished out six assists while committing just two turnovers. McPherson followed by leading the Crusaders with 15 points and five rebounds in their loss Thursday at IUPUI. The sophomore currently leads Valpo in scoring (11.4 ppg) and 3-point percentage (46.8%). His accuracy from behind the arc, if maintained, would be the fourth-best single-season effort in Valpo history.
DIEBLER DRAINS THREES: Sophomore guard Jake Diebler put on a shooting clinic in the first half Thursday against IUPUI. Diebler drained all four of his 3-point attempts for 12 first-half points. While he did not score in the second half, Diebler's four triples matched his career high in the category from earlier this year. He also dished out three assists, helping to maintain his sterling 2.15 assist-to-turnover ratio in conference play, which would rank second in the Mid-Con. Diebler also continues to pace Valpo in steals, averaging 1.3 thefts per game.
MacLEOD STEPS IN: Valpo was looking for someone to step up in the post Thursday night, and Calum MacLeod took advantage of his opportunity, playing 14 solid minutes in the post. MacLeod hit all five of his shots, showing a soft touch around the basket as well as his ability to hit the mid-range jumper, and blocked four shots on the defensive end, while also altering two other shots. The junior college transfer is averaging 5.3 points per game while shooting 60.3% in limited action.
GOLDEN GRIZZLY NOTES
SEASON TO DATE: Oakland owns a 14-11 overall record and is 7-2 in Mid-Con play entering tonight's game. The Golden Grizzlies fell to the league's eighth-place team, Western Illinois, at the O'Rena Thursday night, 63-62. The loss dropped Oakland's home record on the season to 7-2, as the Golden Grizzlies own home wins over UW-Green Bay, UW-Milwaukee, and Toledo, among others. Oakland defeated Valpo at the ARC earlier this season, 81-76.
INSIDE-OUTSIDE: Three Golden Grizzlies are averaging double figures this season, providing a nice balance to the Oakland offense. Senior Vova Severovas leads Oakland with 13.8 points per game while also grabbing 5.7 rebounds per game, while senior Shawn Hopes has also contributed in the post, putting up 11.9 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. On the outside, Erik Kangas has been getting it done for the Grizzlies, averaging 12.5 points per game, mostly on the strength of 3.3 3-pointers made per contest.