Crusaders Host Marquette Monday
Sunday, November 26, 2006
NOVEMBER 27, 2006 - 7:05 p.m.

TODAY'S MATCHUP: Valparaiso hosts a ranked team at the ARC for just the second time in the last nine seasons, as #8/9 Marquette comes into Valpo with a perfect 6-0 record. The Golden Eagles hold a significant 20-5 edge in the all-time series against the Crusaders, but Valpo won the last matchup between the two teams at the ARC, 70-66, on February 24, 1988.

THE LAST MEETING: The Crusaders jumped out to a 10-1 lead over Marquette just 3:23 into the game on December 7, 2005 at the Bradley Center, but the Golden Eagles took the lead for good seven minutes later and downed Valpo, 69-54. Cold shooting doomed the Crusaders, as Valpo shot just 35.1% from the field, including a meager 26.1% from behind the arc, and got no points from its bench, versus 28 bench points for the Golden Eagles. Ron Howard and Mohamed Kone tied for team-high honors with 15 points, while Dan Oppland added 10 points and eight rebounds. Dominic James and Jerel McNeal led Marquette with 12 points apiece.

LAST TIME OUT: Valparaiso led ACC foe North Carolina State in Raleigh with 7:02 to play in the first half, 27-26, but the Wolfpack went on a 14-0 run and pulled away for a 78-64 victory over the Crusaders. N.C. State led by as many by 29 with 6:44 to play before Valpo got hot from behind the arc, hitting five 3-pointers in a five-minute stretch to close within 13 points. Shawn Huff and Samuel Haanpaa tied for team-high scoring honors with 14 points apiece, while Urule Igbavboa chipped in 10 points and a team-best eight rebounds. The Crusaders hit 9-of-21 3-point attempts, but connected on just 13-of-39 shots inside the arc, versus N.C. State's 23-of-37 mark from inside the arc. Gavin Grant led all players with 25 points and 12 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. 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. All Crusader basketball action this year can also be heard around the world via by clicking on the webcast link.

NO LID ON THE BUCKET: The Crusaders have used much better shooting than their opponents to start 3-1 this season. Valpo is hitting at a 46.9% clip from the floor, while opponents are hitting just 38.5% of their shots from the field. The Crusaders' edge is even more pronounced from behind the arc, as Valpo has drained 42.3% of its three-point attempts versus a measly 23.5% of triples falling for opponents. The key to the Crusaders' shooting success has been having the right guys take the shots, as the three Crusaders with the most field goal attempts are shooting a combined 54.5%, while Valpo's top-four in 3-point attempts are hitting 45.5% from behind the arc.

POWER ALLEY: Valparaiso's schedule this week marks one of the most challenging stretches that any of the nation's D-1 teams will face this season. After facing #8/9 Marquette tonight, the Crusaders turn right around and host #19/18 Butler on Wednesday, which defeated Notre Dame, Indiana, #22/21 Tennessee and #NR/23 Gonzaga in succession to capture the Preseason NIT and is the only team in the nation at 7-0. If that wasn't enough, Valparaiso then travels to Columbus, Ohio on Saturday for a 3 p.m. Central matchup against #3/1 Ohio State, which has won each of its six games this season by double-digit margins and will be coming off of a game against #7/6 North Carolina.

EXPERIENCE NOT REQUIRED: The Crusaders returned just one starter, junior guard Jarryd Loyd, from last year's 17-12 squad, and Loyd has not started a game yet this year. The starting five in each of Valpo's first four games (Diebler, Huff, Igbavboa, MacLeod, McPherson) had combined for just two starts in a Valpo uniform prior to this season, both by Huff. Diebler has already surpassed his playing time from last season, seeing the court for 113 minutes over Valpo's first four games after playing just 78 minutes as a freshman. Igbavboa is also just 25 minutes shy of matching his playing time from last year, with 137 minutes played so far this season.

RIGHT AT HOME IN THE ARC: Valparaiso is trying to win its first two home games of the season for the first time since the 2002-03 campaign, when the Crusaders captured their first nine games at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Valpo has traditionally been dominant at the ARC, finishing over .500 at home in each of its last 14 seasons and holding a 195-89 (.687) all-time record in the building.

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 THE PLEASURE: Urule Igbavboa matched his freshman-year bests with 10 points and eight rebounds last Tuesday at North Carolina State. But those marks are Igbavboa's worst through Valpo's first four games this year, as the sophomore forward posted double-doubles in each of the Crusaders' first three games, including career highs of 19 points at Niagara and 15 rebounds against Calumet. Igbavboa is pacing the Crusaders through four games in scoring (15.3 ppg), rebounding (11.5 rpg), and blocked shots (2.0 bpg), and is shooting the ball at a 53.7% clip from the floor.

HUFF RETURNS STRONG: Junior guard/forward Shawn Huff missed the second half of his sophomore season due to injury, but has shown he has not lost a step through Valpo's first four games this year. Huff has reached double-figures in each game so far for the Crusaders, including a career-high 21 points in Valpo's win at IPFW and tying for the team high with 14 points at North Carolina State. He currently is second on the team in scoring with 14.3 ppg, and leads the team in shooting percentage (55.6%) and 3-point percentage (53.8%). He also has shown good court vision, as he leads the Crusaders in assists as well, with 15 through four games.

BOMBS AWAY: Freshman guard Samuel Haanpaa has been the opposite of gun-shy through the first three games of his career. After missing Valpo's opener against Calumet and playing just nine minutes at IPFW, the 6'8" Finn stepped into a major role in Valpo's win at Niagara, playing 24 minutes and hitting five 3-pointers, including his final triple with 2:21 to play to extend the Crusaders' lead to nine and ice the game. Haanpaa continued firing away at North Carolina State, hitting 4-of-10 attempts from behind the arc in 27 minutes of action. He has hit 9-of-20 3-point attempts this year, and his .450 clip is third-best on the team.

DIVING DIEBLER: Sophomore guard Jake Diebler has already surpassed many of his season totals from last year after just four games. Diebler has set new career highs in every category this year, including tying his career high with six rebounds at North Carolina State. He has scored 31 points this year, almost doubling his 19 points from last season, and has pulled down 19 rebounds, third on the team. Diebler also leads the Crusaders in steals and free throw percentage.

SOARING START: Marquette enters tonight's game with a perfect 6-0 record, including wins over Texas Tech and #9/8 Duke to capture the CBE Classic in Kansas City last week. The Golden Eagles have also earned home victories over Hillsdale College, Detroit, Idaho State, and Eastern Michigan to start the 2006-07 season.

LEGEND KILLER TOM CREAN: Tonight's game marks the third consecutive game that Marquette head coach Tom Crean has matched up against one of the top-10 active winningest coaches in Division I. Crean's Golden Eagles knocked off Texas Tech, led by Bob Knight, who leads active coaches with 874 wins, 87-72. The next night, Marquette defeated Duke 73-62. Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski currently ranks third among active coaches with 758 victories.

JAMMIN' JAMES: Sophomore guard Dominic James has lived up to expectations so far in his second season of play with the Golden Eagles. Most recently, the preseason All-American registered 25 points in Marquette's CBE championship game win over Duke to earn tournament MVP honors. James leads the Golden Eagles through six games with 18.0 points and 4.3 assists per game.