#6 UMKC (11-19) vs. #3 VALPARAISO (16-14)
JOHN Q. HAMMONS ARENA AT THE UMAC - TULSA, OKLA.
MARCH 4, 2007 - 8:30 p.m.
TODAY'S MATCHUP: Valparaiso faces off against UMKC in a rematch of the regular season finale in the quarterfinals of the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament in Tulsa, Okla. The Crusaders have already defeated the Kangaroos twice this season, improving their all-time series edge to 21-8. Valpo is 3-0 against UMKC in the Mid-Con tournament, playing the Kangaroos in three straight semifinals from 2002 to 2004.
LAST TIME OUT: For the second consecutive game, Valparaiso stormed out of the gate in the second half, going on a 19-0 run over the first four minutes of the second stanza and cruising to a 77-61 victory over UMKC on Senior Night Feb. 24 in the regular season finale at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The Crusaders led by just one at the break, 23-22, after a first half in which both squads shot below 35% from the field. But Valpo came out charged up after the half, scoring on each of its first nine possessions to extend the lead to 20. Brandon McPherson and Shawn Huff combined for 16 of Valpo's 19 points during the critical run. Huff ended the game with a game-high 21 points, including a perfect 11-of-11 mark from the foul line, while McPherson and Jarryd Loyd scored 13 each.
LAST MEETING AT THE TOURNAMENT: Valpo overcame a 17-point first-half deficit to defeat UMKC 90-78 in the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament semifinals on March 8, 2004. Dan Oppland scored a career-high 32 points, while Ali Berdiel added 21 points for Valpo. The Kangaroos held their largest lead at 46-29 with just 2:17 to play before the half, but the Crusaders outscored them 29-11 over the next ten-and-a-half minutes to take the lead. Valpo's run was sparked by back-to-back 3-pointers late in the first half by sixth-year senior Greg Tonagel, who finished with 10 points and seven assists. Oppland grabbed a team-high eight rebounds, while Berdiel also dished out seven helpers.
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 broadcast live over the internet at www.mid-con.tv.
MID-CON DOMINANCE: Valparaiso closed out its final season of Mid-Con play in style, winning each of its last three games to finish 9-5 in league play. This marks the 14th consecutive season that the Crusaders have finished at or above .500 in Mid-Con action. The Crusaders clinched third place with their win over Southern Utah, making it 14 of the last 15 seasons that Valpo has finished third or better in the league , including a run of nine regular-season championships over a 10-year span. Valpo also has captured a total of eight Mid-Con tournament championships during its tenure in the league, and recorded 208 regular season conference victories since the league's inception in 1982, 55 more than any other institution.
BALANCED ATTACK: Balance was the buzzword around the Crusader program prior to the 2006-07 season, and the team truly has been balanced throughout the year, as four different Valpo players ended the regular season averaging between 11 and 12 points per game. Freshman Samuel Haanpaa paces Valpo with 11.7 points per game, and would become the first freshman since Lubos Barton (1998-99) to lead the Crusaders in scoring in his first season. Sophomore Urule Igbavboa is putting up 11.4 points per game, while junior Shawn Huff and sophomore Brandon McPherson are each scoring at an 11.3 ppg clip. Igbavboa has reached double figures on 19 occasions this year, while Huff and McPherson have each reached the 10-point plateau 18 times and Haanpaa 16 times. Huff has led the Crusaders in scoring 10 times, while Igbavboa and McPherson have paced Valpo seven times apiece and Haanpaa on six occasions.
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF FREEBIES: Nine games into the season, Valpo had just a 3-6 record and was especially struggling from the free throw line, hitting at just a 64% clip from the charity stripe. But since the start of the Rainbow Classic, the Crusaders have hit on 78.2% of their free throws, upping their rate for the season to 73.9%, the highest by a Valpo team in 14 years. The Crusaders are led at the line by Shawn Huff, who has connected on 66 of his 75 free throw attempts this year, an 88% success rate.
BETTER WITH EXPERIENCE: Valpo's players have shown a marked ability this year to learn from games and apply their knowledge in rematches against the same opponents. Nine times this year (seven conference opponents plus Chicago State and IPFW), the Crusaders have faced a team for the second time, and eight of those nine times, Valpo has improved the second time around. The Crusaders improved by an average of 9.5 points in the nine re-matches, with the best improvement coming against Southern Utah, where they went from a 16-point loss to a 27-point win.
THIRD TIME STILL THE CHARM: It is often said that it is tough for a team to defeat another three times in one season on the basketball court, but over the years, the Crusaders have done their part to prove the saying wrong. Today's game against UMKC marks the 15th time under Homer Drew that Valpo has faced a team in the Mid-Con Tournament that they have defeated twice in the regular season, and in the previous 14 occurences, Valpo is 13-1, with the lone loss coming in the quarterfinals against Chicago State in 2004-05.
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.
SHARPSHOOTING FRESHMAN: Freshman guard Samuel Haanpaa has stepped up as one of the premier long-distance threats in the conference this season. The 6'8" Finn earned All-Newcomer team honors from the Mid-Con, averaging 11.7 points and 3.8 rebounds per game during the regular season. He also ranks among the best in the nation in 3-point accuracy, hitting at a 45.2% clip for the year, 11th best among all Division I players and tops in the Mid-Con. Haanpaa also sits fourth in the league with 2.5 made 3-pointers per game. His 70 3-pointers made is ninth in a single season in Crusader history, just eight behind Bryce Drew's freshman record, while his accuracy from behind the arc is the best all-time in a career at Valpo.
THREE TIMES FIVE: Haanpaa has hit at least four 3-pointers in 10 of the 28 games he has played in this season, including six separate outings with five triples. His best stretch came in the middle part of January, when he put up five 3-pointers in three straight games. Haanpaa drilled five out of six attempts from behind the arc January 11 against Oakland while also grabbing eight rebounds. He followed by making five out of seven 3-point attempts two nights later against IUPUI. The freshman capped the stretch with a 5-of-6 performance from behind the arc January 18 at Western Illinois, helping him to a career-high 24 points. Haanpaa earned Mid-Con Player of the Week accolades for his performance against the Leathernecks.
U RULE, URULE: Sophomore forward Urule Igbavboa has become Valpo's premier inside threat this season after seeing limited action as a freshman. The 6'8" Igbavboa is second on the team with 11.4 ppg and leads the team in rebounding (7.4 rpg), field goal percentage (55.6%), and blocked shots (0.7 bpg). He earned All Mid-Con Second Team honors for his performance this year. Igbavboa's rebounding numbers rank second in the league, while his field goal percentage is third-best in the conference.
DOUBLE ZERO DOUBLES UP...: Valpo knew it had a legit post presence early on this season in Igbavboa. The sophomore registered 15 points and 15 rebounds in the season opener against Calumet after reaching double figures in scoring once and never in rebounding as a freshman. Igbavboa followed with 17 points and 12 rebounds at IPFW and proceeded to score 19 points and pull down 11 rebounds at Niagara, giving him double-doubles in each of his first three games of the season. Those games propelled him to nine double-doubles on the season, second-most in the conference.
...AND TRIPLES UP: Igbavboa decided to take his double-doubles to a new level in Valpo's game February 5 at Chicago State. The big man pulled down a rebound and threw a long outlet pass for a layup in the final 30 seconds against the Cougars. That play resulted in his first career triple-double, as the sophomore scored 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds and 10 assists. It was the only triple-double among Mid-Con teams this season, and was just one of 19 in the nation on the year. It is also believed to be the first triple-double in Crusader history, although records are incomplete in regards to the achievement.
B-MAC ATTACK: Sophomore Brandon McPherson has stepped into the starting lineup as Valpo's point guard after coming off the bench as a freshman. The 6'1" guard has started all 30 games this year, averaging 11.3 points and 3.3 assists per game. His assist totals rank fifth in the Mid-Con, while he is also second in the league with a 1.52 assist-to-turnover ratio. McPherson has led Valpo in scoring seven times this season, with his biggest efforts coming in back-to-back games at the Rainbow Classic. The sophomore hit 7-of-10 shot attempts, including five triples, for a career-high 24 points against Charlotte, and followed with 24 more points against San Francisco to help Valpo break an eight-game losing skid.
READY, AIM, FIRE: McPherson is enjoying one of the best-shooting seasons by a guard in Crusader history. His 52.3% field-goal percentage is good for eighth in the Mid-Con and is over six percent better than the next-closest guard. The last Valpo guard to shoot at better than a 50% clip from the floor was Casey Schmidt in the 1992-93 season. The sophomore has also lit up the scoreboard from behind the arc, hitting on 44.6% of his 3-point attempts, second-best in the league only behind Haanpaa.
HUFFING AND PUFFING: Junior Shawn Huff earned Honorable Mention All-Conference honors from the Mid-Con after averaging 11.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per game during regular season play. The 6'6" guard/forward has paced Valpo in the scoring column on a team-high 10 occasions this year, and has reached double figures in scoring 18 times. He also is enjoying one of the best seasons from the foul line in Valpo history, connecting on 66 of 75 attempts, an 88% clip, second-best in the Mid-Con and tied for seventh on Valpo's single-season chart in the category.
COMING THROUGH IN THE CLUTCH: Huff stepped up big-time in Valpo's home win over Oral Roberts on Feburary 1. The junior nailed two 3-pointers in the final 18 seconds of regulation, the first to cut a five-point lead to two and the second tying the game with five seconds to play and sending it to overtime. In the extra session, Huff hit another triple to give Valpo the lead for good. Huff ended the game with a game-high 21 points, including five 3-pointers, and scored 11 points in Valpo's win two days later over Centenary, earning Mid-Con Athlete of the Week honors.
DIEBLER D'S UP: Sophomore guard Jake Diebler played just 78 minutes in his first season as a Crusader, but earned a starting spot this year with his intensity and defensive effort. The 6'2" guard has averaged just 5.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per game, but carries a 1.39 assist-to-turnover ratio and is fourth in the league with 1.47 steals per game. Diebler, who broke his nose during Midnight Mayhem running into a referee and has worn a protective face mask all season, stood out defensively last weekend, holding First Team All Mid-Con selections Steve Barnes of Southern Utah and Quinton Day of UMKC to 2 and 5 points on 1-of-10 and 1-of-12 shooting, respectively.
LOYD LIGHTING IT UP: Junior guard Jarryd Loyd started 43 games over his first two years at Valpo, but has been asked to come off the bench as the sixth man this year, and has adapted to the role well, averaging 6.4 points and 2.7 assists per game in 22 minutes per contest. He has especially stepped up his game over Valpo's last nine contests, as since the start of February, Loyd has bettered his numbers, hitting 56.3% of his shots from the field and averaging 9.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.6 steals per game Loyd has reached double figures in the last three games and six of the last nine.
ONE TALL KIWI: Junior center Calum MacLeod has produced well on both sides of the ball in limited action this year. The 7'1" juco transfer is hitting a team-high 58.7% of his shots from the field and scoring 5.0 points per game in just 11.4 minutes per contest. He stood out in Valpo's first matchup against UMKC, scoring 17 points against fellow New Zealander Alex Pledger. He also produced against IUPUI down in Indianapolis, coming off the bench for 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting and four blocked shots in just 10 minutes of action.
THE MOOSE IS LOOSE: Center Moussa Mbaye, the lone senior on the 2006-2007 Crusader squad, has adjusted well to varying roles this year, starting 14 games while coming off the bench in 13 others. The 6'9" native of Dakar, Senegal is averaging 3.3 points and 3.9 rebounds per game while playing an average of 15.9 minutes per contest. Mbaye pulled down a career-best nine rebounds December 30 against Chicago State, and reached double figures in scoring for the first time in his career February 17 vs. Western Illinois.
PIANO MAN: Redshirt freshman Arden Skoglund, only the second Crusader under Homer Drew to enroll in Christ College, Valpo's honor college, has seen limited action this year, but has made the most of his opportunities. The 6'10" forward/center has played in 24 contests, averaging 1.6 points and 1.1 rebounds per game. Skoglund stepped up for eight points in just seven minutes at Evansville on December 5, converting on two 3-point plays, and grabbed five rebounds November 21 at NC State.
WOULD YOU LIKE FRYE WITH THAT?: Freshman Keaton Frye has been sidelined due to injury since playing at Oral Roberts on January 6. Prior to that game, Frye had played in nine games, scoring four points, including a 3-pointer, in his debut against Calumet.
BENNETT WALKS ON: Freshman Matt Bennett walked onto the Crusader squad prior to the season, and has played 39 minutes in 16 games this year. Bennett saw four minutes of action February 22 against Southern Utah, scoring two points and grabbing two rebounds.
GUEDE SITTING OUT: After discussions between himself and the coaching staff, freshman Paul Guede has chosen to redshirt during the 2006-2007 season, and will have four years of eligibility remaining starting with the 2007-2008 campaign.