CHICAGO STATE (5-10) at VALPARAISO (4-8)
ATHLETICS-RECREATION CENTER - VALPARAISO, IND.
DECEMBER 30, 2006 - 7:05 p.m.
TODAY'S MATCHUP: The Crusaders return home for the first time in over a month as they take on former Mid-Con foe Chicago State. Valpo enters the game coming off a victory over San Francisco in its finale at the Rainbow Classic, while the Cougars' last outing resulted in a close loss to Wright State. The Crusaders have dominated the all-time series between the two schools, winning 27 games against the Cougars while losing only three.
LAST MEETING: Dan Oppland's 22-point night moved him into third all-time on the Valpo scoring charts and boosted the Crusaders to a 70-64 win over Chicago State on February 16, 2006 at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Oppland passed Lubos Barton with his 1,676th point early in the second half. Seth Colclasure had a breakout night for the Crusaders, hitting 4-of-7 three-pointers after going 0-for-12 from long distance in his previous two outings. The senior finished with 15 points, two assists and two steals. David Holston led the Cougars with 16 points, all in the second half, and Royce Parran chipped in 13.
LAST TIME OUT: Brandon McPherson matched his career-high output with 24 points, and the Crusaders hit free throws down the stretch to defeat San Francisco, 64-59, in the seventh place game of the 43rd Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic Saturday in Honolulu, Hawai'i. McPherson, who broke the 20-point barrier for the third time in five games, hit six of his nine field goal attempts, including all four of his shots from behind the arc. He also hit 8-of-9 shots from the charity stripe, including four straight with under 20 seconds to play after the Dons had cut Valpo's lead to two. Shawn Huff and Samuel Haanpaa joined McPherson in double figures, with Huff scoring 14 points and Haanpaa adding 13 of his own.
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.
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.
FUN IN THE SUN: Last week's appearance at the Rainbow Classic marked the fourth time in 12 seasons that the Crusaders have taken part in a tournament in the Aloha State. The first two trips were to participate in the Big Island Invitational in Hilo, where Valpo went 2-1 each time (wins over Utah State and Toledo in 1995-96; wins over Montana and Pacific in 1997-98). The last time the Crusaders stepped foot in Hawai'i was as part of the Yahoo Sports Invitational in Laie in 2001-02. Valpo dropped the opener in that tournament to New Mexico State before bouncing back with wins over Columbia and Buffalo.
USING THE FREEBIES: Valpo showed significant improvement at the free throw line during the Rainbow Classic, at one point making 24 consecutive freebies spanning the three games. The Crusaders missed just three shots from the charity stripe during the tournament, 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.
NAP TOWN GOES DOWNTOWN: Sophomore guard Brandon McPherson has put together some of the best performances of his young career in the past few weeks. The Indianapolis native led the Crusaders to their most recent victory over San Francisco, matching his career-high of 24 points (set the night before against Charlotte) and hitting all four of his 3-point attempts. McPherson has now set or matched his career-high scoring output five times this season. He leads the team with seven efforts of at least 10 points this year, and his 11.9 points per game also paces the Crusaders. McPherson has also proven efficient with his shot selection on the year, shooting 61.5% from the field and 61.3% from behind the 3-point arc, both marks among the best in the Mid-Con. He was especially proficient with the 3-point shot in the Rainbow Classic, hitting 10-of-14 shots from long distance in the three games, his 71.4% clip ranking as a tournament-best.
SHARP-SHOOTING FINN: Freshman guard Samuel Haanpaa has shown no hesitation in shooting the ball early on in his first season with the Crusaders. Haanpaa set a new career high against Charlotte, nailing 5-of-6 first half shots, including four triples, on his way to 24 points for the game. Haanpaa has reached double figures in five games this year, including 13 in Valpo's win over USF, and has hit at least four 3-pointers in three contests. His free throw shooting has also improved dramatically, as he started out his career 4-of-17 from the line after two misses against Ohio State, but since that point is 15-of-16 from the charity stripe.
ALSO FROM FINLAND: Junior guard/forward Shawn Huff has proven to be an accurate barometer of Crusader success this season. In the six games Huff has reached 10 points, Valpo is 4-2, with one of the losses being the last-second setback against Marquette, while the Crusaders have not sniffed victory in any of the six games he has not reached double figures. Huff poured in 10 first-half points against the Dons, helping stake Valpo to a four-point halftime lead.
LOCKDOWN MBAYE: Valpo shut down San Francisco's post offense in the victory last Saturday, with a big part being the effort of senior center Moussa Mbaye. Mbaye grabbed a team-high seven rebounds in 26 minutes of action, and helped to hold the Dons' starting post players to a combined 3-of-10 effort from the floor and just seven points. He also proved to be a solid presence on the offensive end, setting a number of key screens and not turning the ball over once.
A NOMADIC EXISTENCE: Chicago State is learning that life as an independent institution at the Division I level is not easy, as the Cougars joined the independent ranks this year after departing from the Mid-Con. Of the Cougars' first 15 games of the season, just one of them has been played at the friendly confines of the Jacoby D. Dickens Center, and only 6 of Chicago State's 29 scheduled games will be at home.
GETTING SOME WINS: The Cougars have been able to get some early-season victories despite their challenging slate. They kicked off the season with a win over St. Bonaventure's in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic and followed a few games later with a home win over Wright State. Chicago State also owns a neutral-site victory over Eastern Michigan along with road wins against UTEP and Cleveland State.
THE LITTLE GUYS: Mid-Con fans became familiar with David Holston and Royce Parran during the Cougars' run to the Mid-Con Championship game last year. The two have led Chicago State so far this year as well, as Holston is averaging a team-best 16.2 points per game, with Parran right behind him at 12.7 points per game. The duo are also tops on the team in assists and steals.