VALPARAISO (14-13) at WESTERN MICHIGAN (11-14)
UNIVERSITY ARENA - KALAMAZOO, MICH.
FEBRUARY 17, 2007 - 3 p.m.
TODAY'S MATCHUP: Valparaiso renews one of its oldest rivalries Saturday, traveling just across the state line to Kalamazoo, Mich. to face off against Western Michigan. The series between the two teams dates back to the 1920-21 campaign, when Valpo defeated WMU by scores of 32-26 and 29-10. The two squads have met 62 times on the hardwood, making the Broncos Valpo's fifth most-common opponent, with Western Michigan holding a 36-26 edge in the all-time series.
LAST TIME OUT: Valparaiso nailed six of its first seven shots from the field in the second half, extending a five-point halftime lead into double figures on its way to an 80-56 victory over Western Illinois Thursday night at the Athletics-Recreation Center. With the victory, head coach Homer Drew registered his 300th win at the helm of the Crusader program. The Crusaders utilized a 14-5 run over the first five minutes of the second half to extend their lead to 14. The lead was 15 with ten minutes to play before Valpo put together a 16-3 spurt to put the game far out of reach. Samuel Haanpaa came off the bench for the first time in over a month to lead the Crusaders with 18 points. Shawn Huff added 14 and Brandon McPherson 13, while senior Moussa Mbaye contributed a career-best 10 points. Jarryd Loyd added six points, four rebounds, and six assists in the win.
LAST MEETING: Western Michigan, leading just 37-33 at halftime, used an 11-3 run early in the second stanza to pull in front by double figures, and while Valpo cut the Bronco lead to five late, WMU held on at the free throw line for an 87-74 victory at the ARC on December 5, 1989. Mike Jones led Valpo with 20 points, nailing six of his 10 shots from behind the arc, while John Becher joined him in double figures with 16 points. Four Broncos reached double digits, paced by Jim Havrilla in the middle, who had a monster effort of 26 points and 12 rebounds. Mark Judge also had a double-double (19 points, 11 rebounds) in the victory.
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.
JOINING THE 300 CLUB: Valparaiso head coach Dr. Homer Drew captured his 300th victory at the helm of the Crusader program Thursday against Western Illinois. Since taking over the coaching reins in 1988, Drew holds a 300-238 (.558) record as head coach, including a 264-135 (.662) mark since the start of the 1993-94 campaign. Drew's 300 wins at Valpo are 101 more than any other coach in Mid-Continent Conference history. 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.
MID-CON DOMINANCE: With Thursday's win over fellow Mid-Con charter member Western Illinois, Valparaiso assured itself of at least a .500 record in league play for the 14th consecutive season. The Crusaders have finished third or better in the league in 13 of those 14 seasons, 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 has 199 conference wins since the league's inception in 1982.
BRACKETBUSTERS: Today's game marks the third consecutive season that Valpo has been a part of the ESPNU BracketBusters pool, designed to pair up mid-major schools in late-season non-conference action, with the designated home team returning the game the next season. The Crusaders first participated during the 2004-05 season, going on the road to longtime in-state rival Butler and dropping a 72-69 decision. Last season, Valpo was a home team and hosted Niagara, defeating the Purple Eagles on Senior Night, 88-82. Both return games were held this year, with the Crusaders winning at Niagara, 70-58, and losing at home to then #19 Butler, 60-47.
BALANCED ATTACK: The 2006-07 Crusader squad has truly been one of balance, as four Valpo players are putting up between 11 and 12 points per game on the season. Freshman Samuel Haanpaa moved back into the leading scorer role after his 18-point game Thursday, as he is averaging 11.6 ppg. Right behind him is sophomore Brandon McPherson with 11.5 ppg. Sophomore Urule Igbavboa and junior Shawn Huff are both putting up 11.0 ppg. Huff has paced Valpo in scoring eight times on the season, while McPherson has led the Crusaders seven times. Haanpaa and Igbavboa have each led Valpo on six occasions.
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.
SIXTH MAN EXTRAORDINAIRE: The last time freshman guard Samuel Haanpaa came off the bench for Valpo (Jan. 11 vs. Oakland), he scored 15 points on five 3-pointers and grabbed eight rebounds. After sitting out last Saturday's game due to illness, Haanpaa came off the bench Thursday against Western Illinois, and once again posted some superb numbers. The freshman hit five of his seven shots from the floor, including 3-of-5 from behind the arc, and nailed all five of his free throws for a game-high 18 points. Haanpaa also pulled down six rebounds, improving his season averages to 11.6 ppg and 4.0 rpg. He is hitting at a 44.2% clip from behind the arc this season, third-best in the league, and is averaging 2.4 triples per game, good for fourth in the Mid-Con.
RUNNING THE POINT: Sophomore guard Brandon McPherson is enjoying a solid second season after seeing limited action as a freshman. McPherson, who has started each of Valpo's 27 games this year, has scored in double figures in each of the last four games and 17 times overall. His field goal percentage of .519 is best among Mid-Con guards and seventh overall, while his 3-point percentage of .447 is second in the league. If he maintains his current rate from behind the arc, McPherson would break into Valpo's single-season top-10 in 3-point percentage. He also ranks third among Mid-Con players with a 1.53 assist-to-turnover ratio. Thursday night, McPherson put up typical numbers, shooting 6-of-9 from the field for 13 points while also dishing out three assists.
LOYD FINDS HIS NICHE: Junior guard Jarryd Loyd has put together a solid stretch of games in Valpo's last six outings. The first man off the Crusader bench, Loyd is averaging 8.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.0 steals per game over the last six games while shooting 52.9% from the field. Thursday night, Loyd bounced back from a cut on the back of his head to play 27 minutes and register six points, four rebounds, two steals and a season-high six assists.
MOUSSA HAS CAREER NIGHT: Crusader senior center Moussa Mbaye had never scored in double figures in 98 career games before Thursday's contest against Western Illinois. But the senior finally broke the double-digit barrier against the Leathernecks, hitting four shots from the field and both of his free throws for 10 points. Mbaye has seen action in 24 games this year, including 12 starts, and is averaging 3.4 points and 4.0 rebounds per game.
SEASON TO DATE: Western Michigan is 11-14 on the season, including a 6-6 record in Mid-American Conference play. The Broncos have lost three of their last four games, with their most recent outing being a 71-66 loss Wednesday at Central Michigan. WMU owns one of the most pronounced home/road splits in Division I, as the Broncos are 9-1 at University Arena and just 2-13 at other venues, including 1-10 in true road games.
REITZ AND COMPANY: The lone senior on the Western Michigan squad, Joe Reitz has been getting the job done inside for the Broncos this year. Reitz is hitting 56.9% of his shots from the field and is getting to the free throw line nearly seven times per game, helping him to average 13.9 points and 8.5 rebounds per contest. While Reitz is the only Bronco averaging double figures, five other WMU regulars are scoring between six and ten points per game.