OAKLAND (8-9, 1-0) at VALPARAISO (6-9, 1-1)
ATHLETICS-RECREATION CENTER - VALPARAISO, IND.
JANUARY 11, 2007 - 7:05 p.m.
TODAY'S MATCHUP: The Crusaders open their Mid-Con home slate tonight against a team they have dominated historically in Oakland. Valpo is coming off of a split in its first weekend of league play, while Oakland defeated IUPUI in its opener. The Crusaders hold a 16-1 series edge over Oakland, the second-best record by Valpo against an opponent they have faced at least ten times. Valpo has also defeated the Golden Grizzlies in each of the eight matchups all-time at the ARC, including a 95-64 thrashing last season.
LAST TIME OUT: Valparaiso closed the first half on a 9-3 run to pull within five at halftime, but Oral Roberts pulled away in the second half and defeated the Crusaders, 75-60, Saturday afternoon in Tulsa, Okla. Samuel Haanpaa hit two free throws and Jarryd Loyd forced a turnover and converted a runner in the lane to end the half down just 36-31. The start of the second half did not go nearly as well for Valpo, as the Crusaders hit just 1-of-6 shots in the first 6:30 of the stanza while turning the ball over five times. The Golden Eagles outscored Valpo 17-3 over the 6:30 span, extending their lead to 53-34 and putting the game away. Calum MacLeod finished with a game-high 17 points, just one off of his season high.
LAST MEETING: Calvin Wooten's 40-point night helped erase seven and a half years of history and led Oakland to a 95-89 win over the Crusaders January 26, 2006 at the Athletics Center O'Rena in Rochester, Mich. The score was 81-75 with under two minutes to go when Wooten hit his fourth three-pointer of the night with the shot clock winding down, clinching the victory. Ali Berdiel led six Crusaders in double figures with 25 points.
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 on Lakeshore Public Television and videocast on www.valpo.edu/athletics, with Dick Harlan and Joe Arredondo on the call.
ONE FINAL GO-ROUND: Last weekend marked the start of the final year of Mid-Con play for Valpo, one of just two institutions [Western Illinois] to be a member of the league since its inception as the AMCU in 1982-83. The Crusaders have been the league's most dominant program over the past decade plus, winning at least eight games in conference play in each of the last 13 seasons, including at least 10 league wins in 12 of those years. Valpo has also captured nine Mid-Con regular season crowns and eight Mid-Con tournament championships during its tenure in the league.
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.
USING THE FREEBIES: Valpo has showed a soft touch from the free throw line over the past month, hitting at an 80% (108-of-135) clip since the start of December. The Crusaders missed just three shots from the charity stripe during the Rainbow Classic, 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.
DOUBLE ZERO DOUBLES UP: Sophomore forward Urule Igbavboa has made a habit of putting up double-doubles for the Crusaders this year. Igbavboa notched his fifth-such effort of the season last Thursday night against Centenary, pouring in 14 points and grabbing a team-best 11 rebounds. He went for nine points and seven rebounds in the first half, helping Valpo turn an early 10-2 deficit into a 25-20 halftime advantage. Of his five double-doubles, four of them have come in Crusader victories. Urule also added 12 points and four rebounds in the loss to Oral Roberts. So far this season, Igbavboa leads the Crusaders and is second in the league, grabbing 7.3 rebounds per game. He also leads the team with 14 blocked shots, and is fourth on the squad averaging 9.6 points per game. Igbavboa also ranks among the best in the nation in defensive rebounding, pulling down 25.8% of all opponent misses to date, 19th best in the country.
DIEBLER STEPS UP: Sophomore guard Jake Diebler has taken a back seat on the offensive end to many of the other Crusaders throughout the 2006-07 season, helping to run the offense and letting others score. But when Valpo needed offensive production the most against Centenary, it was Diebler who stepped up. The Upper Sandusky native nailed all four of his shots in the second half, including three from behind the 3-point arc, and finished the game with a career-best 16 points. Diebler currently leads Valpo in steals (17) and is second on the squad in 3-point percentage (.381).
CALL CALUM'S NUMBER: Transfer junior Calum MacLeod had seen more than ten minutes of action just twice in Valpo's previous ten games, but when called upon to play significant time against Oral Roberts, the 7'1" Kiwi came through. MacLeod played 26 minutes against the Golden Eagles and led the Crusaders with 17 points, nailing 6-of-7 shot attempts and 4-of-5 free throws. He showed nice versatility on the offensive end, making layups, jump hooks, and even his second career 3-pointer.
EVEN WHEN HE'S OFF, HE'S ON: Freshman guard Samuel Haanpaa had the worst-shooting game of his young career Thursday against Centenary, hitting just 1-of-11 shots from the field. But Haanpaa showed veteran poise in finding other ways to contribute to the Valpo win. The freshman grabbed a career-best nine rebounds, more than doubling his previous best effort. He also continued his vastly improved free throw shooting, nailing 7-of-8 attempts from the charity stripe, many of them down the stretch to secure the victory. Since starting the season 4-of-17 from the free throw line, Haanpaa has connected on 27-of-30 freebies.
GOLDEN GRIZZLY NOTES
LOOKING FAMILIAR: Oakland's non-conference slate played out in a very similar matter to Valparaiso's pre-conference schedule. Both teams, who own the two toughest strength-of-schedules in the Mid-Con, were slightly below .500 in non-conference play, including three losses to ranked teams. Both teams fell at the hands of Marquette, while Valpo defeated Chicago State and Oakland fell to the Cougars.
SEVEROVAS AND HOPES IN THE POST: The Golden Grizzlies boast a solid 1-2 punch down low in Vova Severovas and Shawn Hopes. Severovas leads the team in scoring with 12.8 points per game and has gotten to the charity stripe 129 times in 17 games, hitting at an 81.4% clip. Hopes is right behind Severovas at 12.3 points per game and leads the team with a 51.3% field goal percentage.
FIRE AWAY, ERIK: Sophomore guard Erik Kangas has emerged as one of the Mid-Con's preeminent sharpshooters. After struggling from behind the arc in his freshman campaign, Kangas has connected on 46.8% of his 3-point attempts this season, and is making three triples per game, second-best in the Mid-Con.