Crusaders Take On Nation's Top-Ranked Team For Third Straight Season
Friday, December 1, 2006
DECEMBER 2, 2006 - 3:00 p.m.

TODAY'S MATCHUP: Valparaiso takes on the top team in the nation for the third consecutive year, as the Crusaders travel to Columbus, Ohio to match up with #3/1 Ohio State. Valpo is coming off of losses to #8/9 Marquette (64-61) and #19/18 Butler (60-47) at home this week, while Ohio State also lost last time out, at #7/6 North Carolina. The two schools have met just once before on the hardwood, with the Crusaders earning the victory.

THE LAST MEETING: Valparaiso downed the Buckeyes, 67-64, in the third-place game of the Great Alaska Shootout on November 25, 2000. The game was knotted up at 30 at the half, but Ohio State used a 9-2 run to take the lead early in the second stanza. The Crusaders clawed back, however, and back-to-back triples from Jared Nuness gave Valpo the lead for good. OSU had the ball with a chance to tie in the waning seconds, but could not get a shot off. Valpo's Jason Jenkins was named the player of the game for his 22-point performance, including four 3-pointers, while Raitis Grafs added 10 point sand nine rebounds. Brian Brown and Zach Williams each had 16 points to pace the Buckeyes.

LAST TIME OUT: The Crusaders attempted to down a ranked opponent at the ARC, but for the second time in three days, were unsuccessful, as #19/18 Butler led by double digits the entire second half on its way to a 60-47. Valpo struggled with shooting, hitting just 39.1% of its shots from the field, including a meager 17.6% clip from behind the arc after lighting it up from downtown against Marquette. Brandon McPherson posted a career-high 14 points to lead the Crusaders, while Jarryd Loyd joined him in double figures with 10. Mike Green led all scorers with 16 points, and A.J. Graves chipped in 13 for the victors.

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 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. Today's game will also be picked up by Lakeshore Public Television, with Tom Hamilton and Bill Hosket on the call.

YOU CAN ALWAYS GO DOWNTOWN: Even after an off night from behind the arc against Butler, the Crusaders are still hitting 40.5% of their 3-point attempts this year, as compared to just 38.9% shooting from downtown last season. Five Crusaders have attempted 11 or more trifectas so far this year, and three of them are hitting better than 40% from behind the arc. Shawn Huff is pacing the Crusaders from downtown, leading the team with 12 makes while hitting 52.2% of his attempts. Guards Brandon McPherson and Jarryd Loyd are also showing a good touch from behind the arc, as McPherson is hitting 45.5% of his tries, while Loyd is connecting on 44.4% of his.

POWER ALLEY: Today marks the Crusaders' third chance this week to defeat its first top-25 opponent since their win over Ole Miss in the 1998 NCAA Tournament. Valpo dropped a heartbreaker to #8/9 Marquette Monday night, and fell Wednesday night to#19/18 Butler, which defeated Notre Dame, Indiana, #22/21 Tennessee and #NR/23 Gonzaga in succession to capture the Preseason NIT. Playing three ranked teams in one week has been an extreme boost to Valpo's strength of schedule, which is currently ranked as the eighth-toughest non-conference slate in the nation. The Crusaders' RPI has also benefited, as they have moved up to 39 in the ratings.

KEEPING THE HANDLE: Valparaiso has utilized a trio of players at the point guard position this season, and all of them have done an excellent job of distributing the ball. Brandon McPherson leads the team and is fifth in the Mid-Con in assists with 24, and has only turned the ball over 10 times, for a league-best 2.40 ratio. Jake Diebler has 14 assists versus just six turnovers, while Jarryd Loyd has contributed 17 assists and has lost possession just 11 times. The triumverate have been largely responsible for Valpo's team assist-to-turnover ratio being at 0.97, which leads the Mid-Con.

PLAYING THE BEST: Just once in the first 87 years of Valpo basketball did the Crusaders take on the nation's top-ranked team, as the Mark Aguirre-led DePaul squad from 1979-1980 played at Hilltop Gym. But tonight marks the third time in the last three seasons that the Crusaders have faced the nation's best team. Valpo traveled to Champaign to take on Illinois during the 2004-05 season when the Ilini were #1 in the nation, and last season Valpo played at Cameron Indoor Stadium and #1 Duke.

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.

RULING THE PAINT: Despite struggles in the last two contests (4 points, 4 rebounds against Marquette; 7 points, 6 rebounds against Butler), Urule Igbavboa has been one of the Crusaders' go-to players in the early part of the season. Igbavboa opened the 2006-07 campaign with three consecutive double-doubles and four straight games with at least 10 points. He currently leads the Crusaders and is second in the league in rebounding, averaging 9.3 caroms per game, and is second on the team in scoring, with 12 points per game. His presence on the defensive end has been especially strong, as he has grabbed 51 defensive caroms and has blocked a team-best eight shots.

FLYING FINN: 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 five games this year. Huff scored in double-figures in each of the first five games of the season until being held to five points by Butler. He set a new career-high in the win over IPFW with 21 points, and then broke it again with 22 points against Marquette. Huff continued his hot 3-point shooting against the Golden Eagles, hitting four-of-seven shots from behind the arc to improve to 52.2% on the season. Huff is now hitting 46.7% of his 3-pointers for his career, a mark that will be tops in Crusader history if he can maintain it. He currently leads Valpo and is sixth in the league in scoring with 14.0 PPG, and also ranks among the league's best in free throw percentage (.842, 5th) and 3-point percentage (.522, 5th).

DIEBLER TAKES CHARGE: Valparaiso took seven charges as a team against Marquette, led by sophomore guard Jake Diebler. The masked man (Diebler suffered a broken nose during a Midnight Mayhem scrimmage) also showed off offensively against the Golden Eagles, knocking down three trifectas, a career-best. Through six games, he is averaging 30 minutes per game and is among the team's best in steals, rebounds and assists. His free throw percentage of .882 leads Valpo and ranks second in the Mid-Con.

LOYD LAYS OUT: Junior guard Jarryd Loyd has also been extremely accurate from behind the arc, hitting at a 44.4% rate after shooting 51% from three last year. Loyd registered his second straight double-figure scoring night with 10 points against Butler. Loyd hit three triples against Marquette, including one with six minutes to go to cut the Golden Eagle lead to two and another with 23 seconds to play to knot the score at 62. Loyd finished the game with 11 points and four assists in just 17 minutes of play. He currently ranks third on the team in three-point shooting and second in assists, with 17.


Ohio State opened its season with six consecutive wins by at least 10 points, but #7/6 North Carolina ended that streak, downing the Buckeyes 98-89 in Chapel Hill Wednesday night. Ron Lewis led all players with 30 points on 11-of-16 shooting in that contest.

ALL SYSTEMS GO: The Buckeyes have been an offensive juggernaut in the early part of the season, scoring at least 74 points in each of their seven contests and averaging 87.3 points per game. OSU is hitting at a .525 clip from the field, and just one regular has hit less than half his shots to date. The Buckeyes are just as impressive behind the arc, shooting 43.4% from 3-point range.

YOUNG LEADERS: This season's freshman class for the Buckeyes has already made a huge impact. Three freshmen are among the top-six on the team in scoring, led by 17.3 ppg from Daequan Cook. Mike Conley Jr. has stepped into the starting point guard role, averaging 9.3 ppg and 6.6 apg, while David Lighty is chipping in 8.3 ppg. Ohio State's most-ballyhooed freshman, Greg Oden, hasn't seen the court yet due to recovery from surgery on his right wrist.