WESTERN ILLINOIS (6-20, 2-9) at VALPARAISO (13-13, 6-5)
ATHLETICS-RECREATION CENTER - VALPARAISO, IND.
FEBRUARY 13, 2007 - 7:05 p.m.
TODAY'S MATCHUP: Valparaiso returns home to the Athletics-Recreation Center Thursday to take on longtime conference foe Western Illinois. The Crusaders and Leathernecks will face off for the 50th and final time in Mid-Continent Conference play and the 57th time overall. Valpo owns a 33-23 edge in the all-time series, and has won the last six meetings against the Leathernecks at the ARC. With a Crusader win tonight, head coach Homer Drew would win his 300th game at the helm of the Valpo program.
LAST TIME OUT: Valparaiso fought back from an 11-point second-half deficit and had a shot to tie on its final possession, but could not get the 3-point attempt to fall, as Oakland defeated the Crusaders in Rochester, Mich. Saturday afternoon, 64-61. The Crusaders trailed 52-41 with 8:51 to play before they started to come back. Arden Skoglund and Urule Igbavboa successfully converted 3-point plays to bring Valpo back to within five with 6:37 to play. Oakland's lead was at six at the 4:22 mark before a fast-break layup by Jarryd Loyd, and a Shawn Huff jumper on Valpo's next possession cut the lead to two. With the lead four, McPherson came down for the Crusaders and drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 17 seconds to play. Huff and Igbavboa led the Crusaders with 14 points apiece, while Loyd added 13 and McPherson 12.
LAST MEETING: Valparaiso connected on 12 of its 16 3-point attempts and jumped out to a 13-point lead just five minutes in on its way to an easy 78-60 win over Western Illinois in Macomb, Ill. on Jan. 18. Brandon McPherson and Shawn Huff combined for 13 of Valpo's first 17 points, with McPherson's second triple of the ballgame pushing the lead out to 17-4. The Leathernecks hit back-to-back buckets to cut the lead back to single digits, but the Crusaders ran out on another 16-2 run to make their lead 33-10 with 8:35 to play in the first stanza. Valpo led 39-22 at halftime on its way to the easy win. Samuel Haanpaa led the Crusaders with a career-high 24.
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 videocast on the Athletics website.
TAKING AIM AT 300: Valparaiso head coach Dr. Homer Drew is just one win shy of his 300th win at the helm of the Crusader program. Since taking over the coaching reins in 1988, Drew holds a 299-238 (.557) record as head coach, including a 263-135 (.661) mark since the start of the 1993-94 campaign. 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.
OFFENSE STANDS OUT: Last Monday's game against Chicago State marked a departure from the norm this year for the Crusaders, as Valpo used a high-octane offense to deliver the victory. Valparaiso connected on each of its last 14 shots from the field to finish the game with a 67.3% field goal percentage, the highest by a Crusader squad in at least nine seasons. Valpo did not miss any shot (field goal or free throw) after Shawn Huff missed a jumper with 12:22 to play. The Crusaders continued their hot shooting against IUPUI Thursday, hitting at a 65% clip from the field in the first half before faltering in the second half.
GETTING DEFENSIVE: Valparaiso recently completed a four-game stretch in which the Crusaders held their opponents without a field goal for at least an 11-minute span in three of the four games, all victories. On Feb. 3, the Centenary Gents went a total of 11:53 spanning the two halves without a field goal. UMKC did not hit a shot from the field until 11:48 into the game on Thursday, Jan. 25, and Valpo held Oral Roberts without a field goal for the final 11:05 of the matchup Thursday, Feb. 1. The Gents' .273 field goal percentage marked the lowest by a Crusader opponent in over four seasons, dating back to Dec. 23, 2002, when Central Michigan shot the ball at just a .250 clip against Valpo.
BALANCED ATTACK: This season's incarnation of the Crusaders have taken the term ?balanced offense' to the extreme, as the top four Valpo players are within one point of each other. Sophomore Brandon McPherson leads the Crusaders with 11.4 points per game, while freshman Samuel Haanpaa is right behind him at 11.3 ppg. Sophomore Urule Igbavboa is putting up 11.1 ppg, and junior Shawn Huff rounds out the quartet with 10.8 ppg. The Crusaders are the only team in the Mid-Con who can boast four players averaging double figures, with all four players ranking 18th or better in the league.
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-DOUBLES NOT ENOUGH: Sophomore forward Urule Igbavboa was second among all Mid-Con players entering last week with six double-doubles, but decided to take it to the next level last Monday against Chicago State. With a rebound and outlet pass to Brandon McPherson for a breakaway layup in the final minute, Igbavboa registered his first career triple-double, finishing with 18 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. The triple-double was the first in the Mid-Con this season, and just the 13th in Division I this year. Igbavboa played just eight minutes against IUPUI Thursday due to injury, but bounced back Saturday at Oakland with 14 points and six rebounds in 37 minutes of action. Igbavboa ranks among the league's best in rebounding (7.0, 2nd), field goal percentage (.554, 3rd) and blocked shots (0.77, 7th).
McPHERSON IS BACK: After playing just six minutes against Centenary while recovering from an injury, sophomore guard Brandon McPherson showed he was 100% Monday, playing 34 minutes of solid basketball. McPherson, who is in the top-5 in the league in assists, 3-point percentage, and assist-to-turnover ratio, scored 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, pulled down three rebounds, and dished out six assists while committing just two turnovers. McPherson followed by leading the Crusaders with 15 points and five rebounds in their loss Thursday at IUPUI and scored 12 points Saturday at Oakland. The sophomore currently leads Valpo in scoring (11.4 ppg) and 3-point percentage (45.8%). His accuracy from behind the arc, if maintained, would be the seventh-best single-season effort in Valpo history.
DIEBLER DRAINS THREES: Sophomore guard Jake Diebler put on a shooting clinic in the first half Thursday against IUPUI. Diebler drained all four of his 3-point attempts for 12 first-half points. While he did not score in the second half, Diebler's four triples matched his career high in the category from earlier this year. He also dished out three assists, helping to maintain his 2.15 assist-to-turnover ratio in conference play, which ranks second in the Mid-Con. Diebler also continues to pace Valpo in steals, averaging 1.4 thefts per game, good for fifth in the league.
MacLEOD STEPS IN: Valpo was looking for someone to step up in the post Thursday night, and Calum MacLeod took advantage of his opportunity, playing 14 solid minutes in the post. MacLeod hit all five of his shots, showing a soft touch around the basket as well as his ability to hit the mid-range jumper, and blocked four shots on the defensive end, while also altering two other shots. The junior college transfer is averaging 5.3 points per game while shooting 60.3% in limited action.
SEASON TO DATE: The Leathernecks own just a 6-20 record on the season, including just a 2-9 mark in Mid-Con action. Western Illinois has done much better recently, however, winning two of its last four conference games after starting 0-7 in the Mid-Con slate. The Leathernecks downed Centenary in a defensive battle, 45-42, and then shocked second-place Oakland at the O'Rena, 64-63. WIU has bounced back from a non-conference slate that featured a four-game losing streak where the Leathernecks lost all four games by a combined seven points. That streak included a quintuple-overtime loss to future Mid-Con foe IPFW.
JACKSON FIVE: Junior guard David Jackson is currently pacing the Leathernecks in five statistical categories. The preseason first-team All-Conference selection leads Western Illinois in scoring (12.8 ppg), rebounding (4.7 rpg), assists (2.4 apg), steals (1.2 spg) and minutes played (33.1 mpg).