Valpo Steps Out of League Play to Take On IPFW
Saturday, January 20, 2007
IPFW (7-11) at VALPARAISO (8-10)
JANUARY 22, 2007 - 7:05 p.m.

The Crusaders take a break from Mid-Con play today as they host the Mastodons of IPFW. Valpo, which comes in with a modest two-game win streak, defeated IPFW earlier this season in Fort Wayne, 75-67. The win in November extended Valpo's lead in the all-time series to 5-0. Three of the five games in the series have been played at the ARC, including an 88-72 victory in Valpo last season.

LAST TIME OUT: 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. Thursday night. Brandon McPherson's second triple of the ballgame pushed Valpo's 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 and never let the lead get under 10. Samuel Haanpaa set a new career high with 24 points, including five 3-pointers, while Shawn Huff had 18 points and McPherson added 16 points and seven assists.

LAST MEETING: Valparaiso used 14 second-half points from Shawn Huff to fight off IPFW in Fort Wayne on November 13, 2006, 75-67. Seven of Huff's 14 second-half points came after IPFW had regained the lead at 55-53 on a 3-pointer with 8:13 to play. His biggest basket came with under two minutes to go, as Huff quickly found himself open behind the arc on the wing for his first 3-pointer of the game to make the score 67-61 and ice the game for Valpo. Huff ended with a game-best 21 points, leading four Crusader starters in double figures. Urule Igbavboa registered his second double-double in as many games for Valpo, ending with 17 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Jake Diebler added 13 points, while Calum MacLeod registered 10.

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.

ATMOSPHERE AMONG THE BEST: writer Kyle Whelliston named Valparaiso as one of his five best college basketball game atmospheres earlier this week as part of ESPN's Student Spirit Week. In conjunction with Student Spirit Week, had seven experts select five schools apiece based on the best game atmospheres. Valpo was one of 22 schools named by the writers, with other selections including Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Indiana, among others. Whelliston said about Valpo, ?...The crowd can be so intense it can be both a sixth and a seventh man (as in a heroic near-miss versus ranked Marquette in November)..."

SHARP-SHOOTING CRUSADERS: Valpo enjoyed a one-of-a-kind shooting night from behind the arc Thursday at Western Illinois. The Crusaders connected on each of their first seven attempts from downtown and hit on 12-of-16 3-point attempts for the game, an astounding 75% clip. That mark ranks as the best performance by a Mid-Con school this season, and is tied for the sixth-best percentage for a team in a single game with at least 10 attempts in all of Division I. It also sits among the best single-game performances from behind the arc in Crusader history.

BALANCED ATTACK: One of the trademarks of this year's Crusader squad has been balance, as no one player can be keyed upon by opposing defenses. Four Valpo players are averaging double figures, with sophomore Brandon McPherson leading the way with 12.1 points per game. Freshman Samuel Haanpaa is close behind at 11.6 ppg, while junior Shawn Huff is averaging 10.4 ppg and sophomore Urule Igbavboa is chipping in 10.3 ppg. Those four have combined for 41 games in double figures, with Brandon McPherson leading the way with 12 double-digit efforts. McPherson and Huff have each led the Crusaders in scoring five times this year, with Haanpaa pacing Valpo on four occasions and Igbavboa three times.

USING THE FREEBIES: Valpo has taken advanatage of its trips to the free throw line much more over the past month than the Crusaders did to start the season. Valpo was hitting at just a 64.9% clip from the charity stripe over its first nine games, but has connected on 80.4% of its free throws since. The improvement coincided with the Crusaders' trip to Hawai'i, where they hit 90.6% of their free throws, a tournament best. Included in that trip was a perfect 13-of-13 effort from the foul line against Charlotte.

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.

FRESHMAN SENSATION: Freshman guard Samuel Haanpaa has stepped up his game in conference play and become one of the Mid-Con's most potent threats. Haanpaa hit five triples Thursday at Western Illinois, his third straight game hitting five shots from behind the arc, and scored a career-high 24 points. Haanpaa is averaging 19.3 points and 7.7 rebounds over the last three games, while hitting at an incredible 78.9% clip from behind the arc. In Mid-Con games to date, Haanpaa ranks sixth in scoring (14.6 ppg), third in rebounds (7.0 rpg), eighth in free throw percentage (.826), second in 3-point field goals (3.2/game), and first in 3-point percentage (.571).

TO DISH OR TO SHOOT?: Sophomore guard Brandon McPherson has faced that question numerous times this season, and has seemingly found that the correct answer is ?Both". McPherson leads the Crusaders in scoring (12.1 ppg), assists (3.5 apg) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.53), and is second on the squad in field goal percentage (.553). The sophomore registered his seventh double-figure effort in the last eight games Thursday at Western Illinois, putting up 16 points while also dishing out seven assists versus just two turnovers. McPherson has led the Crusaders in scoring a team-high five times this season, most recently in their victory over San Francisco, and has recorded Valpo's high assist total nine times.

THE POST PRESENCE: Sophomore forward Urule Igbavboa has stepped up this season as Valpo's top threat in the interior. Igbavboa had another solid game Thursday at Western Illinois, scoring nine points and grabbing four rebounds despite playing just 26 minutes because of foul trouble. The sophomore had scored in double digits in each of Valpo's first four Mid-Con games before Thursday's win, and is averaging 13.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game in league play, ranking 12th in the league in scoring and sixth in rebounds in league games. Igbavboa has also proved to be one of the Mid-Con's preeminent double-double threats this year, ranking second in the league with five double-doubles.

BREAKOUT GAME: Junior guard/forward Shawn Huff's last game of the 2005-06 season was at Western Illinois, as he missed the second half of the season due to injury. In Huff's return to Western Hall, he connected on his first seven shots from the field, including three triples, before misfiring on his final attempt. Huff registered 18 points on the night while also matching his career-best with a game-high eight rebounds. The junior is just four attempts shy of breaking into Valpo's all-time 3-point% chart. His current mark of 41.1% would rank him fifth all-time.


IPFW is in its final season of play as an NCAA Division I independent, as the Mastodons have accepted an invitation to join the Mid-Continent Conference prior to the 2007-08 campaign. The Mastodons, who are 7-11 overall this year, own a 2-3 record this season against current Mid-Con institutions, having defeated Western Illinois twice while falling twice to IUPUI and once to Valpo. One of the Mastodons' wins over WIU was an epic five-overtime battle on November 21, which IPFW won, 97-95.

OFFENSIVE BALANCE: Despite averaging 71.1 points per game this season, the Mastodons have just one player averaging in double figures, that being junior forward DeWitt Scott. The Second City native has registered 11.9 points per game this year, and despite coming off the bench in recent weeks, has continued his markmanship from behind the arc, as Scott has connected on 46.4% of his 3-point attempts this season. While IPFW has just one player averaging double figures, it boasts five other athletes putting up between 7.6 and 9.0 points per contest.