VALPARAISO (3-4) at EVANSVILLE (4-3)
ROBERTS STADIUM - EVANSVILLE, IND.
DECEMBER 5, 2006 - 7:05 p.m.
TODAY'S MATCHUP: Valparaiso will look to break a four-game losing streak Tuesday nights as the Crusaders travel to take on in-state foe Evansville. Three of the four Crusader losses in the streak have come against ranked opponents. Evansville enters today's game coming off of a 73-54 loss to undefeated Missouri. The third-most common opponent in Valpo history, the Crusaders have won just 16 out of 80 matchups all-time against the Purple Aces.
THE LAST MEETING: The Crusaders took their first lead of the second half at 62-61 with 3:48 to play on a Lubos Barton dunk, but Evansville responded with five straight points to take the lead for good and went on to defeat Valpo, 71-66, at the Hoop and Quill Classic in St. Charles, Mo. on Nov. 28, 1999. Barton led the Crusaders with 15 points, while Milo Stovall had 14 and Ivan Vujic contributed 12 points and a team-best seven rebounds. Cold shooting from behind the arc doomed Valpo, as the Crusaders could hit just 3-of-15 3-point attempts on the day. Adam Seitz paced the Purple Aces with 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting, while Chuck Hedde chipped in 12 points and eight rebounds, seven offensive.
LAST TIME OUT: Valpo had upset on its mind as it took on the nation's top-ranked team for the third year in a row in the form of #3/1 Ohio State, but the debut of heralded freshman Greg Oden helped bolster the Buckeyes to a 78-58 victory over the Crusaders on Saturday. Valpo led by as many as five points in the early going, and was tied at 18 with 9:12 to play in the first stanza before Ohio State ended the half on a 15-4 run. Freshman Samuel Haanpaa led the Crusaders with a career-best 18 points, while Brandon McPherson added 11 and Urule Igbavboa added 10 of his own. Oden registered 14 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocks in 23 minutes off the bench, while Daequan Cook led all players with 20 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.
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 last week for the first time in 13 seasons. Valpo's next two games are also against fellow Indiana institutions, as the Crusaders face off against Evansville tonight for the first time since 1999 and follow with a game at Ball State, whom they have not faced since the 1992-93 campaign.
THREE IN A ROW, PART 1: The Crusaders took on three ranked teams in a six-day span last week. Valpo kicked off the brutal slate with a heartbreaker against #8/9 Marquette, falling 65-62 on a Dominic James 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds to play. The Crusaders followed with another game at the ARC, this time against #19/18 Butler, one which the Bulldogs won 60-47. The week ended at #3/1 Ohio State, where Valpo suffered a 78-58 loss.
THREE IN A ROW, PART 2: With their game against #3/1 Ohio State Saturday afternoon, 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.
MATCHING UP: Despite not coming out of last week with any victories, Valpo came out of the tough stretch of its schedule with many positives. One of the best areas to point to is rebounding, an area where Valpo struggled at the start of the season. Last week, the Crusaders out-rebounded their three ranked opponents, 92-91, despite not getting more than 13 rebounds from any one player. Valpo also continued its strong perimeter defense, as it held Marquette, Butler, and Ohio State to a combined 34.9% clip from behind the arc, as the Crusaders continue to out-shoot their opponents from downtown this year, .386-.279.
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.
FIRE AWAY, SAM: Freshman Samuel Haanpaa has shown no trace of shyness about shooting the ball in the early portion of his Valpo career. In the six games he has played, Haanpaa has jumped up 47 shots, nearly eight a game, including 35 3-point attempts. He is hitting at a 40.4% clip from the field and a respectable 37.1% rate from behind the arc. He set a new career-high against Ohio State, leading the Crusaders with 18 points. His free throw shooting also took a turn for the better against the Buckeyes, as after missing his first two attempts of the game to fall to 4-for-17 at the line on the year, the Finn hit his last six free throw attempts of the game. Haanpaa currently leads Valpo with his 13 3-point makes and is third on the team in scoring with 10.2 points per game.
NO FEAR IN McPHERSON: Sophomore guard Brandon McPherson was going up against some of the nation's best point guards last week, but stood his ground and then some against Marquette, Butler, and Ohio State. McPherson put together three solid games in a row against three of the nation's top-20 teams, setting new career highs for points (14, Butler) and assists (nine, Marquette). For the week, McPherson shared team-high scoring honors with 32 points over the three games, and also paced the Crusaders in assists (14) and steals (five). He also shot at an incredible .722 clip for the week, including hitting 3-of-5 3-point attempts, while playing the most minutes of any Valpo player. McPherson continues to lead the Crusaders in assists (4.0 apg) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.55), a mark which leads the Mid-Con.
GOTTA BE THE HAIR: Sophomore forward Urule Igbavboa got back into double digits against Ohio State, scoring 10 points. Igbavboa started the year with four consecutive double-figure outputs after reaching the mark just once all last season, and also recorded three straight double-doubles to begin the 2006-07 campaign. Igbavboa is second on the Crusaders with 11.7 points per game, and leads Valpo and is second in the Mid-Con with 8.4 rebounds per game.
DIEBLER DOES IT ALL: Playing on the same court where he helped Upper Sandusky win the 2005 Ohio Division II state championship, Jake Diebler played 28 minutes and registered five points and a team-best six rebounds for the Crusaders against Ohio State. Diebler has done a little bit of everything so far this year for Valpo, as he leads the team in steals (eight) and free throw percentage (.895), is third in rebounding (4.0 rpg), and fourth in assists (2.2 apg), while also scoring 6.4 points per game.
PURPLE ACE NOTES
WIN STREAK SNAPPED: Evansville entered its game Sunday at the University of Missouri with a four-game win streak after dropping its first two games of the season, but exited the game with a 73-54 loss to the Tigers. Four players scored in double figures for Mizzou, led by 12 points from Kalen Grimes, who also grabbed 12 rebounds. Stefhon Hannah, Jason Horton, and Darryl Butterfield each scored 10 for the Tigers. Bradley Strickland led all scorers, dropping 13 points for the Purple Aces.
FABULOUS FRONTCOURT: The duo of Matt Webster and Bradley Strickland in the starting frontcourt this season for the Purple Aces has led the way to a 4-3 start. Webster has proven thus far to be the most prolific scorer, averaging 14.9 points per game and getting to the foul line over 10 times per game. He has also grabbed 5.6 rebounds from his forward position. Strickland is second on the team in scoring, with 10.7 points per game, while hitting 52.6% of his shots from the field. He also paces the Purple Aces in rebounds, averaging 6.9 per game, and is also a stalwart on the defensive end, with 10 blocks thus far.