VALPARAISO (9-10, 3-2) at UMKC (7-14, 2-3)
KEMPER ARENA - KANSAS CITY, MO.
JANUARY 25, 2007 - 7 p.m.
TODAY'S MATCHUP: The Crusaders, on their third three-game winning streak of the season, hit the road to take on the Kangaroos of UMKC in Kansas City. Valpo is coming off of a non-conference win over IPFW on Monday, while UMKC has lost its last three games, all in conference play. The Crusaders hold a 19-8 edge in the all-time series against the Kangaroos, but UMKC has captured each of the last four matchups.
LAST TIME OUT: Valparaiso used a stifling defensive effort Monday to down IPFW in non-conference action at the Athletics-Recreation Center, 59-45. The Mastodons' point total was the lowest by a Division I Valpo opponent since the Crusaders held Southern Utah to 44 points on January 16, 2003. IPFW cut the lead to as little as four in the second half, but Valpo hit all 10 of its free throw attempts down the stretch to secure the victory. Urule Igbavboa paced the Crusaders with 14 points, his fourth time leading Valpo this year. Igbavboa, who hit 6-of-9 shots from the field, also corralled a game-high eight rebounds and dished out three assists. Shawn Huff joined him in double digits with 10 points.
LAST MEETING: UMKC used a 27-7 run midway through the second half to erase a big Valpo lead, and Quinton Day buried a three-pointer with 2.7 seconds left to give the hosts a 73-70 win over Valpo February 23, 2006 at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo. The UMKC run started with Valpo up 15 points with 13:03 to go and the Crusaders looking poised to break the game open. But the offense went cold, and the Kangaroos started clicking, tying the game at 58 with 6:43 to go, and eventually earning their largest lead at 66-61 with 3:43 left. Day finished with a career-high 37 points for the Roos. Dan Oppland led Valpo with 20 points and 12 rebounds, while Ron Howard added 15 points and Jimmie Miles chipped in 13.
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.
ATMOSPHERE AMONG THE BEST: ESPN.com writer Kyle Whelliston named Valparaiso as one of his five best college basketball game atmospheres last week as part of ESPN's Student Spirit Week. In conjunction with Student Spirit Week, ESPN.com 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)..."
THE POWER OF DEFENSE: Despite struggling through one of their worst shooting nights of the season Monday against IPFW, Valpo earned its third consecutive double-digit victory, mainly due to its defense. The Crusaders held the Mastodons to 34.0% (16-of-47) shooting from the field and just five 3-pointers. In addition, Valpo held DeWitt Scott, IPFW's leading scorer entering the game at 11.9 ppg, to just two points on 1-of-8 shooting. The Crusaders also did a superb job limiting second chance opportunities for IPFW, holding the Mastodons to just five offensive boards.
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 11.8 points per game. Freshman Samuel Haanpaa is close behind at 11.3 ppg, while sophomore Urule Igbavboa is averaging 10.5 ppg and junior Shawn Huff chips in 10.4 ppg. Those four have combined for 43 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 and Igbavboa pacing Valpo on four occasions apiece.
USING THE FREEBIES: Valpo has taken advanatage of its trips to the free throw line much more over the last ten games 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 82.1% 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 to go along with grabbing seven rebounds. For his effort, Haanpaa was named the Mid-Con co-player of the week last week. 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).
THE POST PRESENCE: Sophomore forward Urule Igbavboa has stepped up this season as Valpo's top threat in the interior. Igbavboa led Valpo in its victory over IPFW in points (14), rebounds (8) and assists (3). With his 14 points against the Mastodons, Igbavboa has paced the Crusaders in scoring four times this season. The sophomore had scored in double digits in each of Valpo's first four Mid-Con games before Thursday's win over Western Illinois, 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.
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 (11.8 ppg), assists (3.4 apg) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.55), and is second on the squad in field goal percentage (.543). The sophomore registered his seventh double-figure effort in the last eight games last 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.
FINDING A WAY: Shawn Huff hit his first seven shots of the game in Valpo's win over Western Illinois last Thursday, but had a mirror image of that game Monday, missing his first five attempts from the field before draining a crucial jumper in the closing minutes. Despite his shooting woes against the Mastodons, Huff was perfect from the foul line, setting a career high by making all eight of his free throw attempts to reach double figures in the scoring column.
SEASON TO DATE: UMKC is in the midst of its fourth losing streak of at least three games this year, having dropped its last three games against Oral Roberts, IUPUI and Oakland. The Kangaroos are 7-14 on the season, and hold a 2-3 mark in Mid-Con action. Their wins include games against Florida Atlantic and Marshall, while losses include contests at Wichita State, at Arkansas and at Maryland.
DAY OF RECKONING: The Kangaroos are led by senior guard Quinton Day, who is averaging 18.0 points per game this season, second-best in the Mid-Con. Day is connecting on nearly six field goals a game, including more than three triples per contest. Despite attempting 307 shots on the season, more than 100 more than any of his teammates, Day also paces the Roos in assists with 4.0 per game. The senior is also among the Mid-Con's best thieves, with 2.05 steals/game.