Game 10 - Evansville (3-4) at Valparaiso (8-1) - Tuesday, December 11, 2007 - 7:05 p.m.
The Matchup: After winning two league games last week to runs its record to 8-1, matching the best start ever under Homer Drew, Valparaiso looks to extend its ten-game winning streak at the ARC tonight against in-state foe Evansville. The third-most common opponent in Crusader history, Evansville and Valpo have met on the hardwood 81 times previously, with the Purple Aces holding a 65-16 edge in the all-time series.
Last Meeting: Valparaiso tied Evansville at 58 with 4:03 to play, but an 8-0 spurt for the Purple Aces put them ahead for good, as the Crusaders fell Dec. 5, 2006, 69-64, in Evansville, Ind. Brandon McPherson led Valpo with a then career-high 20 points, while Jarryd Loyd added 11 points off the bench, joining McPherson as the only Valpo players in double figures. Urule Igbavboa grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds and also rejected two shots for the Crusaders. Matt Webster scored a career-high 30 points for the Purple Aces, hitting 15 of 16 free throw attempts.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso placed four players in double figures and shot at a 66.7% clip from the field to win at Detroit on Saturday afternoon, 81-68. The Crusaders led just 15-14 midway through the first half, but scored 14 points over their next five possessions, hitting four 3-pointers during the stretch, to extend the lead to 10 points, and never let the advantage fall below five points the rest of the way. Brandon McPherson led the Crusaders in scoring with 19 points, hitting six of his eight field goal attempts. He also dished out three assists without committing a turnover. Bryan Bouchie scored 16 points off the bench, missing just one of his nine shots. Shawn Huff added 15 points for his fifth straight double-figure scoring game, while Urule Igbavboa chipped in 11 points. Jake Diebler dished out a game-high four assists without a turnover and also tallied two steals.
On the Air: Today’s game, like every game this season, can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, a four-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; WAKE, 1500 AM in Valparaiso; and WWLO, 89.1 FM in Lowell. Veteran broadcaster Todd Ickow returns for his 17th season on play-by-play, while WVUR’s Adam Amin will handle the color commentary. It will also be broadcast throughout Chicagoland on Lakeshore Public Television, with Dick Harlan and Joe Arredondo on the call, and can also be seen online through the Horizon League Network at www.horizonleaguenetwork.tv.
Changing Leagues: Valparaiso moves to the Horizon League this season after a very successful 25-year run in the Mid-Continent Conference (now known as the Summit League). The Crusaders captured nine regular season championships and eight tournament championships during their quarter-century tenure in the Mid-Con, advancing to seven NCAA Tournaments. Valpo also holds conference records for overall wins (385), league wins (208), conference tournament wins (29) and conference tournament winning percentage (.707).
On a Hot Streak: Valpo is on a six-game winning streak for the first time since January of 2006, and sits at 8-1 for just the second time in head coach Homer Drew’s 19-year tenure with the Crusaders. The six-game win streak is tied for the 19th-longest current streak in the nation.
Protecting the ARC: The Crusaders have not dropped a game at the Athletics-Recreation Center since Jan. 11, 2007, and have won ten straight home games, the ninth-best active home winning streak in the nation. Valpo has historically been tough to beat at the ARC, as the Crusaders are 152-27 (.849) over the last 15 seasons at home.
RPI Soaring: The overall strength of the Horizon League can be seen by looking at the Rating Percentage Index, where the league ranks 10th out of 31 conferences. The Horizon League is in front of leagues such as the Mountain West, Mid-American and Conference USA.. Four Horizon League squads currently rank among the top-100 in RPI (as of Dec. 10), including the Crusaders, who stand at 50.
Efficient Offense: Valparaiso’s offense took full advantage of its opportunities Saturday at Detroit, connecting on 66.7% (30-of-45) of its field goal attempts, one of the top-10 single game efforts in Division I this year. The Crusaders’ shooting percentage rose even higher inside the arc, as Valpo connected on a staggering 80% (20-of-25) of its two-point attempts.
Bringing Experience With Them: The Crusaders make the step up to the Horizon League with a core group of experienced players. Valpo returns eight of 11 players who took the court last season, including each of its top seven scorers. 93.6% of last year’s scoring, 86.6% of last year’s rebounding and 90.4% of last year’s minutes played are back for the 2007-08 campaign, the highest returning percentage in each category among Horizon League squads.
Cracking the Top 25: Valpo broke into the Mid-Major Top 25 poll for the first time this season on Dec. 3. The Crusaders, who had been in the Also Receiving Votes category the previous two weeks, debuted at #21 after downing Western Michigan and Ball State last week. Valpo is the second-highest Horizon squad in the polling, trailing only Butler, which sits atop the poll. It is the first time that the Crusaders have been ranked in the poll since the 2003-04 campaign.
Huff Heats Up: Senior forward Shawn Huff has turned his game up a notch, reaching double figures in each of the last five games while leading the Crusaders to a 8-1 start. Huff earned All-Tournament honors at the South Padre Island Invitational and has followed by averaging 16.8 PPG over Valpo’s last four contests. Thursday night, Huff hit 6-of-11 shots from the field, including three triples, on his way to 16 points in Valpo’s win at Wright State, and he followed Saturday afternoon with 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting at Detroit . The senior currently leads the Crusaders with 13.1 points per game and is second on the team with 4.8 rebounds per game. A 44.6% shooter entering the year, Huff is connecting on 53.2% of his shots this season, including a 46.8% clip from behind the arc.
Steady in the Post: Junior forward Urule Igbavboa averaged 11.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game as a sophomore, and has remained right around those marks so far this season, putting up 11.6 points and 7.2rebounds per contest through Valpo’s first nine games. His 7.2 RPG rank second among all Horizon League players. Over the last seven games, Igbavboa has been especially steady, averaging 12.7 points per game on 63.0% shooting and grabbing 7.9rebounds per game. Over the span, he has not scored fewer than eight points in a game. In Valpo’s win Thursday, Igbavboa hit four shots, including his first 3-pointer of the year, and added seven free throws for 16 points while also grabbing seven boards. Saturday, Igbavboa again hit four shots from the field and added three key free throws late to secure the Crusader victory.
Bouchie a Presence in the Post: Freshman forward Bryan Bouchie put together one of the best games of his young career Saturday at Detroit. Bouchie showcased his smooth footwork around the basket, getting free for a number of layups and working himself into position for midrange jumpers. The end result? Bouchie finished 8-for-9 from the field for the game, missing only a 3-point attempt, to score 16 points, his second-highest scoring game of the season. He is currently averaging 9.2 points and 4.0 rebounds per game and leads the Crusaders with nine blocked shots.
McPherson Breaks Out: Junior guard Brandon McPherson enjoyed a breakout game Saturday at Detroit. McPherson entered the game averaging just 7.4 points per game on the season, but drained six of his eight field goal attempts, including 3-of-5 from behind the arc, on his way to a team-high 19 points. The junior also hit all four of his free throws, improving his season percentage at the line to 92.9%. McPherson also handled the basketball well, dishing out three assists without committing a turnover in 23 minutes of action.
NOTES ON EVANSVILLE
Picking Up the Wins: Evansville lost its first three games of the season, but has picked up wins against Ball State, Princeton and Austin Peay over the last four contests to improve to 3-4.
Tremendous Defense: The Purple Aces’ victory over Princeton was especially impressive, as the Tigers scored just 32 points for the game. Evansville allowed Princeton just 13 field goals and forced 15 Tiger turnovers versus just three assists.
Ely and Holsinger: Evansville’s two main offensive threats to date have been junior guards Shy Ely and Jason Holsinger. Ely is leading the Purple Aces with 12.9 points per game on 45.6% shooting, and is also third on the team with 4.9 rebounds per game. Holsinger adds 11.9 points and a team-high 4.0 assists per game and is Evansville’s main threat from behind the arc, shooting at a 41.0% clip from 3-point range so far this year.