Game 32 - Green Bay (15-14) at Valparaiso (19-12) - Tuesday, March 4, 2008 - 7 p.m. - First Round - Horizon League Championship
The Matchup: Having won four straight games, Valparaiso kicks off Horizon League Championship action tonight as the Crusaders host Green Bay. It is the first time Valpo has hosted a league tournament game at the ARC in 13 years. The two teams split their regular season series, as each squad won on its home court. The Phoenix currently hold a 20-13 advantage in the all-time series against the Crusaders, a series which dates back to the 1981-82 campaign.
Last Meeting: Brandon McPherson nailed five triples in the first half on his way to matching his season-high with 20 points, but it was not enough, as Green Bay defeated Valparaiso in overtime, 76-71, Feb. 7 in Green Bay, Wis. The Crusaders went into halftime ahead by a 36-23 count, thanks in large part to McPherson, who hit all five of his 3-point attempts in the first 20 minutes as Valpo shot 8-of-11 from behind the arc in the opening half. The Crusaders’ ninth triple of the game, off the hands of Shawn Huff less than two minutes into the second half, put them ahead 40-24 with 18:28 to play. But Green Bay went on a 12-0 run to cut the lead to four points, and would eventually take the lead with five minutes to play. The two teams ended regulation all knotted up at 66, and the Phoenix took the lead for good with two minutes remaining in overtime.
Last Time Out: Jarryd Loyd found Shawn Huff cutting to the basket with 1.6 seconds left in overtime Saturday afternoon at the Athletics-Recreation Center, and Huff converted the game-winning three-point play to give Valparaiso a 75-73 overtime victory over Wright State. The win was televised nationwide on ESPN2. Freshman Michael Rogers stepped up in the national spotlight, having the best game of his rookie season. Rogers tallied new career highs with 21 points and 12 rebounds, his first career double-double. He knocked down eight of his 12 field goal attempts, including 5-of-8 from behind the arc. Huff added 17 points, including all eight of Valpo’s points in the overtime period.
On the Air: Today’s game 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.
Hosting Tournament Games: Today’s game marks the first time in 13 seasons that Valparaiso has hosted a league tournament game at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The only previous year that the Crusaders hosted tournament action at the ARC since moving to Division I was the 1995 Mid-Continent Conference Tournament. Valpo handled Youngstown State easily in the semifinals that year, 77-52, before taking a thrilling triple-overtime decision over Western Illinois, 88-85.
Loyd Named League’s Sixth Man of the Year: Jarryd Loyd received recognition from the Horizon League Monday, being named the league’s first-ever Sixth Man of the Year. The senior guard has come off the bench in all but one of Valparaiso’s 31 games this season, averaging 11.6 points and 4.1 assists per game. He leads the team and is fourth in the Horizon in assists, and is also second on the Valpo squad in scoring. In league play, Loyd paced the circuit with a 1.87 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Huff Earns Weekly Honors: Loyd was not the only Crusader to receive hardware Monday, as fellow senior Shawn Huff was named the league’s Player of the Week. Huff averaged 14 points per game in Valpo’s wins over Milwaukee, Detroit and Wright State last week as the Crusaders won all three contests to finish the regular season in a tie for fourth place in the league standings. He capped the week with a spectacular 3-point play against the Raiders with 1.6 seconds remaining in overtime to give Valpo the 75-73 victory, seen nationally on ESPN2.
Four Wins in Eight Days: To win the Horizon League Championship and earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, the Crusaders must win four games in a eight-day span. That task seems a lot less daunting now, however, as that is what Valpo did to close the regular season. The Crusaders beat Miami on Saturday the 23rd, won at Milwaukee on the 25th, held off Detroit on the 28th, and captured a thriller over Wright State this past Saturday.
Bringing Experience With Them: The Crusaders made the step up to the Horizon League this season 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 returned for the 2007-08 campaign, the highest returning percentage in each category among Horizon League squads.
Best Start: Nine conference championships. Seven NCAA Tournament appearances. A magical run to the Sweet 16. 302 wins. These are just some of the accomplishments that Crusader head coach Homer Drew and his players had piled up during Drew’s first 18 seasons at the helm of the Valpo men’s basketball program. But none of Drew’s teams had accomplished what this year’s squad did: winning ten of the season’s first 11 games. The previous best start under Drew came from the 1996-1997 team, which started 9-2 in its first 11 contests.
Giving Viewers a Show: Valparaiso hosted three games on the family of ESPN networks from the ARC over the past month, and gave viewers dramatic endings to all three contests. The Crusaders’ game against Butler on February 5 [ESPN2]came right down to a 3-point attempt at the buzzer. Valpo then defeated Miami on February 23 [ESPN Classic] in double overtime, and followed with an overtime win over Wright State on March 1 [ESPN2]. Valpo is one of just six schools to host three home games over the past month on one of the three ESPN networks, joining Indiana, Louisville, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Villanova.
Huff Among Tops in Nation: Shawn Huff currently ranks as the fourth most accurate 3-point shooter in the nation, connecting on 48.8% (79-of-162) of his tries from downtown this season. That mark would rank third in a single season in Crusader history, while his 79 makes have only been surpassed by Bryce Drew (3x) and Mike Jones all-time at Valpo. Just 36 points shy of 1,000 for his career, Huff has knocked down 158 career triples, seventh-most in Valpo history, and has connected on 43.5% of his attempts from behind the arc, tied with Bryce Drew for second all-time.
Crusaders Making Their Mark: Huff is not the only Crusader plastered throughout the Valpo record books, however. Jarryd Loyd currently ranks fourth in the Valpo annals in assists, having dished out 389 career helpers, and is tied for tenth in assists in a single season with a total of 127 this year. Loyd also ranks among the top-10 most accurate 3-point shooters in Valpo history, along with Huff, Brandon McPherson and Samuel Haanpää, who tops Valpo’s chart in the category. Meanwhile, Urule Igbavboa has connected on 54.9% of his shots over his first three seasons, the fourth-best clip in program history.
Shooting From 19’9”: Valparaiso has proven to be one of the nation’s best 3-point shooting teams so far this season. The Crusaders are connecting on 40.2% of their attempts from behind the arc, 11th best among the 341 Division I teams. The team average of 9.5 made 3-pointers per game is good for seventh nationally as well. It’s not just one player that has been a threat for Valpo from behind the arc either, as the team’s top four 3-point shooters are all averaging better than one make per game and are all connecting on at least 39% of their attempts from downtown. The Crusaders have been consistent from behind the arc as well, nailing at least seven 3-pointers in 29 of their 31 games, including reaching double figures on 15 occasions.
Shakeup in the Starting Lineup: Valparaiso used the same starting lineup in each of the season’s first 23 games, but since then, the lineup has been anything but stable. Five different quintets have been on the floor at the tip over the last eight games. Michael Rogers has started the last four games for Valpo, while Bryan Bouchie has earned three starts. 10 of the 11 Valpo players who have seen the court this season have now started at least one game, with only Jake Diebler, Shawn Huff, and Urule Igbavboa starting every game.
Haanpää’s Magical Night: Sophomore guard Samuel Haanpää enjoyed one of the best performances in Crusader history Dec. 15 against Chicago State, breaking current associate head coach Bryce Drew’s team record for 3-pointers in a game. Haanpää knocked down 10 triples in the contest, needing just 11 attempts. He also set a new career high with 32 points in the 90-61 victory.