Valpo Looks to Advance to Horizon League Championship Game Saturday
Friday, March 7, 2008

Cleveland State Game Notes

Game 34 - Horizon League Semifinals - Valparaiso (21-12) vs. Cleveland State (20-11) - Saturday, March 8, 2008 - 3:30 p.m. CST

The Matchup: Valparaiso, which is on a six-game winning streak following its win over Wright State Friday, turns around Saturday and faces Cleveland State in the Horizon League Championship semifinals.  The Vikings hold a 23-7 advantage in the all-time series over the Crusaders.

Last Meeting: Cleveland State composed a 15-3 run late in the second half February 4 at the Athletics-Recreation Center to pull away from Valparaiso, as the Vikings defeated the Crusaders by a 71-58 score.  Valpo led by a point at halftime, 35-34, but Cleveland State took the lead on a basket by Breyohn Watson just over a minute into the second stanza.  The Vikings extended the lead in the early portions of the half to as many as eight points, but the Crusaders rallied back.  A cutting Brandon McPherson took a pass from Jake Diebler in the lane and laid it in to cut the lead to 56-53 with 8:34 to play.  But that would be the Crusaders’ last field goal for over eight minutes, as the Vikings went on their game-clinching run.  Seven different players scored for Cleveland State during the spurt.  Urule Igbavboa paced the Crusaders on the night with 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field.  Shawn Huff added 13 points and a game-high seven rebounds, while McPherson scored 11 points of his own. 

Last Time Out: Down 63-62 with under four minutes to play, Shawn Huff hit his fifth 3-pointer of the game to put Valparaiso ahead for good and fellow senior Jarryd Loyd hit four free throws in the final 12 seconds to give the Crusaders a 72-67 victory over Wright State in Horizon League Championship quarterfinal action Friday in Indianapolis, Ind.  The game featured 14 ties and 16 lead changes, but the final lead change came with 3:53 remaining.  Coming out of a 30-second timeout, Loyd found Huff for the triple to put Valpo ahead 65-63.  Huff led four Crusaders in double figures with 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting.  Urule Igbavboa scored 17 points and knocked down six of his seven field goal attempts.  McPherson and Loyd scored 16 and 14, respectively, off the bench, and each went a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line. 

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  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.  The game can also be seen nationally on ESPNU.

Huff Breaks 1,000: Senior forward Shawn Huff reached a milestone in Valpo’s quarterfinal win Friday.  Huff’s fifth three of the game, which put Valpo ahead for good with under four minutes to play, gave the senior 1,001 career points.  The senior reached the mark in his 105th career game, and has increased his scoring output each year, going from 4.4 points per game as a freshman to a team-best 12.8 points per game this year.

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 48.6% (86-of-177) of his tries from downtown this season.  That mark would rank third in a single season in Crusader history, while his 86 makes have only been surpassed by Bryce Drew (3x) and Mike Jones all-time at Valpo.  Huff has knocked down 165 career triples, sixth-most in Valpo history, and has connected on 43.6% of his attempts from behind the arc, passing current Crusader associate head coach Bryce Drew for second on Valpo’s all-time chart in the category.

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 395 career helpers, and sits in tenth place in assists in a single season with a total of 133 this year.  Three of the top-10 3-point shooters in Crusader history are on this year’s squad, including Huff, Brandon McPherson and Samuel Haanpää, who tops Valpo’s chart in the category.  Meanwhile, Urule Igbavboa has connected on 55.6% 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  39.4% of their attempts from behind the arc, 11th best among the 341 Division I teams.  The team average of 9.3 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 three 3-point shooters are all averaging better than one make per game and are all connecting on at least 41% of their attempts from downtown.  The Crusaders have been consistent from behind the arc as well, nailing at least seven 3-pointers in 30 of their 33 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 nine games. Michael Rogers has started the last six games for Valpo, while Bryan Bouchie has earned five 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.