Game 15 - Valparaiso (11-3, 2-0) at #16/17 Butler (12-1, 1-1) - Saturday, January 5, 2008 - 1 p.m. CST
The Matchup: Valparaiso returns to the road today for the resumption of Horizon League play to take on in-state rival #16/17 Butler. The game is the second in the last three contests for the Crusaders against a ranked opponent on the road. Valpo is looking to keep pace atop the league standings, as the Crusaders are currently tied with Cleveland State at the top. The Bulldogs are Valpo’s all-time most-common opponent, as the two squads have faced off on 92 occasions since the series opener in the 1934-35 campaign. Butler holds a 60-32 advantage in the series.
Last Meeting: Valparaiso struggled with shooting the ball Nov. 29, 2006 and fell to its second ranked opponent in three nights, dropping a 60-47 decision to #19/18 Butler at the ARC. The Crusaders hit just 28% of their shots in the first half and ended the game hitting at a 39.1% clip. They couldn't find their touch from behind the arc, shooting a meager 17.6% from downtown. Brandon McPherson led the Crusaders with 14 points, 10 in the second half, while Jarryd Loyd was the only other Valpo player in double-figures, with 10.
Last Time Out: Leading by just four points at halftime, Valparaiso scored the first 13 points coming out of the break and never looked back, downing Indiana Wesleyan Wednesday night at the ARC, 93-46. The Crusaders extended their home winning streak to 13 games with the victory. A layup by Zach Coverstone with less than 30 seconds left in the half cut Valpo’s advantage to 35-31 at the break. But Valparaiso stepped up the intensity in the second half on both ends of the court. The Crusaders kept up their torrid shooting from the field, nailing 19-of-31 (61.3%) of their field goal attempts and 8-of-12 (66.7%) of their 3-point attempts to finish the game at 60.4% and 60.0%, respectively. Defensively, Valpo held Indiana Wesleyan to just seven second-half field goals, as the Wildcats went 0-of-16 from behind the arc in the second stanza.
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. The game can also be seen on the internet through the Horizon League Network.
A Rivalry Renewed: Valparaiso’s move to the Horizon League means the resumption of one of the Crusaders’ most intense rivalries, with the Bulldogs of Butler University. Butler is Valpo’s all-time most-common opponent on the hardwood, as the two squads have faced off on 92 occasions. The two teams were among those that chartered the Indiana Collegiate Conference prior to the 1950-51 season, and remained conference foes for the better part of the next three decades. Recently, however, the two squads went a decade without meeting before they were paired up by the ESPNU BracketBuster series. The Crusaders traveled to Hinkle Fieldhouse during the 2004-05 campaign, and Butler returned to the ARC last season.
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 has: 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.
Sagarin Rising: With its impressive start to the season, Valparaiso has seen its Sagarin rating skyrocket. The Crusaders are currently ranked 43rd in the rating system, the second-highest Horizon League squad, behind only Butler.
Half of Dominance: Valparaiso put together one of its most dominating halves of basketball in recent history against Indiana Wesleyan last time out. The Crusaders outscored the Wildcats by a 58-15 margin in the second half, hitting 61.3% of their shots for the half and allowing IWU to hit just 21.2%. Five different Valpo players had at least eight points in the second 20 minutes, and the Crusaders put together runs of 13-0, 10-0, 14-0 and 17-0 during the half.
Wrapping Up the Calendar Year: After going 16-16 in the 2006 calendar year, the Crusaders made a 5 1/2 game improvement in the last calendar year, going 21-10 over their 31 contests in the year 2007. Over the course of the year, Valpo put together an eight-game winning streak and three other winning streaks of at least three games. In addition, the Crusaders won each of their last 12 home games during the year after dropping the first one to Oakland. Valpo’s improvement mirrors the Horizon League as a whole, which won just 49.8% of its games in 2006, but improved to 55.4% in 2007.
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.
RPI Update: The overall strength of the Horizon League can be seen by looking at the Rating Percentage Index, where the league ranks ninth 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 Jan. 4), including the Crusaders, who stand at 38.
Cracking the Top 25: Valpo broke into the Mid-Major Top 25 poll for the first time this season on Dec. 3. The Crusaders debuted at #21 and moved up to #12 in the poll of Dec. 10. After defeating Evansville and Chicago State, Valpo jumped again in the poll of Dec. 17, climbing two spots to #10, and currently sit at #18. It is the first season that the Crusaders have been ranked in the poll since the 2003-04 campaign.
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, matching the most by any Division I player against a D-I opponent this year. He also set a new career high with 32 points in the 90-61 victory.
Proficiency Behind the Arc: Buoyed by Haanpää’s 10-of-12 performance from behind the 3-point stripe, the Crusaders knocked down a season-high 16 trifectas against Chicago State on just 28 attempts. While the number of makes was the most by Valpo this year, it was no aberration, as the Crusaders have hit at least 10 triples in nine of 14 games this year. They also rank among the nation’s best in both 3-pointers per game (10.1, 10th) and 3-point percentage (41.4%, 25th).
Efficient Offense: Valparaiso’s offense took full advantage of its opportunities Dec. 8 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.
Hitting the Boards: Valparaiso outrebounded Vanderbilt on Nov. 20 by a 45-37 margin, but was especially effective on the offensive end, pulling down 21 offensive rebounds. The 21 offensive caroms were the most by a Crusader team since they grabbed 23 offensive boards at Duke on February 26, 2004. In addition, Valpo’s offensive rebounding led to 79 shot attempts, the most by a Crusader team in the last ten seasons.
Pick Your Poison: Crusader opponents have been unable to key upon one scoring threat for Valpo this season, as six different players are averaging at least eight points per game, including four in double figures. Six different players have also led Valpo in scoring at least once.
Perfect Versus Mid-Majors: Valpo’s 10-2 record to date include victories over teams from the nation’s most prestigious “mid-major” conferences. The Crusaders have started out 2-0 in the Horizon League, downing Wright State and Detroit in road games. They have also defeated two teams from the Mid-American Conference (Western Michigan, Ball State) and one from the Missouri Valley Conference (Evansville).