Game Three - Valparaiso at Vanderbilt - Tuesday, Nov. 20 - 7 p.m.
The Matchup: Valparaiso continues play in the South Padre Island Invitational tonight as the Crusaders take on SEC foe Vanderbilt. Both teams enter the contest at 2-0 on the young season. Vanderbilt won the only previous meeting between the twosquads when they faced off on Nov. 20, 1996 as part of the Preseason NIT, 74-66. The Crusaders were bested by Kentucky in the first round of the 2002 NCAA Tournament, 83-68, the last time they faced an SEC squad.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso never trailed last Thursday night at the Allen County Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Ind., taking a nine-point halftime lead over IPFW and going on to defeat the Mastodons, 74-64. The Mastodons cut the Crusader halftime edge down to three points with a quick 6-0 spurt to open the half, but Valpo pushed the lead up to 12 points with 11 minutes to play and held a double-digit advantage for the game’s final nine minutes. Jake Diebler and Jarryd Loyd tied for team-high scoring honors with ten points apiece. The Crusaders’ balanced attack, which featured no player making more than three shots from the field, received nine points each from Samuel Haanpää and Calum MacLeod, eight points apiece from Bryan Bouchie, Shawn Huff and Howard Little, and seven points from Urule Igbavboa.
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 17th season on play-by-play, while WVUR’s Adam Amin will handle the color commentary.
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).
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.
Been a Long Time: Never in Homer’s Drew tenure as Crusader head coach has Valpo returned such a high percentage of scoring, rebounding and minutes played from the previous year’s squad. 20 years ago, under Tom Smith, the 1987-88 team returned each of its top seven scorers (Harry Bell, Scott Anselm, Jim Ford, Mike Jones, David Morgan, Todd Smith, Mike Hanson) from the 1986-87 Crusader squad. The returnees accounted for 95.7% of the scoring, 90.6% of the rebounding and 90.7% of the minutes played the previous season.
Balance Beam: Valparaiso’s success offensively has been the epitome of a team effort so far this year. After two games, eight different Crusaders are averaging at least seven points per game, with no Valpo player averaging more than 12 PPG. Against IPFW, no player hit more than three field goals as eight players scored in between seven and ten points.
Crusader Alums Return to the Bench: Valpo head coach Homer Drew has always found places for former players as assistant coaches, and this year is no exception. Bryce Drew is back for his third year on the bench and his second as associate head coach. Tarrance Price, who played for Valpo from 1998-2000, is in his second season as director of basketball operations, while Chris Sparks, who donned the Crusader uniform from 1997-2000, returns this year as an assistant coach.
Valpo Tabbed Sixth in Horizon: The Crusaders have been projected to finish in sixth place in their inaugural season of Horizon League play in polling of the league’s head coaches, sports information directors and media representatives. Butler was picked to win the league, receiving 42 of 46 first-place votes. 2007 tournament champion Wright State was projected second, followed by Green Bay, Milwaukee and Loyola. Detroit was chosen seventh, with UIC, Cleveland State and Youngstown State rounding out the polling.
Diebler Dishes: Junior Jake Diebler enjoyed one of the best games of his career last Thursday at IPFW. The 6’3” guard scored in double figures for just the fourth time in his career, tying for team-high scoring honors with ten points against the Mastodons. Diebler also dished out a career-best six assists in the winning effort. He leads the Crusaders with five steals and is second on the team with eight assists through two games this year. Diebler has only committed two turnovers to date, giving him an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.00, good for third among all Horizon League players.
Loyd Lighting it Up: Senior guard Jarryd Loyd has been used as a high-energy sixth man for the past two seasons and has showed why through the first two games of the season. Loyd is the only Crusader to reach double figures in scoring in both games, matching a career-best with 14 points against Grace and following with 10 points in the win over IPFW. Loyd has hit eight shots from the field this year, including three of his four 3-point attempts, raising his career percentage from behind the arc to 40.6%, eighth in Valpo history.
Versatile Haanpää: Sophomore guard Samuel Haanpää proved to be one of the nation’s preeminent threats from beyond the 3-point arc as a freshman, but showed against Grace he can still produce even when having an off night with his shot. The sophomore hit just 2-of-8 3-point attempts, but showcased his improved ability to drive the lane, getting to the foul line eight times and hitting seven free throws, matching a career-best. His success from the free throw stripe helped Haanpää to a team-high 15 points. The 6’8” guard also grabbed five caroms, including a career-high three offensive boards.
A Little Bit of Everything: Senior forward Shawn Huff struggled shooting the ball Monday against Grace, hitting just 4-of-12 shots from the floor on his way to nine points. But Huff more than made up for his off night in all other aspects of the game. The 6’7” Finn set a new career high by dishing out a game-high seven assists. Huff also matched his career bests for rebounds (eight) and steals (two).
Bouchie Begins With a Bang: Freshman forward Bryan Bouchie got his Crusader career off to a rousing start Monday night against Grace. The 6’11” newcomer was one of four Valpo players to record double figures in scoring, pouring in 11 points, all in the second half of play. Bouchie hit five of his nine field goal attempts and even stepped outside to show his range, hitting a 3-pointer. The freshman also grabbed four rebounds in his 12 minutes on the court. He followed with an eight-point effort against IPFW, hitting three of his four shots. His field goal percentage of .667 currently ranks third in the Horizon League.
NOTES ON VANDERBILT
Looking For a Successful Follow-Up: Vanderbilt enters the 2007-08 season looking to match or surpass the success enjoyed by last year’s squad, which advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. The Commodores are projected to finish fourth in the SEC East this year, while Shan Foster earned preseason first team All-SEC honors.
Running Away Early: The Commodores have used fast starts to cruise to victories in each of their first two games. In its season opener versus Austin Peay, Vandy jumped out to an 18-3 advantage nine minutes into the game en route to an 81-67 victory. The Commodores then bested themselves in their victory over Toledo three days later, leading 18-0 less than five minutes into the contest and hanging on for a 77-70 win.