Game 28 - Miami (13-12) at Valparaiso (15-12) - Saturday, February 23, 2008 - 5 p.m.
The Matchup: On a day in which six of the greatest athletes in Crusader history get inducted into the Valparaiso University Hall of Fame, it is only fitting that the Crusader men’s basketball team takes to the hardwood live on ESPN Classic, as Valpo faces Miami (Ohio) tonight. One of 14 games as part of the ESPNU BracketBusters event, it is the first time in four opportunities that the Crusaders have earned a nationally televised game. For the Crusaders and RedHawks, it will be the first-ever meeting between the two men’s basketball programs.
Valpo vs. the MAC: While the Crusaders have never met Miami on the hardwood, they do have experience this season against foes from the Mid-American Conference. Valpo defeated MAC West leader Western Michigan on Nov. 28, 77-65, and followed with a win over Ball State three days later, 71-58. Both games were played at the ARC.
Last Time Out: Urule Igbavboa registered his first double-double of the season with 15 points and ten rebounds Wednesday night, but it was not enough, as Valparaiso dropped a Horizon League contest at Loyola, 68-61. The Crusaders trailed early, but used a 13-0 run midway through the first half to take a nine-point advantage. But the Ramblers came back with an 11-0 spurt going into the break to gain a 33-28 halftime lead. Loyola held the lead for most of the second half and was up eight points with 9:13 to play, until the Crusaders reeled off a 13-2 run over a six-minute span to go ahead 60-57 with 3:09 remaining. Loyola responded with a game-ending 11-1 run, however, getting six points during the run from Darrin Williams as they closed out the game. Jake Diebler reached double figures for the second consecutive game, hitting three 3-pointers on his way to 11 points, but was the only Crusader besides Igbavboa to hit double digits.
On the Air: Tonight’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. Ickow and Amin’s call will also be carried live across North America on Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 121. The game will also be shown nationwide on ESPN Classic, with Sam Gore and Sedric Toney on the call.
Back Home Again: Valparaiso got back on the winning track at the Athletics-Recreation Center in its last game at home, with an easy 77-58 victory over Horizon League foe Youngstown State. With the win, the Crusaders improved to 9-4 at the ARC this year, the 15th straight season that the Crusaders have won at least eight games at home and clinching a 16th consecutive season with a winning record at the ARC. They are 212-96 (.688) all-time at the ARC, including a 158-31 (.836) mark in the last 15 seasons. The schedule sets up kindly down the stretch for the Crusaders in Horizon League play, as two of their final three league games will be at home.
Crusaders Go Bracket Busting: Valparaiso earned a televised contest for the first time in its four years as a part of the O’Reilly ESPNU BracketBusters pool of teams, getting paired against Miami (Ohio) for a game at the ARC on February 23. The Crusaders and RedHawks will face off at 5 p.m. CST on ESPN Classic, the first ever BracketBusters game to be shown live on the network. Valpo had previously drawn Butler, Niagara and Western Michigan in their first three years as a part of the BracketBusters pool.
Back on the Deuce: The Crusaders won’t be done with ESPN games after February 23, however. It was announced earlier this week that Valpo’s regular-season finale at the ARC against Wright State on March 1 will be broadcast live at 11 a.m. CST on ESPN2 as part of ESPN’s Judgement Week. It will be the third Crusader home game in a month’s time broadcast on either ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPN Classic. Valpo is one of just six schools to host three home games over that time span on one of the three ESPN networks, joining Indiana, Louisville, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Villanova.
National Exposure: The three games on ESPN platforms in under a month’s time means the Crusaders will have at least five of their games broadcast nationwide this season. Valpo’s December 22 tilt at Wisconsin was shown on the Big Ten Network, while its December 30 game at North Carolina was carried on Fox Sports Net.
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.
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 40.3% of their attempts from behind the arc, 14th 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 42% of their attempts from downtown.
Handing Out the Assists: Crusader senior guard Jarryd Loyd moved upanother notch on Valpo’s all-time assist chart against Youngstown State, hitting Shawn Huff for a 3-pointer late in the game to move into fourth place on Valpo’s chart. The senior, who currently has 373 career helpers, is dishing out 4.7 assists per game in league play, third-best in the Horizon League, and owns the best assist-to-turnover ratio in league play at 1.84.
3-Point Charts Full of Current Players: The Crusaders’ prolific 3-point shooting this season has resulted in a number of players on this year’s squad making their marks on career charts in the category. Four of the top-ten most accurate shooters from behind the arc in Crusader history are on this year’s team, led by sophomore guard Samuel Haanpää, who is the Crusaders’ most accurate shooter all-time from downtown at 44.5%. Senior forward Shawn Huff ranks ninth all-time at Valpo with 142 made 3-pointers, just two triples shy of the eighth spot.
Shakeup in the Starting Lineup: Entering last week’s action, Valparaiso had used the same starting lineup for each of the season’s first 23 games. But last week saw the Crusaders use three different lineups in the three games. Valpo’s season-long starting five of Igbavboa, Huff, Haanpää, Diebler and McPherson started against Cleveland State on Thursday. At UIC on Monday evening, Haanpää and McPherson were replaced with seniors Jarryd Loyd and Calum MacLeod, both making their first start in over a calendar year. In each of the last two games, freshman Bryan Bouchie has started in place of Haanpää, who has been sidelined by illness.
Handling the Basketball: The Crusaders got a shot at the basket on almost every possession Jan. 12 against Green Bay, dishing out 17 assists and committing just five turnovers. Valpo point guards Jarryd Loyd and Brandon McPherson combined for 11 assists and did not commit a turnover. For Valpo, it was the fewest number of turnovers in a game since it committed just five miscues Dec. 9, 1991 against Notre Dame.
Defense to the Forefront: Valparaiso’s defense carried the team to its victory over UIC on Jan. 24. The Crusaders held the Flames scoreless for the first 7:27 of the second half and allowed them to hit just one of their first 20 shots of the half. UIC ended up connecting on just 17.1% (6-of-35) of its shots in the final 20 minutes and scored just 16 second-half points, Valpo’s second-best defensive half of the season.
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.