Game 31 - Wright State (20-8, 12-5 Horizon) at Valparaiso (18-12, 8-9 Horizon) - Saturday, March 1, 2008 - 11 a.m.
The Matchup: Valparaiso closes out the regular season today with a rare morning game, as the Crusaders host Wright State at 11 a.m. in a key Horizon League matchup. The game is being televised live by ESPN2 as part of the network’s Judgement Week, marking the third game from the ARC to be televised on an ESPN network in under a month. The Crusaders and Raiders have met just eight times prior to today’s contest, with Wright State holding a 5-3 edge in the series.
Last Meeting: Trailing by three points with under two minutes to play, Valparaiso’s defense forced three consecutive Wright State turnovers and the offense took advantage, as Shawn Huff hit a 3-pointer to tie the game and Jarryd Loyd converted a fast-break layup off a steal to give Valpo the lead for good on the way to a 71-66 victory Thursday evening in Dayton, Ohio. The win, which marked the first Horizon League contest for the Crusader men, snapped Wright State’s 14-game home winning streak. Jarryd Loyd paced the Crusaders with 18 points in 27 minutes off the bench and also added five assists against just one turnover. Shawn Huff and Urule Igbavboa each scored 16 points, while Igbavboa also tied for game-high honors with seven rebounds. Jake Diebler used a 6-of-7 performance at the charity stripe to also finish in double figures with 12 points.
Last Time Out: Senior Jarryd Loyd scored all of his game-high 15 points in the second half, while fellow senior Shawn Huff put Valparaiso ahead for good with a pair of free throws with 1:01 to play as the Crusaders pulled out a 59-56 win over Detroit on Thursday at the ARC. The win keeps Valpo in the hunt to host a first-round game in the Horizon League tournament. Valpo trailed by as many as 10 points in the second half, but fought back to take the lead with 5:20 to play and held on for the win. Loyd led the Crusaders with his 15 points, including a 5-for-5 night at the foul line, and added a game-high five assists. Huff scored 14 points on 4-for-5 shooting, while Jake Diebler reached double figures with 11 points.
On the Air: Today’s game will be broadcast live across the nation on ESPN2, with Lou Canellis and Bob Wenzel on the call. It can also 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 on Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 127.
Fight for the Top Six: With the change in conference affiliation this season for the Crusaders comes a new post-season tournament format. In the Horizon League, the top two seeds earn a double bye to the tournament semifinals. In the first round, the 3 through 6 seeds host games against the 7 through 10 seeds. Following Thursday night’s win, the Crusaders are currently in a three-way tie for the fifth spot in the league standings. With a win today, Valpo would guarantee itself a home game in the first round of the tournament, and could finish as high as the fourth seed. If the Crusaders lose, they could still host a game if Milwaukee defeats UIC.
Crusaders Taking Over the Worldwide Leader: Today marks the third appearance by the Crusaders on an ESPN network in less than a month. Valpo hosted Butler at the ARC live on ESPN2 on February 5, and followed up with a double-overtime thriller on ESPN Classic versus Miami [Ohio] last Saturday. Prior to this season, Valpo had not hosted an ESPN-televised game in over ten years. 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.
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.
Winning, Ahead or Behind: Winners of four of their last five games, the Crusaders have gotten the job done during that time frame under much different circumstances. Against both Youngstown State and Milwaukee, Valpo never trailed in the second half. But the Crusaders fell behind Miami by 12 points and Detroit by 10 points in the second half before coming back to win both games. Thursday night’s comeback marked the fourth time this year that Valpo has won a game after falling behind by double figures.
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.
Offensive Proficiency: Valparaiso put up a season-best 99 points in its victory Saturday over Miami, the highest by a Crusader squad since Valpo dropped 99 on Centenary on Feb. 2, 2006 in a 99-73 win. The Crusaders also had one of their best shooting performances of the season, hitting 51.5% of their field goal attempts and 55% of their 3-point attempts, the first time since Jan. 2 that Valpo has broken the 50% mark in both categories.
Career Marks All Around: With Valpo’s 99-point performance Saturday came numerous career highs for Crusader players. Shawn Huff led the way with 32 points on 10 field goals and six 3-pointers, all of which marked new career bests. Urule Igbavboa surpassed his previous career-best point total, putting up 22 points on eight makes from the field, tying a career-high. Freshman Michael Rogers took full advantage of the two extra sessions to play a season-best 29 minutes and score a career-high 10 points.
Huff Moves Up Charts: Following his 14-point effort on Thursday, senior forward Shawn Huff has now scored 947 career points and is just 53 points shy of 1,000 for his career with at least two games remaining. His career 3-point percentage of 43.3% is the third-best mark in Crusader history. Huff has also drained 75 triples on the season, seventh-most in a single season in Valpo history, and has now connected on 154 career 3-pointers, also seventh-most all-time among Crusader players.
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. Four different quintets have been on the floor at the tip over the last seven games. Jarryd Loyd and Calum MacLeod earned the start at UIC, while freshman Bryan Bouchie started games last week versus Youngstown State and at Loyola. Last Saturday, two more freshman were given their first crack at the starting five, as Howard Little and Michael Rogers both were part of the starting lineup. 10 of the 11 Valpo players who have seen the court this season have now started at least one game.
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 40.4% of their attempts from behind the arc, eighth best among the 341 Division I teams. The team average of 9.4 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 40% of their attempts from downtown. The Crusaders have been consistent from behind the arc as well, nailing at least seven 3-pointers in 28 of their 30 games, including reaching double figures on 14 occasions.
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.
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.