Game 20 - UIC (10-8, 4-3) at Valparaiso (13-6, 4-3) - Thursday, January 24, 2008 - 7:05 p.m.
The Matchup: Valparaiso continues Horizon League action tonight with a game against regional rival UIC. The two squads enter the contest tied for fourth in the league standings. The series between the Crusaders and Flames dates back to the 1945-46 season, but the two teams have not met on the hardwood in the last ten years. After 35 all-time meetings, UIC holds a 26-9 advantage in the series.
Last Meeting: Valparaiso led UIC, 26-25, at the half in a matchup at the UIC Pavilion on December 13, 1998, but the Flames pulled away in the second half, eventually claiming a 72-51 victory. The Crusaders extended their lead to as many as three points early in the second stanza, and following an 11-2 UIC run, scored five straight points to cut their deficit to three points at 39-36. But the Flames erupted from there, going on a 22-5 run over the next eight minutes to put away the game. Bryce Drew led the Crusaders with 15 points, but was held to just four field goals.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso cut Cleveland State’s lead to as few as four points on multiple occasions in the second half Saturday night in Cleveland, Ohio, but the Vikings would not let the Crusaders get any closer and went on to win by a 69-63 count. Coming out of the locker room trailing by seven to start the second half, Jake Diebler hit a 3-pointer to cut the Viking advantage to four points. Cleveland State responded with six straight points to extend the lead to double digits for the first time with 17:24 remaining, but Valpo’s Shawn Huff hit back-to-back triples for the Crusaders to bring the team back to within 36-32. The Vikings answered with another 6-0 spurt to extend the lead back to double digits, and would not lead by less than six from that point on. Huff paced the Crusaders with 14 points while also adding a team-best six rebounds. Brandon McPherson added 12 points and four assists.
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, or throughout Chicagoland on Lakeshore Public Television, with Dick Harlan and Joe Arredondo on the call.
There’s No Place Like Home: While the Crusaders had their 13-game home winning streak snapped against Milwaukee earlier this year, they still enjoy a tremendous home-court advantage at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Since the ARC opened prior to the 1984-85 season, the Crusaders are 210-92 (.695) at home, including a sterling 156-27 (.852) mark over the last 15 years. The program record for longest winning streak at the ARC is a 20-game stretch spanning the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons, while the just-snapped streak was the fifth longest in program history.
Close Games the Norm: Last weekend, the Crusaders played two Horizon League games decided by six points, winning at Youngstown State by a 67-61 score before falling at league leader Cleveland State, 69-63. The tight finishes have been the norm for Valpo so far in its first year of Horizon League play, as entering this week, six of the team’s seven league contests had been decided by single digits. The Crusaders are not alone in playing close games in the Horizon League, however, as every school has taken part in at least four games decided by single digits.
All About the Ratings: Valparaiso’s move to the Horizon League has proven to be a win-win for both parties in a number of rating systems so far this year. Valpo is currently 59th in the RPI, one of four HL squads in the top-100 nationally, and the league is ranked tenth. In the Sagarin ratings, the Crusaders sit 67th, while the Horizon ranks tenth among the 31 Division I leagues.
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.
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 40.2% of their attempts from behind the arc, 23rd best among the 341 Division I teams. The team average of 9.5 made 3-pointers per game is good for ninth 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 43% of their attempts from downtown.
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.
Moving Up the Charts, Part 1: A number of current Crusader players are moving up various career record charts this year. Senior guard Jarryd Loyd moved into eighth place on Valpo’s career assist chart at Youngstown State, and now has 337 career helpers. Meanwhile, sophomore guard Samuel Haanpää and senior forward Shawn Huff are both within striking distance of Valpo’s all-time top-10 in career 3-point field goals. Huff has made 123 3-pointers and Haanpää has made 122 career triples, while tenth place on the current chart is Jim Ford with 128 triples.
Moving Up the Charts, Part 2: Valpo’s proficiency from behind the three-point line the past few years can be seen in the program’s all-time three-point percentage chart. Three current Crusaders are among the top-10 most accurate shooters from behind the arc in team history. Haanpää has maintained his hold on the top spot, hitting 44.9% from behind the arc for his career. Huff has moved up from ninth to sixth on the chart with 41.4% accuracy, while Loyd is right behind him at 41.2%.
One Finn Starts Strong...: Samuel Haanpää single-handedly jumpstarted the Crusaders’ offense Saturday night against Green Bay. The sophomore scored 17 of Valpo’s first 19 points, spanning the opening 6:32 of the ballgame. Haanpää hit six of his first eight shots, including three 3-pointers, and added two old-fashioned three-point plays.
...and The Other Finnishes: Haanpää’s fellow Finn, Shawn Huff, has had big second halfs in Valpo’s last two victories. Huff had 16 points, including a 3-pointer with 2:30 to play to put Valpo ahead for good, in the second stanza against Green Bay. He followed last Thursday against Youngstown State with 13 second-half points, going 5-for-6 from the field.
Spreading the Wealth: This year’s Crusaders have spread the ball around on the offensive end of the court, as three players are averaging in double figures, while three others are scoring at least 8.6 points per game. Six different players have scored in double figures in at least five games for Valpo, with Shawn Huff leading the way with 12 double-figure outputs.
Hitting From the Stripe: Valpo enjoyed its third-best effort at the free throw line this season on Thursday, connecting on 76.5% of its attempts from the stripe, and followed with six makes on seven attempts at Cleveland State Saturday. The Crusaders, while hitting at just a 66.5% clip from the line on the season, have been almost automatic in the final four minutes in league play, connecting on 82.4% (28-of-34) of their attempts.
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.
Half of Dominance: Valparaiso put together one of its most dominating halves of basketball in recent history against Indiana Wesleyan on Jan. 2. 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.
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.