Game 7 - Ball State at Valparaiso - Saturday, December 1, 2007 - 7:30 p.m.
The Matchup: Valparaiso looks to extend its nine-game home winning streak at the Athletics-Recreation Center, dating back to last season, as the Crusaders host Ball State tonight. Valpo has won five of its first six games this year, matching its best-ever start under current head coach Homer Drew, while Ball State enters the game still looking for its first win at 0-5. The Cardinals own a slight 30-26 edge in the all-time series against the Crusaders, a series that dates back to the 1927-28 campaign, but was renewed last year for the first time since the 1992-93.season.
Last Meeting: Valparaiso took to the road for its third consecutive game on Dec. 16, 2006, but Ball State denied the Crusaders their first victory of the trip, as the Cardinals came out on top, 61-40. Urule Igbavboa and Brandon McPherson tied for team-high scoring honors with 10 points apiece, while Igbavboa also grabbed 10 rebounds to record his fourth double-double of the season. McPherson reached the double-digit plateau for the fourth straight game. Four Cardinals scored at least 10 points, led by 13 apiece from Anthony Newell and Peyton Stovall. Skip Mills chipped in 12 points, while D'Andre Peyton added 11.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso held Mid-American Conference preseason favorite Western Michigan without a field goal for nearly 11 minutes spanning the two halves Wednesday night at the Athletics-Recreation Center, taking a one-point deficit and turning it into a 14-point lead as the Crusaders downed the Broncos, 77-65. Shawn Huff led all scorers on the night with 19 points, and was especially efficient, hitting 6-of-7 shots from the floor, including 3-of-4 from behind the arc. Urule Igbavboa joined Huff in double digits with 15 points, connecting on 6-of-8 field goal attempts. He also tied for team-high rebounding honors, grabbing seven boards.
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 TV throughout Chicagoland on Lakeshore Public Television, or online through the Horizon League Network at www.horizonleaguenetwork.tv.
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).
RPI Soaring: The overall strength of the Horizon League can be seen by looking at the Rating Percentage Index. The Horizon League, which boasts nine of ten teams with at least a .500 record, ranks sixth among all conferences in RPI, trailing just the ACC, Big 12, Pac-10, Big East and Missouri Valley. The Horizon League is in front of leagues such as the A-10, Big Ten and SEC. Five Horizon League squads currently rank among the top-100 in RPI (as of Nov. 30), including the Crusaders, who stand at 66.
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.
Fast Start: Since Homer Drew’s arrival prior to the 1988-89 season, starting the season with five wins in the first six games has been a good omen for things to come. This year’s team is off to a 5-1 start, matching the 1995-96 and 1998-99 squads for the best six-game start under Drew. Both of those teams won conference regular season and tournament championships and advanced to the NCAA Tournament in their respective seasons.
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. 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.
Huff Gets Going: After a slow start to the season, senior forward Shawn Huff has turned it on over the last few games. Huff helped lead the Crusaders to a near-win at Vanderbilt last Tuesday, hitting 6-of-10 shots from the field, including four triples, on his way to 18 points and a careeer-best nine rebounds. On South Padre Island, Huff earned All-Tournament Team honors after stepping up in the clutch against Austin Peay, scoring seven straight points with the Crusaders up by just two points late to help Valpo secure the victory. Wednesday, Huff paced all players with 19 points, needing just seven field goal attempts to lead Valpo to a 77-65 win over Western Michigan. The senior currently leads the Crusaders with 11.7 PPG and is second on the team with 6.3 RPG.
Igbavboa Hits the Boards: Junior forward Urule Igbavboa averaged 7.5 rebounds per game as a sophomore, and has kept up his prowess on the boards this season, averaging a team-best 7.7 RPG to date, third-most in the Horizon League. Over his last four games, Igbavboa is averaging 12.3 PPG and 9.0 RPG. The junior stepped up his game at Vanderbilt, ripping away a game-high 11 rebounds from the Commodores, including four on the offensive end. He continued his prowess on the boards at South Padre Island, grabbing nine rebounds against both Maryland Eastern Shore and Austin Peay. Igbavboa also scored 15 points against the Hawks and 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting versus the Governors. Versus the Broncos on Wednesday, Igbavboa again put up 15 points and added seven rebounds, including a number of key defensive rebounds late.
Loyd Provides Helping Hand: Senior guard Jarryd Loyd is stepping up his game during his final season. Loyd, who is averaging 23 minutes per game as Valpo’s sixth man, is second on the team in scoring with 11.2 points per game on 53.2% shooting, including a 57.1% clip from behind the arc. Loyd is also leading all Crusaders with 3.7 assists per game, and dished out seven helpers in Valpo’s win over Western Michigan on Wednesday. Loyd’s seven assists were the most he has registered in a single game since his freshman season.
Diebler Does It All: Crusader fans have been accustomed to seeing junior guard Jake Diebler laying out on the floor or diving into the stands to save loose balls. But on Wednesday, fans got the chance to see Diebler do something he had never accomplished before, as the junior grabbed a career-best seven rebounds, tying for game-high honors in the category. Diebler also did not commit a turnover in his 37 minutes on the floor, extending his streak of playing time with a turnover to 80 minutes.
NOTES ON BALL STATE
New Look on the Bench: Ball State welcomed former Lehigh head coach Billy Taylor as its head coach prior to the start of the 2007-08 campaign. Each of Taylor’s three assistant coaches are also in their first season with the Cardinals.
Rough Start: The Cardinals are still looking for their first win of the season, as they have lost each of their first five contests. They have been in most of their games, however, losing three games by single digits, including an overtime contest against Milwaukee.
Small Lineup: Anthony Newell, a 6’5” junior from Chicago, is out six-to-eight weeks for Ball State. His absence makes an already small Cardinal roster even smaller, as Newell was the tallest player on the active roster. Without him, the tallest Cardinals stand at 6’4”, the same height or shorter than eight of the Crusaders.