Crusaders Look to Keep Winning on Road Saturday at Cleveland State
Friday, January 18, 2008

Cleveland State Game Notes

Game 19 - Valparaiso (13-5, 4-2) at Cleveland State (13-5, 6-0) - Saturday, January 19, 2008 - 6:30 p.m. CST

The Matchup: After improving to 3-1 on the road in Horizon League play with a win at Youngstown State on Thursday night, Valparaiso faces one of its most daunting road tests on the league slate as the Crusaders face off against Cleveland State, which is coming into Saturday night’s game undefeated in Horizon play after a victory over #12 Butler. The Vikings and Crusaders have met 23 times in a series dating back to the 1979-80 season, but have not faced off on the hardwood since Cleveland State’s departure from the Mid-Continent Conference following the 1993-94 campaign. Valpo is just 7-21 all-time against Cleveland State, but defeated the Vikings both times they met during the 1993-94 season.

Last Time Out: Valparaiso took the lead for good with 14:40 to play at Youngstown State Thursday night, and converted on 8-of-9 free throw attempts in the game’s final minute to secure a 67-61 victory over the Penguins. The Penguins extended the lead to four points early in the second stanza, but that was as large as their advantage would get in the second half, as Shawn Huff knocked down the first of his three second-half 3-pointers to cut the lead back down to one. After a YSU basket, Samuel Haanpää hit a trifecta of his own to tie the game at 29 with 15:12 to play. A minute later, freshman Bryan Bouchie gave Valpo the lead for good with back-to-back buckets in the paint, eventually scoring eight straight Crusader points to help extend the Valpo advantage to three points at 37-34 with 12:20 to play. After a Penguin basket, Huff hit a jumper to bump the lead back to three, and Brandon McPherson followed with a triple a minute later to give Valpo its biggest lead to that point, 42-36 with 10:27 left. The Crusaders would maintain a two-possession lead for most of the rest of the ballgame. Huff’s jumper with 1:39 to play gave Valpo its largest lead at 59-51, and while the Penguins cut the lead down to two points twice in the final minute, the Crusaders knocked down their free throws to win the game.

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 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 on TV in Northern Ohio on Sports Time Ohio.

There’s No Place Like Home: While the Crusaders had their 13-game home winning streak snapped Thursday night, 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.

Rugged Road: Every season, the Crusaders face a number of early challenges, and this year has been no different. Through the season’s first 15 games, Valpo had faced off against four teams currently ranked among the nation’s top-17 squads, with all four matchups coming on the opponent’s home court (Vanderbilt, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Butler). While the Crusaders were unable to win any of the four games, they did showcase their ability to play with some of the best teams in the nation, as they led in the second half at Vanderbilt, Wisconsin and Butler, and rallied from an early 17-point deficit to tie the game at North Carolina in the second half.

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 60th in the RPI, one of five HL squads in the top-100 nationally, and the league is ranked tenth. In the Sagarin ratings, the Crusaders sit 64th, 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 40.4% of their attempts from behind the arc, 18th best among the 341 Division I teams. The team average of 9.9 made 3-pointers per game is good for 10th 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: 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 332 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. Haanpää has made 121 career triples and Huff has made 119 3-pointers, while tenth place on the current chart is Jim Ford with 128 triples.

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 Thursday against Youngstown State with 13 second-half points, going 5-for-6 from the field.

Getting It Done Late: Huff wasn’t the only Crusader to have a big second half performance Thursday. Valpo scored 47 second-half points after going for just 20 points in the opening 20 minutes. A big part of the Crusader offense was Brandon McPherson, who hit all five of his field goal attempts, including three triples, in the final 20 minutes for 15 points. Jarryd Loyd also had a big second half, dishing out all seven of his assists.

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. The Crusaders, while hitting at just a 66.1% clip from the line on the season, have been almost automatic in the final four minutes in league play, connecting on 81.3% (26-of-32) of their attempts.

Spreading the Wealth: This year’s Crusaders have spread the ball around on the offensive end of the court, as four players are averaging in double figures and six 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 11 double-figure outputs.

Handling the Basketball: The Crusaders got a shot at the basket on almost every possession Saturday 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.