Western Michigan (4-2) at Valparaiso (4-1) - Wednesday, November 28, 2007 - 7:05 p.m.
The Matchup: Valparaiso returns home to the Athletics-Recreation Center for just the second time this season as the Crusaders host the Broncos of Western Michigan tonight. Both teams enter tonight’s game coming off of wins over conference favorites, as Valpo downed Austin Peay last time out while Western Michigan defeated #25 Davidson. One of the Crusaders’ most common all-time opponents, Western Michigan and Valparaiso have taken the hardwood 63 times, with the Broncos holding a 37-26 edge in the series.
Last Meeting: Valparaiso held a six-point lead late at Western Michigan on Feb. 17, 2007, but the Broncos fought back to force overtime and went on to down the Crusaders in Kalamazoo, Mich., 89-80. Urule Igbavboa led the Crusaders with a career-high 21 points, hitting nine of his 10 free throw attempts. Igbavboa also pulled down a team-high nine rebounds in 36 minutes before fouling out in the overtime period. Samuel Haanpää added 19 points off the bench, nailing four of his six 3-point tries, while Jarryd Loyd chipped in 14 points, five rebounds, and four assists while committing just one turnover. Brandon McPherson also dished out four assists for Valpo.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso held Austin Peay to just 18 second-half points Saturday on its way to a 61-47 victory in the Crusaders' final game of the South Padre Island Invitational. Samuel Haanpää led Valpo with 21 points, including six 3-pointers, while Shawn Huff earned All-Tournament accolades after scoring seven key points late in the game. Haanpää set a new career best with his six triples and surpassed the 20-point barrier for the fourth time in his career. Huff added 11 points and matched his career-high with nine rebounds, while Igbavboa scored 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds as well.
On the Air: Today’s game, like every game this season, can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, a three-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. WVUR will be broadcasting an extended hour-long pregame show from the ARC prior to tip-off, featuring the Crusader Coach's Corner. The game will also be videocast 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).
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.
Rebounding the Ball: In Valparaiso’s three games last week, the Crusaders out-rebounded their opposition by an average of 10 rebounds per game. They were especially proficient on the boards on the offensive end, pulling down 47 offensive rebounds over the three games. Against Vanderbilt, Valpo tallied 21 offensive caroms, the most by a Crusader team since they grabbed 23 offensive boards at Duke on February 26, 2004. In addition, Valpo’s offensive rebounding against the Commodores led to 79 shot attempts, the most by a Crusader team in the last ten seasons.
Balance Beam: Valparaiso’s success offensively has been the epitome of a team effort so far this year. Through the first five games of the season, three players are averaging double figures in scoring, with three more putting up at least eight points per game. Four different players have paced Valpo in scoring over its first five games, and last week, four Crusaders scored exactly 34 points over their three games.
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. Tarrance Price, who played for Valpo from 1998-2000, is in his second season as director of basketball operations, while 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.
Igbavboa Hits the Boards: Junior forward Urule Igbavboa grabbed 232 rebounds as a sophomore, averaging 7.5 caroms per game, second-best in the Mid-Con. He also reached double figures in the category 12 times. After pulling down just six and four rebounds in the first two games of this season, Igbavboa 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. Over the three games last week, he averaged 11.3 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.
Bouchie Begins With a Bang: Freshman forward Bryan Bouchie has started his Crusader career out on the right foot. The 6’11” newcomer is second on the team in scoring through five games, putting up 10.6 points per game, and also ranks third on the team in rebounding with 5.0 boards per game. He kicked off his career in the Crusader jersey with an 11-point effort against Grace. Against Vanderbilt, Bouchie stood out on the boards as, going up against a tall SEC frontline, he grabbed nine rebounds, including a staggering seven caroms on the offensive end. He followed with one of the best games of the season by any Crusader Friday against Maryland Eastern Shore, going 7-of-9 from the field on his way to a Valpo season-high 23 points and also grabbing nine rebounds.
Shooting Star: Sophomore guard Samuel Haanpää returned to form from behind the 3-point arc Saturday in the win over Austin Peay. Haanpää connected on four triples in the first half against the Governors, accounting for 12 of Valpo’s 27 first-half points, and added two more in the second stanza. The six trifectas marked a career best for the sophomore, who registered 21 points in the 61-47 victory.
Huff Earns Accolades: 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. The senior also grabbed a career-high nine rebounds in the game. 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.
NOTES ON WESTERN MICHIGAN
Topping Ranked Opposition: Western Michigan enters its game against the Crusaders coming off of a win over #25 Davidson last time out, 83-76. The Broncos’ win over the Wildcats marked the first time that WMU had downed a ranked foe since Dec. 19, 1984, when the Broncos defeated then-#5 DePaul.
Taking on the Horizon: Western Michigan’s game against Valparaiso marks the third time in its first seven games of the season that the Broncos have faced a Horizon League opponent. The Broncos are 2-0 thus far against the Horizon, having won road matchups against both Loyola (63-61) and Detroit (60-59).