The Matchup: Coming off of a 22-14 season and a berth in the inaugural CBI in its first year of Horizon League play, Valparaiso kicks off the 2008-09 campaign Saturday evening at the Athletics-Recreation Center against NAIA foe Marian. The Crusaders and Knights have met on two prior occasions, with Valpo earning the victory both times.
Last Time Out: Ahead by just two at the half, Valparaiso stormed out of the gate in the second half with a 23-4 run and rolled from there, finishing the night with an 85-63 victory over Elmhurst in an exhibition game last Saturday at the ARC. The Division III Blue Jays hung around with the Crusaders in the first half, as after Valpo had taken a seven-point lead, Elmhurst rallied and even tied the game briefly before the game went into the half with a 38-36 Crusader advantage. But Howard Little and De’Andre Haskins each contributed six points to Valpo’s run to open the second half to bust the game open. Urule Igbavboa led the way with 18 points and seven rebounds, while Haskins connected on all five of his shots from the field for 15 points off the bench. Benjamin Fumey added 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
Last Meeting: Valparaiso defeated Marian at the Athletics-Recreation Center on Dec. 6, 1995, downing the Knights 76-65. The Crusaders jumped out to an 11-point halftime edge and never led by less than six in the second half. Chris Ensminger led the way with 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Bryce Drew chipped in 20 points.
Following the Crusaders: Today’s game can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, a four-station entity carrying Crusader athletics all over Northwest Indiana. Originiating from WVUR, 95.1 FM in Valparaiso, the VSRN also includes WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; and WWLO, 89.1 FM, Lowell. Andy Viano and Adam Amin will have the call of today's game. For the remainder of the season, veteran broadcaster Todd Ickow returns for his 18th season on play-by-play for the Crusaders, while WVUR’s David Schroeder will handle the color commentary. Live video and audio streams, along with live statistics, will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com
Postseason Trips: Valparaiso’s trip to the inaugural College Basketball Invitational last season was its first postseason berth since the 2003-2004 campaign and extended an impressive streak. 16 consecutive classes of Crusader basketball players have experienced at least one postseason tournament.
Milestone Win: Valpo’s win against the Huskies of Washington in the CBI last season was a big one in program history. It was the first time a Crusader team had ever defeated a Pac-10 squad, joining wins over ACC, SEC, Big Ten and Big East programs.
Connecting From Downtown: The Crusaders made an immediate impact on the Horizon League’s record books in their first season as a league member. Valpo shattered the previous league mark for 3-pointers made in a season, connecting on 330 triples, 30 more than any other school in league history.
Keeping It Close: The balance from top to bottom in the Horizon League was showcased last year, especially in the Crusader’s league contests. 14 of Valpo’s 18 league games were decided by nine points or fewer.
Drew Closing In on 600: In his 32nd season as a collegiate head coach and his 20th year at Valpo, Crusader head coach Homer Drew is just seven wins shy of his 600th career win. Drew would become just the seventh active coach in Division I with at least 600 wins and just the 33rd coach in NCAA Division I history to reach the milestone.
National Audience Awaits Valpo: After appearing on national television seven times during the 2007-08 campaign, Valparaiso will make at least three nationally televised appearances during the 2008-09 season. Valpo’s Dec. 20 game at the United Center against unanimous preseason #1 North Carolina will be shown live on ESPNU. The Crusaders’ Dec. 28 contest at Purdue will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network, while their Jan. 30 league tilt at Butler will be carried on ESPNU.
Tabbed Seventh: The Crusader men’s basketball team has been picked to finish seventh in the Horizon League for the 2008-09 season, according to polling of the league’s head coaches, sports information directors and media members. Cleveland State has been tabbed the preseason favorite with 40 of the possible 49 first-place votes. Wright State was picked second with UIC third and Green Bay fourth. 2007-08 league champion Butler was selected fifth, while Milwaukee was picked just ahead of the Crusaders in sixth. Loyola, Detroit and Youngstown State rounded out the polling.
Which Line Are We Using?: The men’s college 3-point line has been moved back a foot this year, from the previous distance of 19’9” to the current distance of 20’9”. Many courts, such as the ARC, now have multiple 3-point lines on the hardwood, as the women’s 3-point distance remained the same, but the relevant line on the ARC court for the men’s games is the more distant, light brown line.
Igbavboa Earns Preseason Honor: Valpo senior forward Urule Igbavboa was placed on the preseason All-Horizon League Second Team after his stellar junior campaign. The 6’8” Minnesota native led the Crusaders in rebounding (7.3 rpg) and field goal percentage (55.0%) last year, placing second and fourth, respectively, in the league in those categories while also contributing 11.0 ppg. The senior stood out in Valpo’s exhibition game, registering team-best totals of 18 points and seven rebounds.
Where’s the Masked Man?: Those fans trying to track Crusader senior guard Jake Diebler during Saturday’s exhibition win over Elmhurst might have found the task more difficult than in the past, as for the first time at the ARC in the past three years, Diebler was not sporting a face mask. His face might have been the only thing that was unrecognizable, however, as the high-energy guard played his trademark style of basketball, chipping in seven points, four rebounds and three assists while committing just one turnover. Diebler, who has started all 77 games over the last two years for Valpo, led the team and finished second in the Horizon League last year with a 2.71 assist-to-turnover ratio.
B-Mac Recovering: Valpo senior guard Brandon McPherson was the only Crusader not to see playing time during their exhibition win on Saturday as he continues to recuperate from offseason surgery. McPherson averaged double figures in scoring for the second straight year last season, putting up 10.1 points per game, and currently ranks ninth in Valpo history in 3-point percentage and 17th in assists.
California Kid: Long Beach, Calif. native DeAndre Haskins, who went to prep school at La Lumiere in LaPorte, less than an hour away from the ARC, made an immediate impact in his first game in a Crusader uniform. The freshman came off the bench in the first half and contributed seven points to an 11-2 run midway through the opening stanza. Haskins then drilled back-to-back three-pointers early in the second half to extend an eight-point Valpo lead to 14 points. He finished the game with 15 points off the bench in 22 minutes, connecting on all five of his shots from the field.
The Wait is Finally Over: Sophomore forward Benajmin Fumey sat out the entirety of his freshman campaign and looked like he was trying to make up for lost time in the exhibition game on Saturday. With a chance to earn significant playing time as part of Valpo’s post rotation this year, the 6’8” forward hit five of his six shots from the field for 13 points in just 15 minutes off the bench.