The Matchup: Valparaiso returns home for a weekend of Horizon
League action beginning with a Thursday night tilt against Detroit.
Urule Igbavboa enters the game just eight points shy of reaching the
1,000-point milestone for his career.
Series History: The Crusaders captured both games from the Titans last season, making Valpo 5-8 all-time against Detroit. Most recently, Jarryd Loyd scored all of his game-high 15 points in the second half, while fellow senior Shawn Huff put Valparaiso ahead for good with a pair of free throws with 1:01 to play as the Crusaders pulled out a 59-56 win over Detroit on Feb. 28, 2008 at the ARC.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso was up by as many as 11 points in the first half and held a five-point halftime lead at Milwaukee Monday evening, but the Panthers started the second half on a 17-4 run to take the lead for good en route to a 61-47 win over the Crusaders. Urule Igbavboa led Valpo with 12 points, but was the only Crusader to reach double digits in scoring. Brandon McPherson scored eight off the bench, while Howard Little scored seven points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds, including five on the offensive end. Erik Buggs handed out a game-best four assists. Avery Smith paced Milwaukee with 22 points and also registered five steals.
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. 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 audio will also be available online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have links for live stats and video.
First-Half Defense Stands Out: Over their last four games,
the Crusaders have stepped up the effort on the defensive end in the
opening half of play. Opponents are shooting just 32.7% in the opening
20 minutes over the last four contests, including just a 24.6% clip
from behind the arc. Valpo has held its foes to an average of just 23
points in the first half over that time span.
No Drama Here: Very rarely this season have Valpo’s games gone down to the wire. Last year, 21 of the Crusaders’ 36 contests were decided by single digits, but so far this year, only two of their 15 games have been nine-point spreads or less. Valpo has not played a single-digit game since its 75-70 overtime loss to La Salle in the Virgin Islands.
Closing Out a Challenging Stretch: Valparaiso’s game against #25/RV Butler last Saturday closed out one of the toughest stretches of games in Crusader basketball history. The Crusaders played five games in four different locales in a 14-day span, including games against three ranked opponents in #1/1 North Carolina, #10/15 Purdue and the aforementioned Bulldogs. Only the 2006-07 squad, which took on #8/9 Marquette, #19/18 Butler and #3/1 Ohio State in a six-day span, faced three ranked opponents closer together.
Spreading Out the Scoring: The Crusaders have had a variety of different players contribute in the scoring column this season. Six different players are averaging between 6.1 and 11.4 points per game for Valpo at the midway point of the year. In addition, nine players have also scored in double figures at least once so far this year for Valpo, including four players (Buggs, Fumey, Haskins, Witt) who are in their first season on the court and two more (Little, Rogers) who are in just their second season.
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. On Dec. 20, Valpo was featured on ESPNU in a showdown with top-ranked North Carolina. The Crusaders’ contest at Purdue Dec. 28 was 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.
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.
Igbavboa Nears A Milestone: Preseason Second Team All-Horizon League selection Urule Igbavboa, the Crusaders’ leading scorer (11.4 ppg) and rebounder (5.3 rpg), is just eight points shy of reaching 1,000 career points. Igbavboa will become the 28th player in Valpo basketball history to hit the milestone, and the seventh this decade, joining Dan Oppland, Lubos Barton, Raitis Grafs, Milo Stovall, Kikas Gomes and Shawn Huff.
Little Shooting and Rebounding: Sophomore guard Howard Little has become one of the Crusaders’ most consistent shooters and rebounders in his second season with the team. After connecting on just 20.6% of his 3-point attempts as a freshman, Little is hitting at a team-best 39.5% clip from behind the arc this year. On the glass, he has paced the Crusaders five times and is currently second on the team with 5.2 rebounds per game.
Next Year’s Newcomers: Valparaiso has signed a quintet of players who will join the program for the 2009-2010 season, four of whom are freshmen and one junior college transfer. The five newcomers are:
- Ryan Broekhoff, a 6’6” guard from Frankston, Victoria, Australia. Broekhoff was named Australian Junior National Male Player of the Year earlier this year and was the MVP of the U20 Australian national championship.
- Chris Halvorsen, a 6’8” forward out of Henry Sibley [Minn.] H.S. Halvorsen helped lead the Warriors to a state championship appearance last year and was selected to the All-Tournament Team. He also has twice earned All-Conference honors.
- Matt Kenney, a 6’3” guard out of Mooresville [Ind.] H.S. Kenney was an honorable mention All-State honoree last year, while also earning All-Indianapolis Metro West First Team accolades and All-Conference honors.
- Tommy Kurth, a 6’1” guard out of Penn [Ind.] H.S. Kurth was also an honorable mention All-State honoree last year and has been ranked as the #54 point guard in the Class of 2009 by ESPN.com. He has been among the top-25 scorers in the area the last two years.
- Brandon Wood, a 6’3” guard from Kokomo, Ind. Wood is playing this year at Highland [Ill.] C.C. after playing just six games last year at Southern Illinois. A former Indiana All-Star, he is projected as the top incoming point guard in the Horizon League next year by Rivals.com.