The Matchup: Valparaiso makes its final road trip of the regular season on Wednesday as the Crusaders travel to Green Bay, looking to knock off the league’s second-place team.
Series History: The Phoenix leads the Crusaders 21-14 in the all-time series, but the two squads have split the four meetings since Valpo joined the Horizon League last season. Most recently, the Crusaders had one of their best offensive outputs of the season, but Green Bay won an 83-76 shootout at the ARC on Jan. 24. The Crusaders connected on 13 3-pointers, led by a career-best six off the hands of sophomore Howard Little, who ended the night with a career-high 28 points. But Ryan Tillema scored 25 of his 36 in the first half to stake the Phoenix to a nine-point halftime lead, and Valpo would get no closer than five in the second half. Jake Diebler came up with 17 points, canning five 3-pointers for the second consecutive contest, while playing all 40 minutes for the third straight game.
Last Time Out: Despite matching a season-best with 13 3-pointers, Valparaiso was unable to outscore UIC on Sunday at the Athletics-Recreation Center, as the Flames scored the game’s final ten points to take an 83-76 victory in Horizon League action. The Crusaders took a 3-point lead into halftime and led by as many as nine in the second half. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Jake Diebler gave Valpo a 76-73 advantage with 2:40 remaining, but the Crusaders were unable to score the rest of the way. Valpo placed four players in double figures, led by 20 points from Urule Igbavboa, who also paced the Crusaders with seven rebounds and tied for team-high honors with four assists. Michael Rogers came off the bench with 19 points, while Diebler knocked down 6-of-8 from behind the arc for 18 points.
Following the Crusaders: Today’s game can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, a three-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; and WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso. 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 through the Horizon League Network.
Homer Reaches 600: Crusader head coach Homer Drew reached a rare milestone last Friday with Valpo’s win over Loyola, winning as head coach for the 600th time in his career. Drew became the eighth current Division I head coach (at least five years DI experience) to reach the 600-win milestone, and is just the 32nd Division I coach all-time (at least ten years D1 experience) to reach the plateau. Drew is in his 32nd year as a collegiate coach and his 20th overall at Valparaiso. He earned 252 wins during an 11-year stint to open his head coaching career at Bethel [Ind.], won 17 games in one season at the helm of IU-South Bend, and has won 331 contests to date at Valpo.
Spreading the Offense Around: One of the characteristics of this year’s team has been a balanced attack on the offensive end. Against Loyola last Friday, seven different players scored at least seven points, and four Crusaders hit double figures on Sunday versus UIC. On any given night, any one player can go off, as ten different guys have hit double figures at least once this year for Valpo, with five reaching the 20-point plateau on at least one occasion.
Home is Where the Wins Are: The return home to the Athletics-Recreation Center got the Crusaders back in the win column Friday, improving Valpo to 6-5 this year at the ARC. Since the start of the 1993-94 campaign, Valpo is 168-36 (.824) on its home court. Valpo is scoring 67.3 ppg at home vs. 55.9 ppg away from home, and is shooting over five percent better both from the field and from behind the 3-point arc.
One Streak Continues, Another Ends: Senior guard Jake Diebler set a new Valpo Division I record last Friday evening, making his 92nd straight start for the Crusaders, surpassing former Crusader great Dan Oppland. The senior has started every single game since the beginning of his sophomore year. Diebler also had his streak of consecutive minutes played, believed to be a Crusader all-time record, broken at 278 when he was removed with 1:41 to play against the Ramblers. He had not come off the floor since the end of the UIC game Jan. 15.
Akron the Foe: Akron will be the opponent on Saturday the 21st at the ARC in a matchup derived from the ESPNU BracketBusters pool. The Crusaders have earned wins in each of their previous two home games in the event, defeating Niagara and Miami (Ohio).
National Audience Watches Valpo: After appearing on national television seven times during the 2007-08 campaign, Valparaiso has made three national TV appearances this year. Valpo was featured in a showdown with top-ranked North Carolina on ESPNU on Dec. 20. The Crusaders’ contest at Purdue Dec. 28 was broadcast on the Big Ten Network, while their game last Friday evening at Butler was shown live on ESPNU as well.
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 Leads the Way: Senior forward Urule Igbavboa paced the Crusaders in all five major offensive categories against UIC on Sunday, going for 20 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two blocked shots and two steals. It continues a trend for Igbavboa, who has always excelled in the scoring and rebounding departments for Valpo, but has added the role of offensive distributor to his resume this year. He currently leads the Crusaders in scoring (11.9 ppg) and rebounding (5.8 rpg). He also paces Valpo in league play in assists (3.0 apg) and is tied for sixth in the Horizon League in league games in the category.
Little Getting it Done: Sophomore guard Howard Little has now scored in double figures in eight of Valpo’s last nine games after his team-leading 17 points on Friday against Loyola and putting up 13 points versus UIC. Second on the team in scoring (9.8 ppg) and rebounding (4.8 rpg), Little ranks second in the league in 3-point percentage (.425) and eighth in field goal percentage (.460).
Rogers Produces Off the Bench: Sophomore guard Michael Rogers came off the bench last weekend against both Loyola and UIC, and made an impact in both games. The sophomore scored 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting and pulling down ten rebounds for his third double-double of the season against Loyola, and went for 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting two days later against the Flames. Rogers ranks third on the team in scoring (9.3 ppg) and rebounding (4.8 rpg) on the season.
Next Year’s Newcomers: Valparaiso will have six new players on the roster next year, four of whom are freshmen, one junior college transfer and one transfer. The six 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.
- Beas Hamga, a 7’0” center who transferred to Valpo from UNLV. Hamga started classes in the spring semester, making him eligible to play at the end of the fall semester next year. The native of Cameroon was ranked 26th in the country in his high school class by Rivals.com, where he was rated a five-star recruit.
- 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. Wood took part in the Indiana North/South All-Star Classic following his senior year and is projected as the top incoming point guard in the Horizon League next year by Rivals.com.