The Matchup: Valparaiso continues a three-game homestand Thursday against the Vikings of Cleveland State. This weekend marks the final weekend of regular season action.
Series History: Cleveland State owns a 25-7 advantage in the all-time series over the Crusaders, including wins in all four meetings since Valpo joined the Horizon League. Most recently, the Vikings cruised to a 66-42 victory in Cleveland on Dec. 2, 2008. The Crusaders made just five first-half field goals in that contest and trailed by 17 at the break. Howard Little led the Crusaders with 14 points, his first double-figure scoring output of the season, but he was the only Valpo player to reach double figures. The sophomore also registered a game-high three steals. Freshman De’Andre Haskins led the Crusader effort on the boards with seven rebounds.
Last Time Out: Trailing by 18 with 6:29 to play in the first half, Valparaiso rallied to within five at halftime and then locked down on defense in the second half, allowing Akron just six field goals after the break as the Crusaders earned a 74-66 victory in non-league action Saturday at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Akron was up as much as 37-19, but the Crusaders put together a 10-0 run and then had an 8-2 spurt heading into halftime to cut the deficit to five. Valpo finally took the lead for the first time on a Michael Rogers layup with 5:13 to play. Howard Little led the way with 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting, while De’Andre Haskins added 12 points and six rebounds off the bench. Urule Igbavboa and Cameron Witt each scored 11, with Igbavboa also ripping down a game-high eight rebounds. Rogers and Jake Diebler chipped in ten points apiece.
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.
Tournament Around the Corner: With the Horizon League Championships approaching quickly next week, Valparaiso finds itself nearly assured of the ninth seed for the tournament. The Crusaders will hit the road for the first round of tournament action, with Green Bay, Cleveland State, Milwaukee and Wright State still among possible opponents in that game. In their first year of Horizon League membership, the Crusaders went 2-1 in the tournament, defeating Green Bay and Wright State before falling to Cleveland State in a semifinal game.
Homer Reaches 600: Crusader head coach Homer Drew reached a rare milestone Feb. 13 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.
The Comforts of Home: The Crusader offense has been much more successful at home this year than when it steps away from the Athletics-Recreation Center. Valpo is scoring 67.8 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. The offensive output at the ARC is a key reason that the Crusaders are 7-5 at home this year and have secured their 16th straight season at .500 or better at home. A split this weekend would give Valpo eight home wins for the 16th straight year as well.
Spreading the Offense Around: The Crusaders took their balanced offense to a new level in their win over Akron last Saturday, as six different players finished in double figures in the scoring column, led by 17 points from Howard Little. A balanced attack has been a trademark of Valpo’s offense all year long, as seven different players average at least five points per game and ten guys have scored at least ten points on one occasion.
Comeback Kids: Saturday’s win marked the third time this year that the Crusaders have overcome a double-figure first-half deficit for a victory. At Youngstown State on Dec. 4, Valpo trailed by 14 with five minutes to play in the first half, rallied to within three at the break and won by 11. Versus Milwaukee on Jan. 22, the Crusaders were down 12 with 7:43 to go in the opening half and came back to go up by three at halftime, eventually winning by 12.
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.
Diebler Runs the Point: Senior guard Jake Diebler has now made a Crusader Division I 95 consecutive starts, and had another great performance in the starting lineup last Saturday against Akron. Diebler connected on all five of his free throw attempts en route to ten points, but especially stood out running the point for the Crusaders. The senior tied his career highs for assists (6) and steals (4) while not committing a turnover. On the year, Diebler is averaging 7.6 points per game while ranking among the league’s best 3-point shooters.
Igbavboa Leads the Way: Senior forward Urule Igbavboa continues to be Valpo’s most consistent producer across the board this year, putting up 11 points, eight rebounds and three assists in Saturday’s win over Akron. 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 (12.0 ppg) and rebounding (5.7 rpg). He also paces Valpo in league play in assists (2.9 apg) and is tied for seventh 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 nine of Valpo’s last 11 games after a team-leading 17 points Saturday against Akron. Second on the team in scoring (10.0 ppg) and rebounding (4.9 rpg), Little ranks third in the league in 3-point percentage (.430) and seventh in field goal percentage (.471).
Haskins Has Big Game: Freshman guard De’Andre Haskins had one of the biggest games of his young career Saturday against the Zips of Akron. Haskins played 28 huge minutes off the bench, scoring 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting while also grabbing six rebounds and tallying two steals. On the year, Haskins is averaging 5.6 points and 2.7 rebounds per game.
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.