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Homestanding Crusaders Take on Loyola Saturday
Samuel Haanpää led the Crusaders in scoring for the seventh time this season against UIC.
Samuel Haanpää led the Crusaders in scoring for the seventh time this season against UIC.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Game Notes

Game 21 - Loyola (6-13, 2-7 Horizon) at Valparaiso (14-6, 5-3 Horizon) - Saturday, January 26, 2008 - 7:05 p.m.

The Matchup: After improving to 8-1 at home with a win over UIC Thursday night, Valparaiso continues Horizon League action tonight with a matchup against the second of the league’s two Chicago-based teams, as Loyola comes to town to face the Crusaders.  The two teams have met on 28 occasions dating back to the 1947-48 season, but have not faced off in the last five seasons.  The Ramblers hold a 24-4 edge in the all-time series.

Last Meeting: Loyola came to the Athletics-Recreation Center on Dec. 12, 2003 and defeated Valparaiso by a final count of 76-69.  The Ramblers earned a four-point halftime lead (39-35) and held off the Crusaders in the second stanza.  Valpo lost despite a balanced scoring effort that saw four of its five starters reach double figures, led by 16 points and 13 rebounds from Kikas Gomes.  Dan Oppland also contributed a double-double, posting 13 points and 12 rebounds, while Ali Berdiel scored 15 points and Ron Howard chipped in 13 points of his own.  Paul McMillan led the visitors with 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting, while Terrance Whiters added 15 points off the bench.

Last Time Out: Senior guard Jarryd Loyd beat the buzzer to end the first half with a half-court shot that cut UIC’s lead over Valparaiso to 40-33 at the break, and the Crusader defense took over in the second half, holding the Flames to just 16 second-half points as Valpo claimed the 60-56 victory Thursday evening at the Athletics-Recreation Center.  The Crusaders held UIC without a field goal for the first 7:27 of the second half and just one field goal in the half’s opening 12 minutes.  Valpo’s offense slowly brought the team back into the game, finally erasing the seven-point halftime deficit with a Samuel Haanpää  triple with 10:48 remaining to put the Crusaders up 44-42.  Haanpää paced the Crusader offensive effort with 15 points, hitting on five of his six 3-point attempts.  Loyd added 13 points, including the game-clinching free throws with 13 seconds left.

On the Air: Today’s game, like every game this season, can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, a four-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.  The game can also be seen on the internet through the Horizon League Network or throughout Chicagoland on Lakeshore Public Television, with Dick Harlan and Joe Arredondo on the call.

There’s No Place Like Home: While the Crusaders had their 13-game home winning streak snapped against Milwaukee earlier this year, they still enjoy a tremendous home-court advantage at the Athletics-Recreation Center.  Since the ARC opened prior to the 1984-85 season, the Crusaders are 211-92 (.696) at home, including a sterling 157-27 (.853) mark over the last 15 years.  The program record for longest winning streak at the ARC is a 20-game stretch spanning the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons, while the just-snapped streak was the fifth longest in program history.

Close Games the Norm: Last weekend, the Crusaders played two Horizon League games decided by six points, winning at Youngstown State by a 67-61 score before falling at league leader Cleveland State, 69-63.  The tight finishes have been the norm for Valpo so far in its first year of Horizon League play, as entering Saturday, seven of the team’s eight league contests had been decided by single digits.  The Crusaders are not alone in playing close games in the Horizon League, however, as every school has taken part in at least four games decided by single digits.

All About the Ratings: Valparaiso’s move to the Horizon League has proven to be a win-win for both parties in a number of rating systems so far this year.  Valpo is currently 60th in the RPI, one of four HL squads in the top-100 nationally, and the league is ranked tenth.  In the Sagarin ratings, the Crusaders sit 70th, while the Horizon ranks tenth among the 31 Division I leagues.

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.

Shooting From 19’9”: Valparaiso has proven to be one of the nation’s best 3-point shooting teams so far this season.  The Crusaders are connecting on 39.9% of their attempts from behind the arc, 27th best among the 341 Division I teams.  The team average of 9.4 made 3-pointers per game is good for tenth nationally as well.  It’s not just one player that has been a threat for Valpo from behind the arc either, as the team’s top four 3-point shooters are all averaging better than one make per game and are all connecting on at least 41% of their attempts from downtown.

Best Start: Nine conference championships.  Seven NCAA Tournament appearances.  A magical run to the Sweet 16.  302 wins.  These are just some of the accomplishments that Crusader head coach Homer Drew and his players had piled up during Drew’s first 18 seasons at the helm of the Valpo men’s basketball program.  But none of Drew’s teams had accomplished what this year’s squad did: winning ten of the season’s first 11 games.  The previous best start under Drew came from the 1996-1997 team, which started 9-2 in its first 11 contests.

Missing Shots = Wins?: In the six games since league play resumed for Valpo on January 5, the Crusaders have gone 3-3.  But, just looking at shooting percentage, one might think the Crusaders won the three games that they lost and vice versa.  In its last three wins, Valpo is shooting just 41.9% from the floor versus a 48.1% clip in its last three losses.  The key for the Crusaders has been the second half play in their three wins, shooting 47% versus opponents’ 37% from the floor and getting to the line 40 times, making 30 freebies.

Beating the Buzzer: The fans at the ARC are starting to become accustomed to buzzer-beating shots at the end of the first half.  Jan. 12 against Green Bay, it was Shawn Huff knocking down a 15-footer at the buzzer to cut the Crusaders’ halftime deficit to one points.  Jarryd Loyd followed on Thursday with a half-court heave that fell through as the clock read 0:00, bringing Valpo back to within seven points at the half against UIC.

Moving Up the Charts, Part 1: A number of current Crusader players are moving up various career record charts this year.  Senior guard Jarryd Loyd moved into eighth place on Valpo’s career assist chart at Youngstown State, and now has 341 career helpers.  Meanwhile, sophomore guard Samuel Haanpää and senior forward Shawn Huff are both within striking distance of Valpo’s all-time top-10 in career 3-point field goals.  Haanpää has made 127 career triples and Huff  has made 124 3-pointers, while tenth place on the current chart is Jim Ford with 128 triples.

Moving Up the Charts, Part 2: Valpo’s proficiency from behind the three-point line the past few years can be seen in the program’s all-time three-point percentage chart.  Three current Crusaders are among the top-10 most accurate shooters from behind the arc in team history.  Haanpää has maintained his hold on the top spot, hitting 45.7% from behind the arc for his career.  Loyd has moved up from eighth to sixth place on the chart with 41.3% accuracy, while Huff is right behind him at 41.1%.

Defense to the Forefront: Valparaiso’s defense carried the team to its victory over UIC on Thursday night.  The Crusaders held the Flames scoreless for the first 7:27 of the second half and allowed them to hit just one of their first 20 shots of the half.  UIC ended up connecting on just 17.1% (6-of-35) of its shots in the final 20 minutes and scored just 16 second-half points, Valpo’s second-best defensive half of the season.

Handling the Basketball: The Crusaders got a shot at the basket on almost every possession Jan. 12 against Green Bay, dishing out 17 assists and committing just five turnovers.  Valpo point guards Jarryd Loyd and Brandon McPherson combined for 11 assists and did not commit a turnover.  For Valpo, it was the fewest number of turnovers in a game since it committed just five miscues Dec. 9, 1991 against Notre Dame.

Half of Dominance: Valparaiso put together one of its most dominating halves of basketball in recent history against Indiana Wesleyan on Jan. 2.  The Crusaders outscored the Wildcats by a 58-15 margin in the second half, hitting 61.3% of their shots for the half and allowing IWU to hit just 21.2%.  Five different Valpo players had at least eight points in the second 20 minutes, and the Crusaders put together runs of 13-0, 10-0, 14-0 and 17-0 during the half.

Haanpää’s Magical Night:  Sophomore guard Samuel Haanpää enjoyed one of the best performances in Crusader history Dec. 15 against Chicago State, breaking current associate head coach Bryce Drew’s team record for 3-pointers in a game.  Haanpää knocked down 10 triples in the contest, matching the most by any Division I player against a D-I opponent this year.  He also set a new career high with 32 points in the 90-61 victory.