UMKC (11-18, 6-7) at VALPARAISO (15-14, 8-5)
ATHLETICS-RECREATION CENTER - VALPARAISO, IND.
FEBRUARY 24, 2007 - 7:05 p.m.
TODAY'S MATCHUP: Valparaiso hosts UMKC tonight in the regular season finale for both squads. For the Crusaders, it also doubles as senior night, as well as their final Mid-Con league game after 25 years in the conference. The Crusaders own a 20-8 edge over UMKC in the all-time series, including a 56-52 victory in Kansas City earlier this season.
LAST TIME OUT: Valparaiso utilized a rare eight-point possession to seize momentum early in the second half Thursday night against Southern Utah, and easily pulled away for a 75-48 victory over the Thunderbirds at the Athletics-Recreation Center. With the win, Valpo clinches the three seed in the upcoming Mid-Continent Conference Tournament. The Thunderbirds held a four-point lead very early in the second half, but Valpo scored the next five points, followed by the eight-point possession. Southern Utah was still within nine at 49-40 with 12:57 to play, but Valpo held the T'Birds to just one field goal over the next ten minutes while going on a 24-3 run to clinch the game. Six different Crusaders finished the game with at least eight points, led by 14 from Shawn Huff and 13 from Urule Igbavboa.
LAST MEETING: Calum MacLeod hit a 3-pointer to put the Crusaders ahead 12 seconds into overtime, and Valparaiso never trailed in the extra session, downing UMKC 56-52 January 25 in Kansas City, Mo. Valpo's defense keyed the victory, as the Crusaders held the Kangaroos without a field goal for the first 11:48 of the ballgame. The 52 points allowed by the Crusaders was the fewest given up by a Valpo team in an overtime game since 1956-57 (when records started noting overtime games). MacLeod shared team-high scoring honors with Urule Igbavboa, as each put up 16.
ON THE AIR: Today's game, like every game this season, can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, a three-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 and WAKE, 1500 AM in Valparaiso. Veteran broadcaster Todd Ickow returns for his 16th season on play-by-play, while WVUR's Mike Haase will handle the color commentary. The game will also be broadcast on Lakeshore Public Television, with a video webcast through the athletics website, with Dick Harlan and Todd Medland on the call.
LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SEEDS UP FOR GRABS: The Crusaders clinched the third seed in the Mid-Con Tournament with their win Thursday combined with Oakland's win. Valpo's first-round opponent is still undecided, as Southern Utah, UMKC and IUPUI are all tied for fourth place in the league. Any tie involving IUPUI would give IUPUI the lowest seed available, as the Jaguars lost twice to Oakland and both other teams beat OU once. The only way Valpo plays SUU in the opener is if the T'Birds lose Saturday and both other teams win.
MID-CON DOMINANCE: With last Thursday's win over fellow Mid-Con charter member Western Illinois, Valparaiso assured itself of at least a .500 record in league play for the 14th consecutive season. The Crusaders clinched at least third place with their win over
Southern Utah, making it 14 of the last 15 seasons that Valpo has finished third or better in the league , including a run of nine regular season championships over a 10-year span. Valpo also has captured a total of eight Mid-Con tournament championships during its tenure in the league, and has 200 conference wins since the league's inception in 1982.
HOME SWEET ARC: Two weeks ago, Valparaiso recorded its 200th all-time victory at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The Crusaders currently own a 202-92 (.687) victory at their home arena since the ARC opened prior to the 1984-1985 campaign. This season marks the 15th consecutive year that Valpo will finish with a home record better than .500, as the Crusaders are 8-3 at home this year. Since the start of the 1993-1994 campaign, the Crusaders own an incredible 148-27 (.846) record in the ARC. That record includes an undefeated home slate in the 1994-1995 season (14-0), and a 20-game home winning streak spanning the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 campaigns.
BALANCED ATTACK: The 2006-07 Crusader squad has truly been one of balance, as four Valpo players are averaging double-figure scoring outputs this year. Freshman Samuel Haanpaa moved back into the leading scorer role after his 18-point game last Thursday, as he is averaging 11.9 ppg. Right behind him is sophomore Urule Igbavboa, who is putting up 11.4 ppg. Sophomore Brandon McPherson is scoring 11.2 ppg, while junior Shawn Huff is just fourth on the team in scoring despite averaging 11.0 ppg. All four are among the top-18 in the league in scoring, and comprise the only quartet with all four players in double figures.
PRESEASON POLL PLACES VALPO FOURTH: The Crusaders received 156 points in the Mid-Continent Conference's preseason polling of coaches, sports information directors, and selected media members, placing them fourth out of the league's eight teams. Projected league champs Oral Roberts registered 260 points. IUPUI and UMKC are projected second and third, respectively, while Oakland, Western Illinois, Southern Utah, and Centenary round out the fifth through eighth spots.
CRUSADER ALUMNI RETURN TO THE BENCH: Valpo head coach Dr. Homer Drew has always found places for former players as assistant coaches, and this year is no exception. Bryce Drew is back for his second year on the bench, having been promoted to the title of associate head coach during the offseason. Jason Hawkins, who served as the director of basketball operations during the 2003-04 campaign, returns for his first year as an assistant coach, while Tarrance Price, who played for Valpo from 1998-2000, returns as the director of basketball operations.
A LOT OF HANDS TO SHAKE: Pregame captains meetings at center court will be crowded on Valpo's side this year, as five Crusaders have been designated as captains by Coach Drew. Senior Moussa Mbaye, juniors Shawn Huff and Jarryd Loyd, and sophomores Jake Diebler and Brandon McPherson will share this year's captaincy.
MOUSSA'S LAST STAND: Crusader senior center Moussa Mbaye is the lone senior on the 2006-07 Valpo team, and is being honored tonight during Senior Night festivities. Mbaye has appeared in 101 games in a Valpo uniform, making 35 starts, including 13 this year. He was a member of the 2003-2004 Crusader team that won the Mid-Con regular season and tournament championships and faced off with Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament. Mbaye has scored 264 points and pulled down 331 rebounds during his four years at Valpo. Earlier this season, he set a career-high with nine rebounds against Chicago State, and just nine days ago, scored a career-best 10 points versus Western Illinois.
SHARPSHOOTER: Samuel Haanpaa's last three games have been a microcosm of his freshman year. Last week, the 6'8" guard hit three triples on his way to a team-best 18 points against Western Illinois, and knocked down four more treys at Western Michigan, ending the game with 19 points, both games coming off the bench. He was reinserted into the starting five Thursday against Southern Utah, and responded with three more triples and 11 points. Haanpaa's 68 3-pointers are ninth-most in a single season in Crusader history, while his 45.6% accuracy from behind the arc is 11th best in the nation and leads the Mid-Con. Haanpaa is also just one 3-point attempt shy of number 150, which would qualify him for Valpo's all-time 3-point percentage chart, whose current leader, Bryce Drew, Haanpaa leads by over two percentage points.
U BOUNCES BACK: Sophomore forward Urule Igbavboa carried the Crusaders during the first half Thursday against Southern Utah. While the rest of the Crusaders could manage just 15 first-half points, Igbavboa kept Valpo in the game, hitting 5-of-7 shots from the field and ending the opening half with 11 points and six rebounds, on his way to 13 points and 10 boards for the game. Igbavboa ranks second in the league with eight double-doubles on the season, and remains the only Mid-Con player to record a triple-double this year with his 18-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist effort at Chicago State. He also ranks second in rebounds with 7.2 caroms per game.
HUFF HITS HIS SHOTS: Valpo had momentum on its side after the big eight-point possession Thursday night, but could have easily lost it, as Southern Utah scored 10 points over the next four minutes. But junior guard/forward Shawn Huff stepped up to lead the Crusaders, scoring 10 straight points of his own on two field goals and six free throws during the same span to keep it a nine-point game.
SEASON TO DATE: UMKC sits in a three-way tie for fourth place in the Mid-Con entering tonight's game. The Kangaroos are 11-18 overall and 6-7 in league play, tied with Southern Utah and IUPUI. UMKC has won three in a row over Oakland, IUPUI and Western Illinois after previously losing seven of its last eight contests. Their blowout win over Western Illinois Thursday in Macomb was the Kangaroos' first road victory in 14 games this year.
DEE-DAY: The Kangaroos are led by an inside-outside combination of Quinton Day and Dee Ayuba. Day ranks second in the league in scoring (17.3 ppg), assists (4.0 apg), 3-pointers made (2.9 per game) and steals (1.76/game). Ayuba is the only other UMKC player averaging double figures, as he is putting up 12 points per game. Ayuba also ranks second on the Kangaroos with 4.8 rebounds per game.