The Matchup: Valparaiso opens play at South Padre Island this afternoon with a game against Maryland Eastern Shore. The Invitational will conclude on Saturday afternoon with the winner facing the winner of the Austin Peay/Florida Gulf Coast while the two losers also match up. The Crusaders have never played the Hawks of UMES, and have only played one other MEAC squad in their history. Valpo defeated current MEAC member Norfolk State twice in a five-day span in the early portions of the 1998-99 season.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso came back from a 44-31 halftime deficit to take a 53-50 lead with 12:30 to play, but Vanderbilt regained the lead with under ten minutes to go and never gave it up, downing the Crusaders 87-78 Tuesday night in Nashville, Tenn. The Commodores still led by 12 over two minutes into the second stanza when Valpo kicked off a 17-2 run over a five-minute span to gain the three-point lead. The Crusaders held the lead for the next three minutes until Vandy put together a 7-0 spurt to give it the lead for good. The Crusaders would cut the lead down to two points with six minutes to play, but could get no closer. Jarryd Loyd enjoyed an outstanding game for the Crusaders, scoring a career-best 20 points while also grabbing four rebounds and dishing out four assists. Shawn Huff joined Loyd in double figures with 18 points, hitting 4-of-7 shots from behind the arc, and added a career-high nine rebounds.
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 17th season on play-by-play, while WVUR’s Adam Amin will handle the color commentary.
Changing Leagues: Valparaiso moves to the Horizon League this season after a very successful 25-year run in the Mid-Continent Conference (now known as the Summit League). The Crusaders captured nine regular season championships and eight tournament championships during their quarter-century tenure in the Mid-Con, advancing to seven NCAA Tournaments. Valpo also holds conference records for overall wins (385), league wins (208), conference tournament wins (29) and conference tournament winning percentage (.707).
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.
Rebounding the Ball: Valparaiso outrebounded Vanderbilt on Tuesday by a 45-37 margin, but was especially effective on the offensive end, pulling down 21 offensive rebounds. The 21 offensive caroms is the most by a Crusader team since they grabbed 23 offensive boards at Duke on February 26, 2004. In addition, Valpo’s offensive rebounding led to 79 shot attempts, the most by a Crusader team in the last ten seasons.
Balance Beam: Valparaiso’s success offensively has been the epitome of a team effort so far this year. After three games, seven different Crusaders are averaging at least seven points per game, with only two players averaging in double figures. Six different Crusaders had at least eight points against Vanderbilt, but the best example of balance came in the win over IPFW, when Valpo placed eight players in between seven and ten points.
Crusader Alums Return to the Bench: Valpo head coach Homer Drew has always found places for former players as assistant coaches, and this year is no exception. Bryce Drew is back for his third year on the bench and his second as associate head coach. Tarrance Price, who played for Valpo from 1998-2000, is in his second season as director of basketball operations, while Chris Sparks, who donned the Crusader uniform from 1997-2000, returns this year as an assistant coach.
Valpo Tabbed Sixth in Horizon: The Crusaders have been projected to finish in sixth place in their inaugural season of Horizon League play in polling of the league’s head coaches, sports information directors and media representatives. Butler was picked to win the league, receiving 42 of 46 first-place votes. 2007 tournament champion Wright State was projected second, followed by Green Bay, Milwaukee and Loyola. Detroit was chosen seventh, with UIC, Cleveland State and Youngstown State rounding out the polling.
Loyd Lighting it Up: Senior guard Jarryd Loyd has been used as a high-energy sixth man for the past two seasons and has taken his game to the next level off the bench this year. Loyd is the only Crusader to reach double figures in scoring in all three games this year. He matched his career-high with 14 points against Grace and proceeded to smash that mark with 20 points in the game against Vanderbilt. Loyd, who leads the Crusaders with 14.7 PPG, also grabbed four rebounds and dished out four assists with just one turnover against the Commodores.
Bouchie Begins With a Bang: Freshman forward Bryan Bouchie has started his Crusader career out on the right foot. The 6’11” newcomer is averaging 9.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game through his first three games. He kicked off his career in the Crusader jersey with an 11-point effort against Grace and has followed with eight and nine points versus IPFW and Vanderbilt, respectively. But it was his effort on the boards against Vandy that stood out Tuesday, as Bouchie, going up against a tall SEC frontline, grabbed nine rebounds, including a staggering seven caroms on the offensive end.
Igbavboa Hits the Boards: Junior forward Urule Igbavboa grabbed 232 rebounds as a sophomore, averaging 7.5 caroms per game, second-best in the Mid-Con. He also reached double figures in the category 12 times. After pulling down just six and four rebounds in the first two games of this season, Igbavboa stepped up his game at Vanderbilt, ripping away a game-high 11 rebounds from the Commodores, including four on the offensive end. He has now reached double figures in rebounding in five of his last eight games dating back to last year.
Turning on the Scoring: Senior forward Shawn Huff started the season with two single-digit scoring efforts, scoring just nine points against Grace and eight points against IPFW, for the first time since early January last season. But Huff started pouring the ball into the basket against Vanderbilt, hitting six of his 10 shots, including four 3-pointers, for 18 points against the Commordoes. He also grabbed a career-high nine rebounds in the game.
NOTES ON MARYLAND EASTERN SHORE
Hawks Under Interim Leader: Maryland Eastern Shore is guided by Meredith Smith, who served as an assistant coach for three years before being named the squad’s interim head coach prior to this season. Smith has led the Hawks to a 1-3 start, with a victory over Stony Brook on the resume.
Keep Tyson Locked Up: Second-team preseason All-MEAC selection Ed Tyson looks to be the Hawks’ go-to player this season. The 6’2” junior is currently averaging 20.8 points per game and is shooting nearly 50% from behind the 3-point arc. Tyson stood out in UMES’ 65-48 loss at Iowa, scoring a staggering 32 of his team’s 48 points, including 7-of-10 shooting from behind the arc.