*Game 9 - Valparaiso (7-1, 1-0) at Detroit (4-4, 0-1) - Saturday, Dec. 8, 2007 - 3:05 p.m. CST
The Matchup: Valparaiso continues its first season of Horizon League play on Saturday afternoon, as the Crusaders travel to Michigan to take on the Titans of Detroit. Valpo is coming off a win at Wright State on Thursday, while Detroit fought hard but dropped a close decision to #13/13 Butler. The Crusaders’ and Titans’ series on the hardwood dates back to the 1920-21 campaign, but the two teams have faced off just 11 times, with the last meeting coming back in 1991-92.
Last Meeting: Tracy Gipson led three Crusaders in double figures with 16 points, but Detroit’s Dwayne Kelley put up a game-high 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting as the Titans defeated Valpo, 82-65, at Cobo Arena in Detroit on November 26, 1991. The Crusaders were within four points at 61-57 with 10 minutes to play, but Detroit closed out the game on a 21-8 run. Rob Cavanaugh added 14 points, six assists and three steals for Valpo, while Eric Suiter chipped in 12 points. Detroit’s Greg Grant dominated the paint, hitting 8-of-10 shots for 16 points while also grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking six shots.
Last Time Out: Trailing by three points with under two minutes to play, Valparaiso’s defense forced three consecutive Wright State turnovers and the offense took advantage, as Shawn Huff hit a 3-pointer to tie the game and Jarryd Loyd converted a fast-break layup off a steal to give Valpo the lead for good on the way to a 71-66 victory Thursday evening in Dayton, Ohio. The win, which marked the first Horizon League contest for the Crusader men, snapped Wright State’s 14-game home winning streak. Loyd paced the Crusaders with 18 points in 27 minutes off the bench. Huff and Urule Igbavboa each scored 16 points, while Igbavboa also tied for game-high honors with seven rebounds. Diebler used a 6-of-7 performance at the charity stripe to also finish in double figures with 12 points.
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; 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. The game can also be seen online through the Horizon League Network at www.horizonleaguenetwork.tv.
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).
RPI Soaring: The overall strength of the Horizon League can be seen by looking at the Rating Percentage Index. The Horizon League, which boasts seven of ten teams with at least a .500 record, ranks tenth among all conferences in RPI. The Horizon League is in front of leagues such as the Mountain West, Mid-American and Conference USA.. Three Horizon League squads currently rank among the top-100 in RPI (as of Dec. 7), including the Crusaders, who stand at 53.
Cracking the Top 25: Valpo broke into the Mid-Major Top 25 poll for the first time this season on Dec. 3. The Crusaders, who had been in the Also Receiving Votes category the previous two weeks, debuted at #21 after downing Western Michigan and Ball State last week. Valpo is the second-highest Horizon squad in the polling, trailing only Butler, which sits atop the poll. It is the first time that the Crusaders have been ranked in the poll since the 2003-04 campaign.
Fast Start: Since Homer Drew’s arrival prior to the 1988-89 season, starting the season with seven wins in the first eight games has been a good omen for things to come. This year’s team is off to a 7-1 start, matching the 1996-97 and 1998-99 squads for the best six-game start under Drew. Both of those teams won Mid-Con regular season and tournament championships and advanced to the NCAA Tournament in their respective seasons. Ironically, the only loss in the first eight games by the 96-97 team was also at Vanderbilt.
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.
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.
Huff Heats Up: Senior forward Shawn Huff has turned his game up a notch, reaching double figures in five of his last six games while leading the Crusaders to a 7-1 start. Huff earned All-Tournament honors at the South Padre Island Invitational and last week led all scorers in both of the Crusaders’ victories. He put up 19 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the win over Western Michigan and followed three days later with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the victory against Ball State. Thursday night, Huff hit 6-of-11 shots from the field, including three triples, on his way to 16 points in Valpo’s win at Wright State. The senior currently leads the Crusaders with 12.9 points per game and is second on the team with 5.4 rebounds per game. A 44.6% shooter entering the year, Huff is connecting on 50.7% of his shots this season, including a 44.2% clip from behind the arc.
Steady in the Post: Junior forward Urule Igbavboa averaged 11.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game as a sophomore, and has remained right around those marks so far this season, putting up 11.6 points and 7.8 rebounds per contest through Valpo’s first eight games. His 7.8 RPG rank second among all Horizon League players. Over the last six games, Igbavboa has been especially steady, averaging 13.0 points per game on 62.5% shooting and grabbing 8.7 rebounds per game. Over the span, he has not scored fewer than eight points or pulled down less than seven rebounds in a game. In Valpo’s win Thursday, Igbavboa hit four shots, including his first 3-pointer of the year, and added seven free throws for 16 points while also grabbing seven boards.
Loyd Provides Helping Hand: Senior guard Jarryd Loyd is stepping up his game during his final season as a Crusader. Loyd, who is averaging 23.1 minutes per game as Valpo’s sixth man, is third on the team in scoring with 11.1 points per game on 50.8% shooting, and has hit at a 52.2% clip from behind the arc. Loyd is also leading all Crusaders with 3.8 assists per game, and dished out seven helpers in Valpo’s win over Western Michigan last Wednesday. In the Crusader victory against Wright State, Loyd led all players with 18 points, including hitting four straight 3-pointers in the second half, while also dishing out five assists against just one turnover.
Diebler at the Stripe: Junior guard Jake Diebler matched his career highs for makes and attempts from the free throw line Thursday, getting to the charity stripe seven times and making six freebies. The foul line accounted for half of his 12 points, just the fifth time that Diebler has scored in double figures in his career. The junior leads the Crusaders with 31.3 minutes per game and is averaging 6.3 points per contest. Diebler ranks third on the team in rebounding (4.0 RPG), second in assists (2.8 APG) and first in steals (1.4 SPG).
NOTES ON DETROIT
Sitting at .500: Detroit started the season 4-2 over its first six games, but have dropped its last two games to drop to 4-4. Most recently, the Titans fell in a tight battle versus #13/13 Butler, 53-46.
Guarding the Trey: The Titans held down one of the nation’s best shooting teams from behind the arc Thursday. Butler entered the game ranked 11th among all Division I teams in 3-point field goal percentage, but hit just 3-of-19 shots from downtown.
Hitting the Trey: Despite hitting just 4-of-17 shots of their own from behind the 3-point line on Thursday, Detroit remains one of the nation’s top shooting teams from behind the arc, connecting on 42.7% of its 3-point attempts. Conversely, Valpo has one of the nation’s best 3-point percentage defenses, allowing opponents to hit just 28.1% of their trifectas.