*Game 8 - Valparaiso at Wright State - Thursday, December 6, 2007 - 6 p.m. CST
The Matchup: Valparaiso gets its first taste of Horizon League play on Thursday, as the Crusaders travel to Dayton, Ohio to take on Wright State. Valpo will be attempting to snap the Raiders’ 14-game home winning streak at the Nutter Center, dating back to last season. The Crusaders are just 2-5 all-time versus Wright State, but the two squads have not met on the hardwood since the 1993-94 campaign, the last season that Wright State was a member of the Mid-Continent Conference.
Last Meeting: David Redmon scored a game-high 28 points, pacing four Crusaders in double figures as Valpo downed Wright State at the Nutter Center, 75-68, in overtime on February 7, 1994. Redmon hit 10-of-19 shots from the field, including five 3-pointers, to lead the Crusaders. Lance Barker, Chris Ensminger and Casey Schmidt each scored 10 points in the winning effort. Sean Hammonds led the Raiders with 16 points and pulled down a game-best 10 rebounds, but went just 2-for-10 from the free throw line. Andy Holderman also scored 16 points for Wright State, while Delme Herriman chipped in 15 points.
Last Time Out: After having a 13-point halftime lead cut to as few as four points, Valparaiso erupted with four 3-pointers in a five-possession span in the second half to put the game away, eventually defeating Ball State Saturday night at the Athletics-Recreation Center, 71-58. The victory was the tenth straight win by the Crusaders at the ARC. For the second straight game, Shawn Huff led the Crusaders in scoring, putting up 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 5-of-7 from behind the arc. Samuel Haanpää added 15 points, hitting five of his 11 attempts from downtown, while Urule Igbavboa rounded out the Crusaders in double figures with 13 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; 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 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.. Four Horizon League squads currently rank among the top-100 in RPI (as of Dec. 4), including the Crusaders, who stand at 99.
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.
Fast Start: Since Homer Drew’s arrival prior to the 1988-89 season, starting the season with six wins in the first seven games has been a good omen for things to come. This year’s team is off to a 6-1 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.
Winning Big: All six of Valpo’s wins so far have been by at least ten points, a rare feat in Crusader history. Only three times have the Crusaders’ first six wins all come by double figures, and it was in three consecutive seasons: 1963-64, 1964-65 and 1965-66.
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 four of his last five games while leading the Crusaders to a 6-1 start. Huff earned All-Tournament honors at the South Padre Island Invitational after posting 18 points and nine rebounds at Vanderbilt and following on the island with an 11-point, nine-rebound performance in Valpo’s win over Austin Peay. Last week, Huff 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. On the season, Huff is scoring 12.4 points per game, pacing the Crusader squad, and is also second on the team in rebounding (5.6 RPG) and field goal percentage (.500).
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 11.0 points and 7.9 rebounds per contest through Valpo’s first seven games. His 7.9 RPG rank second among all Horizon League players. Over the last five games, Igbavboa has been especially steady, averaging 12.4 points per game on 63.4% shooting and grabbing 9.0 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 wins over Western Michigan and Ball State last week, the junior combined for 28 points and 16 rebounds while hitting 12 of his 17 shots from the floor.
Loyd Provides Helping Hand: Senior guard Jarryd Loyd is stepping up his game during his final season as a Crusader. Loyd, who is averaging 22.6 minutes per game as Valpo’s sixth man, is third on the team in scoring with 10.1 points per game on 50.0% shooting, and has hit the same percentage from behind the arc. Loyd is also leading all Crusaders with 3.6 assists per game, and dished out seven helpers in Valpo’s win over Western Michigan on Wednesday. Loyd’s seven assists were the most he has registered in a single game since his freshman season.
Haanpää Keeps Firing: Sophomore guard Samuel Haanpää struggled with his shot in the first half against Ball State on Saturday, hitting just 1-of-7 attempts form behind the arc. But the sophomore stepped up in the second half, draining all four of his 3-point attempts to help stave off the comeback attempt by the Cardinals. The sophomore is just eight triples shy of hitting his 100th career trifecta, and remains Valpo’s career 3-point percentage leader at 43.8%.
NOTES ON WRIGHT STATE
Fewest Games in the Nation: Wright State enters Thursday’s contest having played the fewest games among any Division I team to date. The Raiders have only taken the hardwood three times and have a 2-1 record.
Taking Advantage at the Stripe: The Raiders have proven especially potent at the free throw stripe through their first three contests. They have averaged 25.7 free throw attempts per game, and are hitting at an 80.5% rate, the second-best free throw percentage in the nation.
Trio of Scorers: Nine different players have played at least 10 minutes per game for Wright State so far this season, but three players have stood out as the best offensive threats. Todd Brown leads the team with 18.3 points per game, having hit a team-best eight triples on the year. Vaughn Duggins is averaging 14.7 PPG, while Scottie Wilson has put up 11.3 PPG on 68.8% shooting.