The Matchup: Coming off of a season-opening victory for the fourth straight year, Valparaiso will look to make it a 2-0 start on Tuesday evening as the Crusaders host Conference USA foe UCF. The Crusaders and Knights have met just once in program history, with Valpo coming out victorious in the only prior matchup.
Last Time Out: Michael Rogers led four Crusaders in double figures with a career-best 23 points, and Valpo put together a 19-3 run in the middle of the first half to pull away from Marian, going on to a 87-56 victory Saturday night at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The Crusaders led just 9-8 four minutes in, but put together the big spurt over a nine-minute span to pull ahead by 17 points. The advantage stayed constant in the high teens/low 20s until midway through the second half, when Valpo ran off 20 points in a row to cement the big victory. Three Crusader freshmen: Cameron Witt, Erik Buggs and De’Andre Haskins each scored in double figures in the winning effort as well.
Last Meeting: Valparaiso connected on nine first-half 3-pointers to take a 12-point advantage at the break and held off the Knights from there, earning a 90-89 victory over UCF in the first round of the Tangerine Classic in Orlando, Fla. on Jan. 5, 1990. Mike Jones led all players with 29 points, including 5-of-9 shooting from behind the arc, while Jerry Coleman connected on all four of his 3-point attempts on his way to 22 points. Bob Blackwood led UCF with 24 points, while Ken Leeks put up a double-double of 22 points and 14 rebounds.
Following the Crusaders: Today’s game can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, a four-station entity carrying Crusader athletics all over Northwest Indiana. Originiating from WVUR, 95.1 FM in Valparaiso, the VSRN also includes WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; and WWLO, 89.1 FM, Lowell. Veteran broadcaster Todd Ickow returns for his 18th season on play-by-play for the Crusaders, while WVUR’s David Schroeder will handle the color commentary. Live video and audio streams, along with live statistics, will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com.
Use Your Program: Valpo played just one player, senior guard Jake Diebler, significant minutes in its victory over Marian on Saturday night. Senior forward Urule Igbavboa played just two minutes, while senior guard Brandon McPherson sat out the contest. Seven players, including all six freshmen and sophomore Benjamin Fumey, played their first collegiate game on Saturday. The nine underclassmen combined for 81 of Valpo’s 87 points in the win.
Newcomers in the Starting Five: Prior to this Saturday, Homer Drew had not used a true freshman in the starting lineup in their first career game since Nov. 21, 1999, when Raitis Grafs was among the starting five against Trinity International. But against Marian on Saturday evening, not just one but two freshmen were introduced with the starters: guards Erik Buggs and De’Andre Haskins.
Postseason Trips: Valparaiso’s trip to the inaugural College Basketball Invitational last season was its first postseason berth since the 2003-2004 campaign and extended an impressive streak. 16 consecutive classes of Crusader basketball players have experienced at least one postseason tournament.
Drew Closing In on 600: In his 32nd season as a collegiate head coach and his 20th year at Valpo, Crusader head coach Homer Drew is just six wins shy of his 600th career win. Drew would become just the seventh active coach in Division I with at least 600 wins and just the 33rd coach in NCAA Division I history to reach the milestone.
National Audience Awaits Valpo: After appearing on national television seven times during the 2007-08 campaign, Valparaiso will make at least three nationally televised appearances during the 2008-09 season. Valpo’s Dec. 20 game at the United Center against unanimous preseason #1 North Carolina will be shown live on ESPNU. The Crusaders’ Dec. 28 contest at Purdue will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network, while their Jan. 30 league tilt at Butler will be carried on ESPNU.
Tabbed Seventh: The Crusader men’s basketball team has been picked to finish seventh in the Horizon League for the 2008-09 season, according to polling of the league’s head coaches, sports information directors and media members. Cleveland State has been tabbed the preseason favorite with 40 of the possible 49 first-place votes. Wright State was picked second with UIC third and Green Bay fourth. 2007-08 league champion Butler was selected fifth, while Milwaukee was picked just ahead of the Crusaders in sixth. Loyola, Detroit and Youngstown State rounded out the polling.
Which Line Are We Using?: The men’s college 3-point line has been moved back a foot this year, from the previous distance of 19’9” to the current distance of 20’9”. Many courts, such as the ARC, now have multiple 3-point lines on the hardwood, as the women’s 3-point distance remained the same, but the relevant line on the ARC court for the men’s games is the more distant, light brown line.
Rogers Finds the Basket: With their two returning double-digit scorers from last season playing a combined two minutes on Saturday, the scoring slack had to be picked up somewhere else, and sophomore guard Michael Rogers was up to the task. Rogers scored a career-high 23 points on 11-of-14 shooting from the field in the victory over Marian, including 17 points in the first half alone as he led the Crusaders to a 22-point halftime advantage. The sophomore also matched his career bests with three assists and two steals.
Witt Showcases Offensive Ability: The tallest player on this year’s Crusader roster at 6’9”, freshman forward Cameron Witt had an impressive debut Saturday for Valpo. The 2007 Tasmanian Player of the Year played 21 minutes off the bench and knocked down eight of his 11 field goal attempts, finishing the game with 16 points.
More Freshmen Contributions: With six freshmen on this year’s roster, a number of them will be seeing significant playing time in each game. Four of the six first-year players played double figure minutes on Saturday. Erik Buggs (14) and De’Andre Haskins (10) joined Witt as players scoring double figures in their Crusader debut, while fellow newcomer Logan Jones led all players with eight rebounds.
Where’s the Masked Man?: Playing without his trademark mask this season, senior guard Jake Diebler continued to play his trademark style of basketball in the opener against Marian. Diebler knocked down a pair of 3-pointers for six points and also added three assists without a turnover. The senior, who finished second in the league in assist/turnover ratio last season, now has had an assist/turnover ratio of 1 or better in each of his last 22 games.
Igbavboa Earns Preseason Honor: Valpo senior forward Urule Igbavboa was placed on the preseason All-Horizon League Second Team after his stellar junior campaign. The 6’8” Minnesota native led the Crusaders in rebounding (7.3 rpg) and field goal percentage (55.0%) last year, placing second and fourth, respectively, in the league in those categories while also contributing 11.0 ppg. The senior stood out in Valpo’s exhibition game, registering team-best totals of 18 points and seven rebounds.
B-Mac Recovering: Valpo senior guard Brandon McPherson was the only Crusader not to see playing time during Saturday’s win over Marian as he continues to recuperate from offseason surgery. McPherson averaged double figures in scoring for the second straight year last season, putting up 10.1 points per game, and currently ranks ninth in Valpo history in 3-point percentage and 17th in assists.