Monday, December 29, 2008
The Matchup: Valparaiso returns to the ARC Tuesday to host
Division III foe North Park in its final game of the 2008 calendar
year. The Crusaders and Vikings, out of Chicago, Ill., are meeting for
the first time ever on the hardwood. Valpo has captured its last 14
regular season contests against non-Division I opponents, dating back
to the 1997-98 campaign.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso led for a good portion of the
first half Sunday afternoon at #10/15 Purdue and trailed by just two at
halftime, but the Boilermakers connected on four of their first five
3-point attempts in the second stanza and the Crusaders got no closer
than six the rest of the way, dropping a 59-45 decision. Jake Diebler
and Urule Igbavboa tied for team-high scoring honors on the game with
13 points apiece. Diebler connected on three of Valpo’s four triples
for the contest, while Igbavboa paced the Crusaders with three assists
as well. Howard Little pitched in eight points and also pulled down a
team-high ten rebounds, his second double-figure rebounding output of
The Road Ahead: Valparaiso’s brief two-game homestand continues
on Saturday as the Crusaders host last year’s Horizon League champion
Butler. Valpo will then travel to Milwaukee on Monday before returning
home for league games next Thursday and Saturday against Detroit and
Wright State, respectively.
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 audio will also be available online at
www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have links for live stats and
Back on the Homefront: A return to the ARC might be just what
the doctor ordered for the Crusaders. Prior to this week, Valpo had
played just one game out of its last ten contests on its home court.
The Crusaders are 2-1 in their three contests on the hardwood of the
Athletics-Recreation Center entering this week, improving their home
record at the ARC since the start of the 1993-94 campaign to a robust
Spreading Out the Scoring: The Crusaders have had a
variety of different players contribute in the scoring column during
the early stages of the season. Six different players are averaging
between 6.8 and 10.6 points per game for Valpo in its first ten games.
In addition, eight players have also scored in double figures at least
once so far this year for Valpo, including four players (Buggs, Fumey,
Haskins, Witt) who are in their first season on the court and two more
(Little, Rogers) who are in just their second season.
Taking on Ranked Foes: The Crusaders are no strangers to taking
on teams ranked among the nation’s top-25. Seven times in the past
eight seasons, Valpo has faced at least two top-25 opponents over the
course of the season, and six times, the Crusaders have faced multiple
top-25 teams within a two-week span. While Valpo has not been able to
topple any of those ranked squads in the past eight years, they have
acquitted themselves well in those contests, playing within single
digits of their nationally-ranked opponent seven times.
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. On Dec. 20, Valpo was featured on ESPNU in a showdown with
top-ranked North Carolina. The Crusaders’ contest at Purdue last time
out was broadcast on the Big Ten Network, while their Jan. 30 league
tilt at Butler will be carried on ESPNU.
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.
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.
Igbavboa Leads the Way: Preseason Second Team All-Horizon
League selection Urule Igbavboa has led the way for the Crusaders in
the early stages of the 2008-09 campaign, pacing the team in both
scoring (10.6 ppg) and rebounding (5.3 rpg). The senior is just 53
points shy of reaching the 1,000 point milestone for his career and
also ranks 12th in program history in rebounding. At Purdue, Igbavboa
tied for team-high scoring honors with 13 points and also led the
Crusaders with three assists.
Return of the Masked Man: Playing without his trademark mask in
the first ten games of the season, senior guard Jake Diebler continued
to play his trademark style of basketball in his final year. But that
style resulted in yet another broken nose for Diebler, who suffered the
injury against North Carolina on Dec. 20. But the return of the mask
has not inhibited Diebler’s shooting, as the senior connected on three
triples at Purdue on his way to a team-high 13 points. On the season,
Diebler leads the Crusaders with 18 steals and a 1.8 assist/turnover
Little Hitting the Boards: Sophomore guard Howard Little has
made an impact for the Crusaders on the offensive end this year,
improving his scoring average from 2.4 ppg last year to 7.8 ppg this
season. But more impressively, Little has hit the boards for Valpo
extremely hard, ranking second on the team with an average of 5.0 rpg.
At Purdue on Sunday, the sophomore registered his second double-figure
rebounding output of the season, ripping down ten caroms against the
Immediate Impact: Senior guard Brandon McPherson made his return
to the Crusader lineup Dec. 20 against #1/1 UNC, playing eight minutes
in the first half, scoring two points and dishing out an assist. Two
days later, he moved back into the starting lineup at UCF and led the
way with a team-high 12 points, including three trifectas. McPherson
had missed the first nine games of the season while recovering from
offseason knee surgery, and sat out Valpo’s game at Purdue on Sunday.
Next Year’s Newcomers: Valparaiso has signed a quintet of
players who will join the program for the 2009-2010 season, four of
whom are freshmen and one junior college transfer. The five newcomers
- Ryan Broekhoff, a 6’6” guard from Frankston, Victoria,
Australia. Broekhoff was named Australian Junior National Male Player
of the Year earlier this year and was the MVP of the U20 Australian
- Chris Halvorsen, a 6’8” forward out of Henry Sibley [Minn.] H.S.
Halvorsen helped lead the Warriors to a state championship appearance
last year and was selected to the All-Tournament Team. He also has
twice earned All-Conference honors.
- Matt Kenney, a 6’3” guard out of Mooresville [Ind.] H.S. Kenney
was an honorable mention All-State honoree last year, while also
earning All-Indianapolis Metro West First Team accolades and
- Tommy Kurth, a 6’1” guard out of Penn [Ind.] H.S. Kurth was also
an honorable mention All-State honoree last year and has been ranked as
the #54 point guard in the Class of 2009 by ESPN.com. He has been
among the top-25 scorers in the area the last two years.
- Brandon Wood, a 6’3” guard from Kokomo, Ind. Wood is playing
this year at Highland [Ill.] C.C. after playing just six games last
year at Southern Illinois. A former Indiana All-Star, he is projected
as the top incoming point guard in the Horizon League next year by