Valparaiso head coach Homer Drew earned his 600th career victory in easy fashion Friday evening at the Athletics-Recreation Center, as the Crusaders led from start to finish in a 71-47 win over Loyola.
Drew becomes the eighth current Division I head coach (at least five years DI experience) to reach the 600-win milestone, and is just the 32nd Division I coach all-time (at least ten years D1 experience) to reach the plateau. Drew is in his 32nd year as a collegiate coach and his 20th overall at Valparaiso. He earned 252 wins during an 11-year stint to open his head coaching career at Bethel [Ind.], won 17 games in one season at the helm of IU-South Bend, and has won 331 contests to date at Valpo.
“600 is just a number, it’s just a testament to the quality of players and assistant coaches I’ve had that have allowed me to coach this long,” said Drew. “Our team has had the courage to get better throughout this season even though we’ve been struggling, and I’m really happy for our guys because this win gives us a chance to still host a home conference tournament game. Thanks to the loyal fans and students who have kept coming out this year and kept supporting us as we constantly get better.”
The outcome was really never in doubt from the beginning, as the Crusaders raced out to a 13-2 lead within the first 7:30 of the game. De’Andre Haskins (Long Beach, Calif./La Lumiere [Ind.] School) and Erik Buggs (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell) each got fast-break layups off of steals in the first 1:11 to jump-start the game. Freshman walk-on Andrew Ferry (Milwaukee, Wis./Milwaukee Lutheran), seeing his earliest action of the year, and Howard Little (Chicago, Ill./Stoneridge [Calif.] School) knocked down triples in a three-possession span later in the run, which was capped with a Cameron Witt (Launceston, Tasmania, Australia/Launceston) layup with 12:31 remaining in the half.
“I thought we really started the game well,” said Drew. “We have been working hard in practice all week and have had a number of very good practices, and that translated into the start of the game tonight.”
Loyola would cut the lead to seven points at 15-8 with 9:23 to play in the opening stanza, but Little hit another trifecta to push the lead back to ten. The advantage remained around ten points for the remainder of the half, until the Crusaders got triples from Michael Rogers (Kingston, Jamaica/Redemption [N.Y.] Christian) and Jake Diebler (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) on their final two possessions to make it 33-19 at the break.
Valpo continued to push coming out of the locker room, opening the second half on a 6-2 spurt, capped by another Diebler 3-pointer, to make it an 18-point game. The Crusaders had the advantage up to 20 points with 12:14 to play, but Loyola had one big run left in it. The Ramblers went on an 11-1 run over the next four minutes, getting eight points from Jordan Hicks during the stretch, to cut Valpo’s lead to 51-41 with 8:19 to play.
But one more quick spurt would salt the game away in the Crusaders’ favor. Buggs split a pair from the free throw line with 8:06 remaining, got a rebound on the defensive end, and then found himself open in the corner for a 3-pointer off a feed by Urule Igbavboa (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan). On the next defensive trip, Igbavboa blocked a shot, corralled the rebound and found Little ahead of the pack for a fast-break layup to push the lead back out to 57-41 with 7:20 to play. Loyola got no closer than 14 points the rest of the way.
Little led the Crusader effort with 17 points, including a perfect 3-of-3 from behind the arc, and also registered five rebounds and four steals. Rogers added 12 points and ten rebounds off the bench for his third double-double of the season, while the balanced scoring attack saw five other Valpo players score at least seven points.
“Howard has really been practicing a lot with his shot, and I think it shows, as he’s shooting the ball the best he’s shot it since he arrived here,” said Drew. “Not only that, his defensive effort remains magnificent. He is constantly getting his hands into passing lanes and getting deflections and steals that lead to baskets on the other end.”
Diebler, who finished with eight points, four rebounds and three assists, set a new Valpo Division I record with his 92nd The senior has started every single game since the beginning of his sophomore year. Diebler also had his streak of consecutive minutes played, believed to be a Crusader all-time record, broken at 278 when he was removed with 1:41 to play. straight start, surpassing former Crusader great Dan Oppland.
Hicks led Loyola (12-15, 4-11 Horizon) with 11 points, while Darrin Williams added ten points. Justin Cerasoli, who poured in 28 points in the first meeting between the two squads, was limited to just two points on 1-of-6 shooting by the Crusader defense Friday.
Valparaiso (7-18, 4-10 Horizon) moved into seventh place alone in the league standings with Friday’s win, and will attempt to move closer to sixth position and a possible home tournament game when the Crusaders suit up Sunday at the ARC at 3 p.m. to face UIC. As always, all the action can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City) and online at www.valpoathletics.com. The game can also be seen throughout Chicagoland on Lakeshore Public Television. Live video and statistics will also be available through the official Crusader website.