The Matchup: Valparaiso looks to make it two wins in a row as it takes the floor for a rare Sunday afternoon matinee at the Athletics-Recreation Center against UIC.
Series History: UIC enters Sunday with a 28-10 advantage in the all-time series over Valpo, and has won the last two meetings with the Crusaders, including a 77-52 win in Chicago earlier this season on Jan. 15. Valpo led by as many as seven points in the first half, but the Flames put together an extended 30-6 run spanning halftime to take control. Howard Little paced the Crusaders, who were playing with just seven scholarship players due to injuries, with 15 points and seven rebounds on the night. Cameron Witt, making his first career start, added ten points, as did Michael Rogers.
Last Time Out: 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. 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. Loyola would get no closer than seven points the rest of the way, and while the Ramblers had an 11-1 run to cut the deficit to ten midway through the second half, Valpo responded with six straight points to put away the game. Howard 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. Michael 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.
Following the Crusaders: Today’s game can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, a three-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; and WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso. 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. Lakeshore Public Television will also be broadcasting the game live throughout Chicagoland with Dick Harlan and Joe Arredondo providing the call. Live audio will also be available online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have links for live stats and video through the Horizon League Network.
Drew Reaches 600: Head coach Homer Drew earned his 600th career victory with the win over Loyola Friday. 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.
Efficient Offensively: The Crusaders knocked down 51.1% of their shots from the field on Friday, just the fourth time this year they’ve surpassed 50% from the floor. They also connected on 42.1% from behind the arc, their second-best performance from downtown this season. Valpo spread around the production as well, as seven different players scsored at least seven points against the Ramblers, including a season-high seven points in 11 minutes from freshman walkon Andrew Ferry.
Home is Where the Wins Are: The return home to the Athletics-Recreation Center got the Crusaders back in the win column Friday, improving Valpo to 6-4 this year at the ARC. Since the start of the 1993-94 campaign, Valpo is 168-35 (.828) on its home court. This year’s squad is averaging 66.4 points per game at home vs. 55.9 ppg away from the ARC and is hitting 43.9% of their shots from the field at home as opposed to 39.1% away from home.
One Streak Continues, Another Ends: Senior guard Jake Diebler set a new Valpo Division I record on Friday evening, making his 92nd straight start for the Crusaders, surpassing former Crusader great Dan Oppland. 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. He had not come off the floor since the end of the UIC game Jan. 15.
Akron the Foe: Akron will be the opponent on Saturday 21st at the ARC in a matchup derived from the ESPNU BracketBusters pool. The Crusaders have earned wins in each of their previous two home games in the event, defeating Niagara and Miami (Ohio).
National Audience Watches Valpo: After appearing on national television seven times during the 2007-08 campaign, Valparaiso has made three national TV appearances this year. Valpo was featured in a showdown with top-ranked North Carolina on ESPNU on Dec. 20. The Crusaders’ contest at Purdue Dec. 28 was broadcast on the Big Ten Network, while their game last Friday evening at Butler was shown live on ESPNU as well.
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.
Little Leads the Way: Sophomore guard Howard Little has now scored in double figures in seven of Valpo’s last eight games after his team-leading 17 points on Friday against Loyola, the sixth time this year he has paced the Crusaders in the scoring category. Second on the team in scoring (9.6 ppg) and third in rebounding (4.8 rpg), Little ranks second in the league in 3-point percentage (.443) and seventh in field goal percentage (.462).
Igbavboa Does It All: Senior forward Urule Igbavboa has always excelled at scoring and rebounding for Valpo, as evidenced by his placements in the top-20 and top-10, respectively, all-time in those categories, but has added the role of offensive distributor to his resume this year. Igbavboa put up a very typical line of nine points, seven rebounds and four assists against Loyola, and currently leads the Crusaders in scoring (11.5 ppg) and rebounding (5.8 rpg). He also paces Valpo in league play in assists (2.9 apg) and is tied for seventh in the Horizon League in league games in the category.
Rogers Produces Off the Bench: Sophomore guard Michael Rogers came off the bench against Loyola for just the third time this season and made the most of his 33 minutes of action, scoring 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting and pulling down ten rebounds for his third double-double of the season. Rogers ranks third on the team in scoring (8.9 ppg) and second in rebounding (4.9 rpg).
Next Year’s Newcomers: Valparaiso will have six new players on the roster next year, four of whom are freshmen, one junior college transfer and one transfer. The six newcomers are:
- 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 national championship.
- 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.
- Beas Hamga, a 7’0” center who transferred to Valpo from UNLV. Hamga started classes in the spring semester, making him eligible to play at the end of the fall semester next year. The native of Cameroon was ranked 26th in the country in his high school class by Rivals.com, where he was rated a five-star recruit.
- 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 All-Conference honors.
- 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. Wood took part in the Indiana North/South All-Star Classic following his senior year and is projected as the top incoming point guard in the Horizon League next year by Rivals.com.