This Thursday at Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri, the first of my two "annual random sporting events" was held between the Valparaiso Crusaders and the Kangaroos of Missouri-Kansas City. Since I was unable to actually go to Kansas City, I linked up with the Valparaiso webcast so I could still keep up with the game. Before I opened up the link though, I wanted to do some research on the game, with a little perspective from both teams. (The sites were here
The first thing I found was that the two top players for Valpo, Brandon McPherson
and Urule Igbavboa
were, well, funny looking. Moustaches are, apparently, encouraged at Valpo. On the other side of the ball, Quinton Day was the player to watch. He won the last meeting between these two teams on a last minute shot. It was the Kangaroos fourth straight win against Valparaiso.
The big storylines heading into the game included the heartbeaking loss the previous season for Valparaiso, but at coming into the game the Crusaders were on a three game win streak, going against the Kangaroos who had dropped their last 3. Also, this was the last time these two Mid-Continent conference foes would do battle in Kansas City, as Valparaiso was leaving for the Horizon league the next season. That's about where the Valparaiso preview article rightfully ended. UMKC decided to fill us with several completely useless facts. For example:UMKC is 5-0 when it scores more than 80 points this season. However, the team is 0-5 this season when it allows 80 or more points.
UMKC is now 3-5 when its bench outscores the opponent's bench and 4-7 when it has more rebounds. The Kangaroo reserves are averaging 18.7 points and 11.9 rebounds per game this season, while the opponent bench players are averaging 25.9 points and 10.0 rebounds.
Junior Tim Blackwell moved into 20th place on the all-time career scoring chart in UMKC history with his eight point performance vs. Central Arkansas on Dec. 16. The Cameron, Mo., native has scored 611 points in his career in Blue and Gold. Blackwell now sits 20 points behind Travis Salmon for 19th place in the record books.
Yeah.. none of that really told us anything except "They have too much time on their hands in Kansas City." Other notes about the Valpo squad, (since they weren't volunteered): They have two Finns on the roster, Samuel Haanpaa, a freshman guard, and, uh, Shawn Huff, a guard/forward in his junior year. Now that I had been primed, I was ready for action.
I flipped the game on early so I could catch some of the pregame analysis from the guys at the Valpo studio at 95, the Source. Immediately, I was greeted by four commercials. One for Domino's, one for Culver's, another for Jimmy John's, and a finale one for a place called Buffalouie's. These were commercials I was well served to get used to. Not another was played for the rest of the game. However, at the beginning of the game, I found out that the broadcast actually had 23 sponsors. Twenty three. This should have been a high quality feed.
One of the pregame guys, who sounded a lot like Dauber from Coach, reminded us of the tough defeat at the hands of UMKC the previous year. They then cut to an interview with Valpo assistent coach Luke Gore, who revealed that the key to stopping Quinton Day was pleying defense. Thanks for the insight. Can we finally tip-off?
Yes we can. The Crusaders start Haanpaa, Igbavboa, Huff, McPherson and Jake Diebler. The Roos start Brent Stephens, Dee Ayuba, Alex Pledger, Day, and Dane Rumagin. That offensively dynamic UMKC squad started the game with what every team wants. A shot clock violation. Back the other way, Haanpaa nails a three and the Roos get a 5 second violation on the inbound. Things weren't going the way of the marsupial. Fortunately for UMKC, Valpo was missing their early, open shots and key player Igbavboa found himself in early foul trouble. Heading into the first break, it was 5-1 Valparaiso. Diebler had bottled Day up, and Ayuba had UMKCs only point.
Right out of the break, Valpo picked up a shot clock violation. The offense in this game has been incredible. It's like a 6th grade girls game. The problem, of course, is that Valparaiso is struggling against the zone. Going the other way, however, Valpo's man defense was suffocating, and going into the second break, the Roos still didn't have a field goal. Fortunately for them, Huff and Igbavboa were already in foul trouble, UMKC was already in the bonus and Valpo wasn't hitting any shots either. It was 10-4 halfway through the first half.
The theme of the night was shot clock violations on coming out of breaks, and sure enough, UMKC showed their offensive prowess, getting the shot clock violation again. Adding injury to insult, going the other way Igbavboa got up for a lay up and kneed Pledger in the ribcage. Pledger, naturally, was called for the blocking foul (pretty much the last of the game). Indeed, within the next couple of minutes, both Huff and McPherson were called for charging fouls. It was Huff's third. Additionally, Igbavboa picked up a technical foul for hanging on the rim after dunking on a fast break. But then something happened. 11:50 into the game, Brumagin scored the first field goal for the Roos, then Igbavboa answered on the other end, and then Blackwell (watchout Travis Salmon!) hit a three. It was offense! If the teams were going to play on both ends of the court, however, it was bad news for Valpo, who were playing a very reckless brand of basketball. At the third break, it was 18-9 Valpo.
Right after we were given this horrifyig stat, UMKC 2/11 from the field and 8/12 from the line, Valpo naturally had a shot clock violation. Naturally. UMKC was the one in control now, scoring the first six points out of the break. Valparaiso was struggling to find an effective offense in the second part of the first half, and Day was beginning to wear Diebler down. Things were looking up for the Roos! Especially since, with about three minutes to go in the first half, they were down by three at 20-17. Dee Ayuba would late make it 20-19.
The thing the Roos didn't count on, however, was the bench of Valpo, who was clearly a deeper entity than that of UMKC. Calum McCleod was strong off the bench. In fact, at this point in the game, McCleod, Moussa Mbaye, and Arden Skoglund, all off the bench, had half of Valpo's points. Two bigger stories at this point in the game though were Shwn Huff, who was confined to the bench due to foul trouble and the ineffectiveness of Day.
Fortunately for Day, the Roos were beginning to figure it out without him, as Jeremiah Hartsock got a bucket to pull the Roos within one. then Diebler got his third foul, which threatened to give Day the opening he needed if Diebler spent a lot of time on the bench. Going into the break, however, UMKC was actually whistled for a foul, as McPherson made the three point play. At halftime, it was 27-22, Valparaiso.
At this point, Valpo's Mbaye and Igbavboa lead their team with 6. Ayuba, at the same total, leads the Roos. Valpo is dominating on the boards and off the bench, but UMKC is holding onto the ball and has comitted half as many fouls.
Starting the second half, momentum immediately swings to the Roos. Diebler quickly picked up his 4th personal foul as the home team went on a 7-0 run to take the lead. Calum McLeod decided this was a situation only a 7 foot reserve from New Zealand could solve, so he scored on the next trip to tie the game. He did it again on the next trip to put Valpo back out front. UMKC called a timeout. It's been a completely different game in the second half. I fully expect Quinton Day to turn it on with Diebler on the bench.
Coming out of the break, McPherson steals it from Hartsock to put the Crusaders back in the lead. It's one of the few flashes we've seen from our moustachioed friend at htis point. Going the other way, Ayuba was whistled for UMKC's first (finally) offensive foul. As if on cue, Mcleod picked up a charge at the other end. But that takes nothing away from the monster game he's had thus far. He becomes the first player to reach double digits for either team before scoring dries up at 37-35.
Coming out of the second break of the half, Rumigen ran over McPherson on the baseline, sending the announcers into a tizzy. Old Todd Ickow is now getting worked up. His Crusaders are taking the wrong end of some lopsided foul calling and now, finally, Ickow is speaking out. Jarryd Lloyd breaks the scoring doldrums for both teams with a three and UMKC calls a timeout as the
Crusaders take a 42-35 lead.
Valparaiso is missing a lot of shots again. There is no reason they shouldn't be running away with this one, as their defense has been wonderful. Oh, wait. Huff fouls out. Foul trouble. That's one of the reasons they aren't up by 73, like they should be. Needless to say, Ickow is furious.
When the Crusaders got the ball back, there was no doubt they were trying to slow the game down and eat some clock. They didn't want to put the ball in Quinton Day's hands. Even though he had only gone 3/11, he's a streaky player, and Valpo was better served by not having the ball in his hands. In the mean time, however, the best starter for either team, Ayuba, scored his 14th point. Momentum is turning, as Lloyd gets whistled for a charge and the UMKC zone is confounding Valparaiso. The momentum almost turned back to the Crusaders as Mbaye made a good defensive play on Day, but Diebler fouled out on the next possession, sending Ickow into a frenzy. Says Ickow: "Put your whistle in your pocket on that one. He was 2 feet away from Quinton Day!"
All right then. He also says that the 5th foul calls against the two starters that are now out were "absolute no calls."
Clearly, the Kangaroos are catching all the breaks now, and they have pulled to within two. Blackwell is holding McPherson at bay, while Igbavboa is carrying the team. He tips one in to give himself a double double, but Hartsock quickly scores on the other end. UMKC has all the momentum now at 46-44.
Then, coming out of the break, the game reverts back to the sloppy turnover fest it was earlier, and Brian Gettinger slaps the ball away from Haanpaa. Day gets the break and is fouled by Igbavboa, infuriating Ickow again. At the other end, Lloyd missed the front end of a 1 and 1, but McCleod rebounded and was fouled. With 40 seconds left, he hit both free throws. The Crusaders allowed too much time as the Roos tied it on an Ayuba lay-in. We're going to OT! Kudos if you've made it this far.
Immediately into the overtime period, Calum McCleod hits a three. He's made shots at all the key times in this one. UMKC's offense is stuck again, and they are only scoring free throws. Igbavboa gets a dunk, the Roos turn it over and Haanpaa got a free throw to put the Crusaders up by four, essentially putting the nail in the coffin. The Crusaders win, 56-52. My players of the game were Urule Igbavboa and Calum McCleod, but Dee Ayuba should get special mention.
Hopefully for the next game I'll actually be in Philadelphia for the Temple-St. Bonaventure game, so I will have more impressions of the evening and less play-by-play so the post will be, well, shorter. - Ryan