Game #22: February 9, 2008, 1:35 p.m. CST
UIC (8-13, 4-6 Horizon)
at Valpo (10-11, 5-5 Horizon)
Athletic-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Coming Up in Crusader Hoops: Valparaiso will wrap up its four-game homestand on Saturday afternoon as the Crusaders host UIC. The Crusaders are going for the season sweep against the Flames after defeating them earlier this season in Chicago 72-63. Following the contest, Valpo will have five of its final seven games on the road.
On the Air: Saturday’s game against UIC will be carried live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics. Nick Kovatch and Eric Brooks will call all the action live from the ARC. All 29 regular season games will be broadcast live over the internet in addition to many games on the radio. In addition, the game can be viewed live online as part of the Horizon League Network at www.horizonleaguenetwork.tv.
Series Notes: Valparaiso and UIC are meeting for the 28th time in a series that dates back to December 4, 1980. The Crusaders hold a 16-11 series edge and have won the last five meetings against the Flames following a 72-63 victory in Chicago back on January 10 of this season. The Crusaders hold a 9-2 series advantage in the series at Valparaiso, winning the last nine games at the ARC.
Wrapping Up Loyola: Valpo turned the ball over just four times and Aimee Litka had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds as the Crusaders defeated the Ramblers 69-62 at the ARC on Thursday night. Leah Hochstetler hit a three-pointer with 14.9 seconds remaining to put Valpo up five, and helped the Brown and Gold snap a two-game losing skid. Agnieszka Kulaga scored a team-high 16 points while Launa Hochstetler added 15 for the Crusaders.
Scouting UIC: The Flames have won four of their last six games overall despite a 56-48 setback at Butler on Thursday night. UIC is 7-2 at home this season but just 1-11 away from the UIC Pavillion. Jessica Miller is tied for ninth in the Horizon League in scoring, averaging 13.8 points per game. Briana Hinkle adds 12.5 points per night, but has increased her production to 14.7 points per game in Horizon League play. Taylor Manley led the Flames in scoring in the first meeting between the schools, scoring 18 points on six three-pointers. UIC leads the league in rebounding, grabbing 38.5 boards per game and is blocking a league-high 3.86 shots per contest.
Crusaders Limit Turnovers Against Loyola: Valparaiso took care of the basketball in both games against Loyola. Thursday, the Ramblers forced just four Crusader miscues, allowing Valpo to take 15 more shots than Loyola. In the first meeting between the two schools, the Brown and Gold turned the ball over just eight times in Chicago.
From Downtown: Valpo ranks ninth nationally making 7.7 three-pointers per game. Aimee Litka is hitting 2.3 per night, ranking 60th in all of Division I. As a team, the Crusaders are hitting 35.7% from beyond the arc, ranking 45th in the nation, while Litka is 37th individually connecting at 40.5%.
Hochstetler Hits Big Threes: Leah Hochstetler’s three-pointer with 14.9 seconds left against Loyola helped solidify the Crusaders’ victory. It was her second triple in the closing minute to seal the win this season, as she connected with 48 seconds remaining against South Dakota State as Valpo defeated the Jackrabbits by three on December 16.
Litka Registers Second Double-Double: Aimee Litka had her second double-double of the season against the Ramblers, scoring 10 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Two games prior, the junior registered her first career double-double with 17 points and 13 boards against Youngstown State. On the season, Litka has scored in double figures in 19 of 21 games.
Ott Crashes the Glass: Sarah Ott grabbed 10 rebounds against Loyola on Thursday, her third double-figure rebounding night of the season. The redshirt-junior had 10 boards at Xavier (Ohio) and a career-high 12 against Eastern Kentucky during the non-conference season. Ott had three offensive boards against Loyola and leads the team with 31 on the season.
Conference Race Bunched Midway Through: Just two games separate third place from eighth place in the Horizon League standings as the season moves into the second half. The top six seeds get a first round bye, and the top four seeds host quarterfinal games, making each of the final nine games of the conference slate important. Currently, Valpo is in a tie for fifth place, holding a tie-breaker over Butler and Youngstown State. The Crusaders are just one-half game behind Wright State for fourth place and a full game behind Milwaukee for third.
Overtime Success: Valparaiso’s overtime win against Green Bay was the Crusaders’ fourth straight when playing extra sessions. The Crusaders have not dropped an overtime contest since November 21, 2005, a double-overtime affair against Bradley.
Free Throw Shooting Among Nation’s Best: Valpo is currently ranked 11th in NCAA Division I shooting 77.5% from the charity stripe. Individually, Agnieszka Kulaga is 22nd in the country from the line, connecting on 86.6% of her tries.
Kulaga Earns Three League Honors: Agnieszka Kulaga earned her third Horizon League Player of the Week honor on January 21 after averaging 17.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 7.0 assists in two games. Kulaga first earned the award on December 10 after turning in a then career-best 26 points against North Texas in a Crusader victory. She then earned the honor again on January 7 after pouring in a career-high 29 points while adding six steals, six rebounds, and four steals in a victory over Butler.
Making Free Throws in Crunch Time: With the game on the line in the closing minutes, Valparaiso has been solid from the free throw stripe this season. Valpo is shooting 85.1% (57-of-67) as a team from the charity stripe in the game’s final two minutes. Agnieszka Kulaga has been virtually automatic in pressure situations, connecting on 26-of-27 tosses (96.3%) with the clock winding down. She proved her ability in the clutch against Green Bay, sinking three free throws with 0.2 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime.
Home Sweet Home: Valpo has had constant success at the ARC over the past seven years. This season the Crusaders are 7-3 at home and since the beginning of the 2001-2002 campaign, Valpo has posted a 69-19 (.784) record at the ARC.
Hochstetler Named Scholar-Athlete of the Week: Leah Hochstetler was the Horizon League Scholar-Athlete of the Week on December 18. The junior scored all five of her points in the final minute, including the game-winning three-pointer against South Dakota State. In the classroom, Hochstetler has a 3.87 grade point average in nursing.
Valpo Picked Fifth in Horizon League Race: Valparaiso has been tabbed to finish in fifth place in the Horizon League in its inaugural season according to the preseason poll conducted of the league’s head coaches, sports information directors, and selected media outlets. Milwaukee was picked to win the league followed by nine-time defending regular season champion Green Bay.
Valpo Adds Two for Next Year’s Class: Head coach Keith Freeman has signed two players to National Letters of Intent. Lauren Kenney is a 6’0” forward from Moorsville, Ind. who is currently playing at Lincoln Trail College. Sylwia Zabielewicz is a 6’6” center from Warsaw, Poland who is currently playing at Midland College. Both players will have two years of eligibility remaining.