First-Place Valpo Entertains Chicago State; Nieves Continues Hot-Shooting
Friday, January 17, 2003
VALPO (7-7, 2-0) vs. CHICAGO STATE (3-13, 0-3)

WHEN: Saturday, January 18 - 7:05 p.m. CST

WHERE: ARC, Valparaiso, Indiana

TV: (tape-delay) - Channel 43 in Valparaiso - Dick Harlan and Paul Curtis announcing. Airs Jan. 21 at 7 p.m.and Jan. 22 at 12:30 p.m.

RADIO: WEFM (95.9, Michigan City), WVUR-FM (95.1, Valparaiso) - Todd Ickow and Drew Wolf announcing.

THE COACHES: Valparaiso is guided by Scott Drew, who has a career record of 7-7 in his 1st season. Chicago State is led by Bo Ellis, who has a career mark of 23-103 in his 5th season.

SERIES RECORD: Valpo leads 19-1
LAST MEETING: 2001-02 - Valpo won 81-50 in first round of Mid-Con Tournament.

LAST GAME: Valpo defeated Southern Utah 74-44 on Thursday in Valparaiso. Chicago State lost to Western Illinois 75-73 in overtime on Thursday in Macomb, Illinois.

NEXT UP: Valpo travels to play at IUPUI on Thursday at 6 p.m. CST (7 p.m. EST).

Valpo concludes a three-game homestand on Saturday by hosting Chicago State. The Crusaders (7-7, 2-0 Mid-Con) took over first place in the Mid-Continent Conference with Thursday's 74-44 victory over Southern Utah. The win extended Valpo's homecourt win streak to 18.

The Crusaders' defense held Southern Utah scoreless for nearly an eight-minute stretch in the second half and forced the Thunderbirds into 23 total turnovers. Roberto Nieves led Valpo with 15 points, which included three, 3-point baskets. Raitis Grafs added 13 points and nine rebounds, while freshman Dan Oppland tallied a career-high 10 points and grabbed six rebounds.

The Cougars (3-13, 0-3 Mid-Con) are coming off a 75-73 overtime loss at Western Illinois on Thursday.

HOMECOURT WIN STREAK RANKS 9th NATIONALLY: Valpo's homecourt win streak of 18 ranks 9th nationally through games of Jan. 16. Brigham Young owns the nation's longest Division I homecourt win streak (43).

SHARING THE WEALTH: In Thursday's win over Southern Utah, Valpo had assists on 22 of 25 baskets. Greg Tonagel dished out seven assists and Ali Berdiel passed for six.

NIEVES IGNITES CRUSADERS: Roberto Nieves has played a key role during Valpo's last three games. In Thursday's win over Southern Utah, he led the Crusaders with 15 points. Last Saturday, he scored a career-high 16 points and grabbed five rebounds in the win over Western Illinois. Nieves has been red-hot from 3-point land, draining seven of his last 11 treys. The 6'3" junior from Yabucoa, Puerto Rico scored eight of his 11 points in the second half to help Valpo to a strong comeback in a 55-53 loss to Notre Dame on Jan. 4.

VALPO'S SCHEDULE ONE OF NATION'S BEST: Valpo has played the 18th most competitive schedule in the nation, according to the Sagarin Ratings, through games of Jan. 16, and the 28th most difficult slate in the nation, according to the Rating Percentage Index (RPI) on, through games of Jan. 12. The Crusaders have an RPI ranking of 93, the highest in the Mid-Con.

GRAFS HOT AT CHARITY STRIPE: Over the last nine games, Raitis Grafs has made 84.3 percent (43 for 51) of his free throws.