First-Place Valpo Hits the Road at IUPUI; Crusaders Own 3-Game Win Streak
Tuesday, January 21, 2003
VALPO (8-7, 3-0) at IUPUI (8-10, 2-1)

WHEN: Thursday, January 23 - 7 p.m. EST (6 p.m. CST)

WHERE: IUPUI Gymnasium, Indianapolis, Indiana.

TV: (tape-delay) - None

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 8-7 in his 1st season. IUPUI is led by Ron Hunter, who has a career mark of 124-120 in his 9th season.

SERIES RECORD: Valpo leads 9-1
LAST MEETING: 2001-02 - Valpo won 88-55 in the Mid-Con Tournament Championship Game.

LAST GAME: Valpo defeated Chicago State 80-48 on Saturday in Valparaiso. IUPUI defeated UMKC 74-65 on Saturday in Kansas City, Missouri.

NEXT UP: Valpo travels to play at Oakland on Saturday at 6 p.m. EST (5 p.m. CST).

After winning its first three Mid-Continent Conference games at the ARC, Valpo (8-7, 3-0 Mid-Con) begins a two-game road swing on Thursday in Indianapolis against IUPUI (8-10, 2-1 Mid-Con). The Crusaders defeated Chicago State 80-48 on Saturday. Stalin Ortiz scored a career-high 25 points and grabbed eight rebounds. The senior from Cali, Colombia made nine of 11 shots. Kikas Gomes and Raitis Grafs added 11 and 10 points, respectively. IUPUI placed five players in double figures in a 74-65 road victory over UMKC last Saturday.

HOMECOURT WIN STREAK RANKS 9th NATIONALLY: Valpo's homecourt win streak of 19 ranks 9th nationally through games of Jan. 20. Brigham Young owns the nation's longest Division I homecourt win streak (44).

CRUSADERS' DEFENSE DOESN'T REST: Over the last four games, Valpo has not allowed its opponents more than 57 points in a game. In consecutive wins, the Crusaders held Southern Utah and Chicago State to 44 and 48 points, respectively. Valpo's defense allowed just 51.0 points per game during the four-game span.

FINISHING STRONG: The Crusaders made 68.8 (33 for 48) of their shots in the second half against Southern Utah and Chicago State. Valpo outscored the Thunderbirds and Cougars a combined 99-49 in the second half.

SHARING THE WEALTH: Quality passing has been a major factor during the Crusaders' three-game win streak. In each of the last two games - against Southern Utah and Chicago State - Valpo passed for 22 assists. Ali Berdiel has averaged 6.0 assists over the last three games, while Greg Tonagel has dished out 5.7 during the win streak.

NIEVES IGNITES CRUSADERS: Roberto Nieves has played a key role during Valpo's last four games. In the win over Southern Utah, he led the Crusaders with 15 points. He also 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 eight of his last 15 treys. The 6'3" junior from Yabucoa, Puerto Rico has averaged 11.8 points over the last four games.

GRAFS HOT AT CHARITY STRIPE: Over the last 10 games, Raitis Grafs has made 80.0 percent (44 for 55) of his free throws.