VALPO (12-8, 6-1) at WESTERN ILLINOIS (6-13, 2-5)
WHEN: Saturday, February 8 - 7:30 p.m. CST
WHERE: Western Hall, Macomb, Illinois
TV: (tape-delay) - None
RADIO: WEFM (95.9, Michigan City), WVUR-FM (95.1, Valparaiso) - Todd Ickow and Andrew Stem announcing.
THE COACHES: Valparaiso is guided by Scott Drew, who has a career record of 12-8 in his 1st season. Western Illinois is led by Jim Kerwin, who has a career mark of 134-166 in his 11th season.
SERIES RECORD: Valpo leads 25-24
LAST MEETING: 1-11-03 - Valpo won 74-57 in Valparaiso.
LAST GAME: Valpo defeated Charlotte 73-59 on Tuesday in Valparaiso. Western Illinois lost to Oral Roberts 87-77 last Saturday in Macomb, Illinois.
NEXT UP: Valpo travels to play at Chicago State on Thursday at 7 p.m.
The second half of the Mid-Continent Conference season begins Saturday as first-place Valpo (12-8, 6-1 Mid-Con) journeys to Macomb to play Western Illinois (6-13, 2-5 Mid-Con). The Crusaders won the first meeting between the teams 74-57 on Jan. 11 in Valparaiso. Raitis Grafs and Roberto Nieves topped Valpo with 16 points each in the contest.
The Crusaders are coming off a 73-59 victory over Charlotte on Tuesday. Stalin Ortiz scored a career-high 29 points, draining four-of-four from 3-point territory. Grafs added 17 points. Dan Oppland grabbed a team-high seven rebounds off the bench.
Western Illinois, currently on a four-game losing streak, has not played since last Saturday. The Leathernecks dropped an 87-77 contest to Oral Roberts in Macomb.
GRAFS CONTINUES TO ROLL: Raitis Grafs, who earned Mid-Con Player of the Week honors on Jan. 27, has continued his stellar play. In the last five games, Grafs has averaged 22.0 points and 6.0 rebounds. In an 84-71 win over Oral Roberts, the 6'11" senior scored 29 points. He added 24 points last Saturday against UMKC. Over the last three games, Grafs made 27 of 41 shots (.659).
MORE GRAFS: With 1,468 career points, Raitis Grafs has moved into 8th place on Valpo's all-time scoring list. The native of Riga, Latvia is 3rd on the school's all-time rebounding list with 782. Grafs, Valpo's all-time blocked shots leader, now has 202.
TONAGEL LEADS MID-CON IN ASSIST/TURNOVER RATIO: Greg Tonagel tops the Mid-Con in assist/turnover ratio through games of Feb. 5. The 6'3" senior has earned a 3.0 ratio, averaging 3.9 assists and 1.3 turnovers per contest.
ORTIZ ON HOT STREAK: Stalin Ortiz, who is coming off a career-high 29 points against Charlotte, has averaged 19.0 points and 6.8 rebounds per game over the last six games. The senior from Cali, Colombia also recorded his first career double-double with 14 points and a career-high 12 rebounds against UMKC.
THE ROAD AWAITS: Beginning with Saturday's game at Western Illinois, Valpo will play three straight road contests. The Crusaders play at Chicago State on Thursday (7 p.m.) before travelling to Southern Utah for next Saturday's game (8:35 p.m. CST, 7:35 p.m. MST).