Valpo & Notre Dame Tip Off 40th Meeting; Crusaders Play At United Center For First Time
Friday, January 3, 2003
VALPO (5-6) vs. NOTRE DAME (11-1)

WHEN: Saturday, January 4 - 1 p.m. CST

WHERE: United Center, Chicago, Illinois

TV: (tape-delay) - WYIN Channel 56 - Dick Harlan and Joe Arredondo announcing. Airs same day at 5 p.m.

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

THE COACHES: Valparaiso is guided by Scott Drew, who has a career record of 5-6 in his 1st season. Notre Dame is led by Mike Brey, who has a career mark of 152-74 in his 8th season.

SERIES RECORD: Notre Dame leads 36-3
LAST MEETING: 1999-00 - Notre Dame won 65-42

LAST GAME: Valpo lost to Missouri 65-47 on Monday in Columbia, Missouri. Notre Dame defeated Vanderbilt 76-63 on Monday in South Bend, Indiana.

NEXT UP: Valpo hosts Western Illinois next Saturday at 7:05 p.m. in the Mid-Continent Conference opener.

On Saturday afternoon, Valpo (5-6) entertains Notre Dame (11-1) at Chicago's United Center in the 40th meeting between the schools on the hardwood. The Crusaders will be playing at the United Center for the first time in school history.

Valpo is coming off a two-game road trip that concluded with Monday's 65-47 loss to Missouri. The Crusaders, who outrebounded the Tigers 31-23, trailed 21-20 at halftime. Stalin Ortiz came off the bench to lead Valpo with 13 points and six rebounds. Kikas Gomes added 12 points, five rebounds and four steals.

Notre Dame owns a seven-game win streak after defeating Vanderbilt on Monday in South Bend. Five Irish tallied double figures, led by Chris Thomas with 19 points. Torin Francis recorded a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Both schools entered the 2002-03 campaign following impressive seasons a year ago. Valpo set a school record with 25 wins while capturing its seventh Mid-Continent Conference regular season and tournament championships. The Crusaders played in their sixth NCAA Tournament. Notre Dame finished 22-11, advancing to the second round of the NCAA tourney before losing a close second-round game to Duke.

Valpo's most recent victories in the series were in 1993 (80-66 at Notre Dame) and 1988 - the "Lutheran Miracle" 71-68 overtime win. The Irish won the last meeting in 1999-00 by a 65-42 score at Notre Dame.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME: A Dec. 23rd victory over Central Michigan extended Valpo's homecourt win streak at the Athletics-Recreation Center to 16.

GRAFS' PLAY HELPS IGNITE VALPO: Senior Raitis Grafs, who was selected as the Mid-Continent Conference Player of the Week for the week ending Dec. 15, has keyed the Crusaders' over the last five games - three of which were wins. The 6'11" center has averaged 18.4 ppg., 4.8 rpg. and 2.1 blocked shots during the stretch.

HOT AT THE STRIPE: Over the last six games, the Crusaders are shooting 74.5 percent from the free throw line, making 114 of 153 charity tosses. Raitis Grafs made 89.2 percent (33 of 37) during that span, while Ali Berdiel (25 for 30) drained 83.3 percent and Seth Colclasure (8 for 8) was perfect at the stripe.