VALPO (3-4) vs. BELMONT (3-5)
WHEN: Friday, December 20 - 7:05 p.m. CST
WHERE: ARC, Valparaiso, Indiana
TV: (tape-delay) - Channel 43 in Valparaiso - Dick Harlan and Paul Curtis announcing. Airs Dec. 21 at 12:30 p.m. and Dec. 23 at 12:30 p.m.
RADIO: WEFM (95.9, Michigan City), WVUR-FM (95.1, Valparaiso) - Todd Ickow and Tim Harwood announcing.
THE COACHES: Valparaiso is guided by Scott Drew, who is 3-4 in his 1st season. Belmont is led by Rick Byrd, who has a career mark of 424-241 in his 22nd season.
SERIES RECORD: Valpo leads 7-1
LAST MEETING: 2001-02 - Belmont won 74-72
LAST GAME: Valpo defeated Samford 87-79 in double overtime on Saturday in Valparaiso. Belmont lost to Purdue 78-61 on Wednesday in West Lafayette, Ind.
NEXT UP: Valpo hosts Central Michigan on Monday at 7:05 p.m.
On Friday, Valpo entertains Belmont in the second of a three-game homestand. The Crusaders (3-4) are coming off final exams and a thrilling 87-79 double-overtime victory over Samford last Saturday. Stalin Ortizís length-of-the-court drive and layup with less than a second left in the first overtime, sent the game into double overtime. Raitis Grafs scored a season-high 28 points, which included making 11 of 12 free throws.
Belmont (3-5), like Samford, is a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference. Last season, the Bruins defeated Valpo 74-72. Grafs scored 13 points in that contest, while Kikas Gomes and Ortiz had 10 each. Valpo leads the all-time series 7-1.
GRAFS NAMED MID-CON PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Senior Raitis Grafs was selected as the Mid-Continent Conference Player of the Week. The 6'11" center scored a season-high 28 points to lead Valpo to the 87-79 double-overtime win over Samford last Saturday. He drained 11 of 12 free throws and made 8 of 15 shots from the field against the Bulldogs. On Wednesday, Grafs led the Crusaders with 15 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots in a road loss to Wisconsin-Milwaukee. For the week, Grafs averaged 21.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks, while shooting .591 (13-22) from the floor and an outstanding .889 (16-18) at the free throw line.
LAPORTE HOMECOMING: LaPorte's Greg Tonagel will be facing some old teammates when the Crusaders host Belmont tonight. Steve Drabyn and Nick Otis, also LaPorte High graduates, are both major contributors for the Bruins.
OWNING OVERTIME: Valpoís double-overtime win over Samford Saturday was the programís 7th straight overtime victory. Over its last 15 overtime games, Valpo has won 14. The last time Valpo was involved in a game of two-or-more overtimes was in 1995, a triple-overtime win over Western Illinois to capture the Mid-Con Tournament title.
HOT AT THE STRIPE: Over the last two games, the Crusaders are shooting 81.1 percent from the free throw line, making 52 of 64 charity tosses. Raitis Grafs made 88.9 percent (16 of 18) during that span, while Ali Berdiel (8 for 8) and Seth Colclasure (8 for 8) were perfect at the stripe.