First-Place Valpo Travels To Play Southern Utah Saturday
Thursday, February 19, 2004
VALPO (13-10, 10-4 Mid-Con) at SOUTHERN UTAH

WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 21 - 8:35 p.m. CST

WHERE: Centrum, Cedar City, Utah

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

TV: (tape-delay) - Comcast Cable - Channel 43 in Valparaiso - Dick Harlan announcing. Airs Feb. 24 at 7 p.m.

THE COACHES: Valparaiso is guided by Homer Drew, who has a career record of 518-316 in his 27th season and a record at Valpo of 249-194 in his 15th season. Southern Utah is led by Bill Evans, who has a career mark of 168-171 in his 12th season and a record at Southern Utah of 168-171 in his 12th season.

SERIES RECORD: Valpo leads 11-4
LAST MEETING: Jan. 24, 2004 - Valpo won 76-69 in Valpo.

LAST GAME: Valpo defeated UMKC 70-60 on Saturday in Valparaiso. Southern Utah lost at Centenary 86-44 on Saturday in Shreveport, Louisiana. The Thunderbirds host Western Illinois on Thursday at 8:05 p.m. CST.

NEXT UP: Valpo plays at Duke next Thursday at 8 p.m. CST on ESPN2.

Winners of nine of its last 10 games, Valpo (13-10, 10-4) is back in first place in the Mid-Continent Conference. On Saturday, the Crusaders oppose Southern Utah in Cedar City, Utah. The Thunderbirds owned 8-15 overall and 4-8 Mid-Con records prior to hosting Western Illinois on Thursday. In the earlier meeting between Valpo and Southern Utah on Jan. 24 in Valparaiso, Ali Berdiel scored 21 points and dished out 10 assists in a 76-69 Crusader victory.

Valpo ran its winning streak to three by defeating UMKC 70-60 last Saturday. Dan Oppland (19 pts., 10 reb.) and Kikas Gomes (17 pts., 10 reb.) recorded double-doubles. The Crusaders, who have two Mid-Con games remaining (March 2 vs. Chicago State), can clinch at least a tie for the regular season championship by winning both contests.

DAN OPPLAND NAMED CoSIDA ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT V: Dan Oppland was selected to the CoSIDA Academic All-District V University Division Team by the district's sports information directors. A 6'8" sophomore forward from St. Louis, Mo./Whitfield, Oppland has earned a 3.436 grade point average in sports management. Oppland leads the Crusaders with 15.5 ppg. He averages 6.9 rpg. and owns a .553 field goal percentage. Oppland's name will now appear on the ballot for Academic All-America.

DAN OPPLAND CONTINUES STELLAR PLAY: Sophomore Dan Oppland, who has demonstrated consistency all season, has been particularly red-hot in recent games. Over the last five games, Oppland has averaged 18.4 ppg., scoring a career-high 23 points vs. Chicago State and 22 each against Western Illinois and Centenary. The 6'8" forward, who leads the team in scoring (15.5 ppg.), has tallied double-figure points in 21 of the 23 games and grabbed twin-digit rebounds five times. He has been impressive in Mid-Con games, averaging 17.3 ppg. and shooting .571 from the field. Oppland stands tied for 2nd overall in the Mid-Con in offensive rebounding (3.04 pg.), 3rd in field goal percentage (.553), tied for 5th in rebounding (6.9 pg.), 7th in free throw percentage (.790) and 9th in scoring.

GOMES NEARING 1,000-POINT MILESTONE: Kikas Gomes is approaching the 1,000-point milestone in his three-plus years career. The senior from Angola, who averages 12.7 ppg., has scored 940 points. Gomes is also climbing Valpo's all-time blocked shots list, ranking 3rd with 102. With 642 career rebounds, Gomes needs three to move into 10th and five to vault into 9th on Valpo's all-time list.

BERDIEL 11th NATIONALLY IN ASSISTS: Ali Berdiel ranks 11th in the nation in assists (6.52 pg.) through Feb. 16. The junior has vaulted up Valpo's all-time charts in assists and steals. Berdiel ranks 7th in assists with 354 and 9th in steals with 133. This season, Berdiel ranks 2nd in the Mid-Con in assists and 2nd in steals (1.96 pg.).

GOMES LEADS MID-CON IN BLOCKED SHOTS; RANKS 2nd IN REBOUNDING: Kikas Gomes leads the Mid-Con in blocked shots (1.96 pg., 45 in 23 games) and stands 2nd in rebounding (9.2 pg.) through Feb. 18. Gomes, who has 10 double-doubles on the season, has blocked 23 shots over the last 10 games.