VALPO (9-9, 6-3 Mid-Con) at WESTERN ILLINOIS (3-17, 1-7 Mid-Con)
WHEN: Saturday, Jan. 31 - 8 p.m. CST
WHERE: Western Hall, Macomb, Illinois
RADIO: WEFM (95.9, Michigan City), WVUR-FM (95.1, Valparaiso) - Todd Ickow and Andy Viano announcing.
THE COACHES: Valparaiso is guided by Homer Drew, who has a career record of 514-315 in his 27th season and a record at Valpo of 245-193 in his 15th season. Western Illinois is led by Derek Thomas, who has a career mark of 3-17 in his 1st season and a record at WIU of 3-17 in his 1st season.
SERIES RECORD: Valpo leads 27-24
LAST MEETING: Jan. 17, 2004 - Valpo won 73-57 at Valpo
LAST GAME: Valpo defeated Oakland 77-72 on Thursday in Valparaiso. Western Illinois lost to Centenary on Thursday in Macomb, Illinois.
NEXT UP: Valpo travels to play at Centenary on Thursday at 7:05 p.m.
Riding a five-game win streak, Valpo (9-9, 6-3 Mid-Con) begins a three-game road stretch by traveling to Western Illinois (3-17, 1-7) for an 8 p.m. Saturday matchup. The contest marks the second meeting between the Crusaders and Leathernecks as Valpo won the earlier game 73-57 in Valparaiso on Jan. 17. The Crusaders are coming off a 77-72 victory over Oakland on Thursday. Kikas Gomes and Roberto Nieves led Valpo with 16 points each. Western Illinois lost 75-72 to Centenary on Thursday in Macomb, Illinois.
DUSTING OFF THE OLDIES: On Thursday, senior Greg Tonagel played his first game of the season. Tonagel, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, played 17 minutes, scoring five points and converting two free throws with 10 seconds left to secure the win over Oakland. The 6'3" guard was pressed into service due to several injuries to Valpo's backcourt.
BERDIEL 11th NATIONALLY IN ASSISTS: Ali Berdiel ranks 11th in the nation in assists through games of Jan. 26, according to the NCAA statistics. Through games of Jan. 30 , Berdiel ranks 2nd in the Mid-Con in assists with 6.61 per game (119 in 18 games) and 5th in steals (1.9 pg.).In the last six games, Berdiel has provided solid numbers in several areas. The 6'6" junior has averaged 16.5 ppg., 8.3 assists and 3.3 rpg. during the stretch.
DAN OPPLAND PLAYING AT HIGH LEVEL: Sophomore Dan Oppland has been the model of consistency. The 6'8" forward, who leads the team in scoring (14.7 ppg.), has tallied double-figure points in 17 of the 18 games and grabbed twin-digit rebounds three times. He has been particularly impressive in Mid-Con games, averaging 16.7 ppg. and shooting .571 from the field. Oppland stands 2nd overall in the Mid-Con in offensive rebounding (3.17 pg.), 4th in field goal percentage (.547), 7th in rebounding (6.7 pg.) and 10th in free throw percentage (.794).
GOMES LEADS MID-CON IN REBOUNDS, BLOCKED SHOTS; STANDS 15th NATIONALLY IN BOARDS: Kikas Gomes ranks 15th among all NCAA Divsion I players in rebounding through games of Jan. 26. Gomes, who has nine double-doubles on the season, leads the Mid-Con in both rebounding (9.7 pg.) and blocked shots (2.0 pg., 36 in 18 games) through Jan. 30. Gomes has blocked 14 shots over the last five games.
VALPO LEADS MID-CON IN TWO DEFENSIVE CATEGORIES: The Crusaders have played solid defense this season as evidenced by their leadership of two Mid-Con categories. Valpo tops the league in field goal percentage defense (.415) and 3-point field goal percentage defense (.307).