VALPO (2-5) at #1 ILLINOIS (9-0)
WHEN: Sunday, December 19 - 4 p.m. CT
WHERE: Assembly Hall, Champaign-Urbana, 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 525-324 in his 28th season and a record at Valpo of 256-202 in his 16th season. Illinois is led by Bruce Weber, who has a career mark of 138-61 in his 7th season and a record at Illinois of 35-7 in his 2nd season.
SERIES RECORD: Illinois leads 4-0
LAST MEETING: 1998-99 - Illinois won 53-49
Valpo, winners of two straight, travels to play Illinois - the #1-ranked team in the nation - on Sunday beginning at 4 p.m. in the second game of the Las Vegas Holiday Classic. The Crusaders are coming off a 74-61 victory over Northwestern State (La.) on Thursday in the first game of the Holiday Classic. The Fighting Illini (9-0) last played Dec. 11, defeating Oregon 83-66 at the United Center in Chicago.
Following Christmas, Valpo (2-5) journeys to Tempe to play in the Arizona State Hoops Classic Dec. 28-29. The Crusaders play Penn State on the first day and will be matched up with either Arizona State or Long Island on the second day. Immediately after the game on Dec. 29, Valpo will travel to Las Vegas and will face Northern Iowa on Dec. 30 at 9 p.m. PT and Longwood on Dec. 31 at 11 a.m. PT to conclude the Las Vegas Holiday Classic.
MATCHUP VERSUS #1 - SECOND TIME: Sunday's game against top-ranked Illinois marks the second time that Valpo has faced the #1 ranked team in the nation. In 1979-80, top-ranked DePaul, featuring Mark Aguirre, visited Valpo's old Hilltop Gym and defeated the Crusaders 95-71.
VALPO M.A.S.H. UNIT: Homer Drew has been forced to juggle a unit that has been besieged with injuries this season. Three players - senior point guard Ali Berdiel (5), freshman Shawn Huff (2) and sophomore Kenny Harris (1) have missed a total of eight games due to injuries.
OPPLAND NAMED MID-CON CO-PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Dan Oppland was selected as the Mid-Continent Conference Co-Player of the Week. A junior from St. Louis, Mo./Whitfield, Oppland averaged 22.5 points and 10.0 rebounds in two games last week.
VALPO's SCHEDULE: 23rd TOUGHEST IN THE NATION: According to the Sagarin Ratings through games of Dec. 16, Valpo's schedule is the 23rd most difficult in the nation.
MILES LEADS MID-CON IN FREE THROW %; OPPLAND STANDS 2nd: Sophomore Jimmie Miles leads the Mid-Continent Conference in free throw percentage through games of Dec. 16. Miles has converted .926 of his charity tosses (25-27). Dan Oppland stands 2nd with an .848 mark (39-46). As a team, Valpo is 14th nationally in free throw % (.779).