LONGWOOD (3-13) at VALPARAISO (7-4, 2-1 Mid-Con)
WHEN: Saturday, January 7 at 7:05 p.m.
WHERE: Valparaiso, Ind. ? Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000)
RADIO: Valpo Sports Radio Network (95.1 FM, WVUR, 95.9 FM, WEFM, and 1500 AM, WAKE). Todd Ickow will handle the play-by-play with Brent Whitlock providing the color commentary.
THE COACHES: Valparaiso is led by Homer Drew, who is in his 29th season of coaching, and 17th with the Crusaders. He is 545-340 overall and 276-217 at Valpo. Longwood is led by Mike Gillian who is 9-65 in his third season overall and with the Lancers.
BEHIND THE SERIES: The Crusaders and Lancers, in the process of a Division I reclassification, first met last season at the Las Vegas Holiday Classic. Valpo won that game 75-68, getting 22 points from Dan Oppland, on the final day of a four game in four day stretch. The teams met again 18 days ago in Farmville, Va., when the Brown and Gold hung on late for an exciting 82-79 win. The Lancers turned a halftime deficit into a second half lead, but saw Ron Howard and Oppland bring Valpo back to win. Tonight will be series' first game at the ARC.
LAST TIME OUT: The Crusader offense clicked into high gear and put up a Division I season-high in points on their way to a 95-64 win over Oakland Monday night at the ARC. Sophomores Jarryd Loyd and Shawn Huff each had career nights in the first half Monday, with Loyd hitting two more three-pointers (four) in the first 20 minutes than he had all season coming in. Loyd finished with 14 points, and Huff set a career-high with 18 points on four triples of his own. Valpo set a season-high by making 13 three-pointers and committed a season-low 11 turnovers in the win.
NO, YOU SHOOT IT: Monday night also accentuated Valpo's unselfish play this season, with the Crusaders getting 23 assists on 29 baskets. The Brown and Gold lead the conference, averaging 18.5 per game, and rank 17th nationally in assists. This season, the Crusaders have gotten helpers on 64.4% of their field goals, and broke a school record Nov. 28 against IUSB with 36 total assists.
RUNNIN' AND GUNNIN': Not coincidentally, the Crusaders' increased emphasis on sharing the ball has been accompanied by a big boost in scoring. After an ugly loss at home to UMKC on Dec. 27, the Brown and Gold have burned up the nets, scoring 194 points, shooting 47.5% from the field and connecting on 21-of-39 three-pointers. The increased scoring can also be attributed to Valpo's full-court pressure defense, which has racked up 21 steals and forced 36 turnovers in their last two games, both wins. Through 11 games this season, the Crusaders are scoring 78.4 points per game, first in the Mid-Con and 47th in the country.
CRUSADER KIDS CLUB: Valparaiso University and Family Express unveiled the Crusader Kids Club earlier this week, an opportunity for area youth age 12 and under to attend up to 14 Crusader home men's and women's basketball games for free. Interested kids can sign up online at www.familyexpress.com by clicking on the ?What's New" tab located at the top of the page.
MISTER TOP 10: Dan Oppland's 17 points Monday night pulled the senior into the career top 10 in scoring, surpassing John Wolfenberg's total of 1,430 points. Already in the top 10 in rebounds, the Saint Louis native is one of five Crusaders in the top 10 all-time in both points and rebounds, joining Jim Ford, Harry Bell, Raitis Grafs and Lubos Barton. Oppland is about to pass Ford in both points and rebounds, sitting five points and eight rebounds behind the forward, who played at Valpo from 1985-89. Oppland also sits in the top 10 all-time in field goal percentage, making 52.3% of his attempts throughout is career. The senior can join another exclusive class if he finishes this season shooting above 50% (he's currently at 52.8%). Only Antti Nikkila and Raitis Grafs have made at least 50% of their shots each of their four years in a Valpo uniform.
HUFF AND PUFF: Shawn Huff's hard work during the off-season has paid dividends during the first portion of this season. The sophomore, who played for the Finnish National Team this summer, is averaging 6.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game this season in nearly 20 minutes of action, up from 4.4 points and 2.0 boards last year. Then on Monday, with his father Leon in the stands, Shawn exploded for a career-high 18 points on a nearly flawless shooting night. The 6'6" wing made 5-of-6 field goals, including 4-of-4 three-pointers, and knocked down all four of his free throws.
TRIPLE DOUBLE-DOUBLE: Mohamed Kone put forth one of his most well-rounded efforts of the season Monday against Oakland, notching his third double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Kone made 5-of-11 shots and racked up three assists, two blocks and one steal while committing only one turnover. The game was Kone's first with double-figure points since he scored 14 December 10 at Charlotte, a span of five games. It was also the third straight game the big man committed two or fewer turnovers.
THAT'S MORE LIKE IT: Since busting out of a 2-for-15 shooting slump from three to start the season, Seth Colclasure has returned to his old form, now making 40.4% of his three-point attempts, just below his career average. Since making 4-of-4 threes in Valpo's big road win at Charlotte, the Decatur, Ind. native has hit 17-of-32 (53.1%) shots from deep. He had one of the best nights of his career on December 29 at Centenary, going 5-of-6 from long distance, the fourth time at Valpo that he's made five three-pointers in a game.
LONGWOOD NOTES: Michael Jefferson, Longwood's leading scorer, went down with an injury in the second half of the Dec. 20 game against Valpo and saw limited action in the four games that followed. Then, Thursday night at IPFW, Jefferson came back and nearly led the Lancers to victory, scoring a team-high 21 points in IPFW's 92-90 overtime win.
One face the Crusaders aren't looking forward to seeing again is junior forward Clayton Morgan. The Brooklyn, N.Y. native had a career night the last time the two teams met, going for 25 points, 13 rebounds and five assists in 35 minutes. Morgan is averaging only 9.6 points per game.
In the third season of their NCAA Division I reclassification, Coach Mike Gillian has the difficult task of turning the program into a competitive Division I team. Last year, the Lancers went only 1-30, but this year's club already has three wins and has no seniors on the roster.