Monday, December 19, 2005

WHEN: Tuesday, December 20, 6:00 p.m.

WHERE: Farmville, Va. ? Willett Hall (2,522)

RADIO: Valpo Sports Radio Network (95.1 FM, WVUR, 95.9 FM, WEFM, Relevant Radio 1270 AM, WWCA, and 1500 AM, WAKE). Todd Ickow will handle the play-by-play with Brent Whitlock providing the color commentary.

TV: None.

THE COACHES: Valparaiso is led by Homer Drew, who is in his 29th season of coaching, and 17th with the Crusaders. He is 542-339 overall and 273-216 at Valpo. Longwood is led by Mike Gillian who is 8-60 in his 3rd season overall and with the Lancers.

BEHIND THE SERIES: New to Division I, the Crusaders and Lancers met for the first time last season at the Las Vegas Holiday Classic. The Crusaders won 75-68, playing in the morning hours of New Years Eve and concluding a rugged four-game in four-day stretch. Dan Oppland led the Brown and Gold with 22 points, while Longwood, now in the third year of their Division I Reclassification, got 22 from Michael Jefferson. These two teams will square off again in 18 days, when the Lancers head north to face Valpo at the Athletics-Recreation Center.

LAST TIME OUT: Dan Oppland had 25 points and Ron Howard added a season-high 20, but it was J.J. Redick's 30 that reigned supreme as #1 Duke beat Valpo 104-77 Sunday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C. The Crusaders were down just nine at the half, thanks to 18 from Oppland, but the top-ranked Blue Devils shot 64.3% in the second half, and 57.6% for the game, to pull away late for the win. Valpo also shot well from the floor, making 33-of-68 attempts, but only 2-of-14 from three-point range.

OPPLAND DUELS THE BEST: Two-time All-Conference honoree Dan Oppland has proved he can play with the best teams and best players in the country early this season. He scored at will against #1 Duke and 2005 National Defensive Player of the Year Sheldon Williams, and, earlier this month, he earned an All-Tournament Team selection at the Hawkeye Challenge after dropping 23 points on #14 Iowa and All-Big Ten forward Greg Brunner.

HEADING HOME SOON: Mercifully, the month of December is nearing a close and the Crusaders will wrap up a brutal six-game road swing with tonight's game. Valpo is 2-3 so far a road trip that has seen the Brown and Gold take on some of the nation's top programs, including Sunday's loss at #1 Duke. In the month of December, Valpo will play seven of eight games away from home with stops in Iowa, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Virginia and Louisiana. Valpo finally returns home Dec. 27 to face UMKC.

POUNDING THE PAINT: After a slow start rebounding the basketball, the Crusaders are becoming a dominant team in the post. After out-rebounding Charlotte, statistically one of the top 20 rebounding teams in the country, in a win December 10, Valpo battled tough inside with #1 Duke on Sunday. The Crusaders played Duke even on the boards, and grabbed three more offensive rebounds (14) than the Blue Devils did. Valpo also out-scored Duke 48-42 in the paint and had 15 second chance points.

OPPLAND IN EXCLUSIVE COMPANY: Senior forward Dan Oppland, who had been held below 20 points in the two previous games, nearly scored 20 in the first half at #1 Duke, pouring in 18 and finishing with a team-high 25. The Saint Louis native is averaging 21.0 points/game and has a shot to become only the seventh Crusader in history to average at least 20 points/game in a season. It's been 13 years since the feat was last accomplished, when Tracy Gipson led the 1992-93 Valpo squad with 21.3 points/game. Oppland's 25 points on Sunday also moved him up the team's career scoring charts, passing Milo Stovall and moving into 13th place, just 76 points out of the top 10. The senior's also piling up the boards, now just one rebound shy of and even 600 for his career. When he reaches that plateau, he will become only the seventh Crusader with 1,300 career points and 600 career rebounds.

HOWARD HEATING UP: Ron Howard had a shaky start to 2005, committing 15 turnovers and averaging just 11 points in Valpo's first three games against Division I opponents. But since returning to Marquette, the school where he began his career, Howard has turned the corner, committing only four turnovers against Marquette, Charlotte and #1 Duke, and averaging 15.3 points/game, including 20 on Sunday. The increased numbers have come large part thanks to some terrific shooting from the floor, as the Chicago native has made 18-of-29 (.621) of his shots in the last three contests.

BERDIEL LEADS PILFER PARADE: Ali Berdiel had three steals for the third time this season Sunday at #1 Duke, and he's only one of several Crusaders wreaking havoc on opposing guards. Berdiel's 13 steals this year lead the team, but are just ahead of Ron Howard's 12 swipes and Jarryd Loyd's 10. Valpo's full-court pressure and the quickness of the guards have given opponents fits, as the Crusaders are forcing 17.7 turnovers per game. Individually, Berdiel's thievery is moving him into rare territory all-time at Valpo, with the senior on pace to challenge Lubos Barton's career steals record.

BETTER THIS TIME AROUND: Sophomore Jarryd Loyd made the second start of his career last year against Duke at the United Center, and had a nightmare day, committing 10 turnovers in a Blue Devil rout. Sunday in Durham, Loyd showed off what he learned, playing a smart 19 minutes off the bench, committing only one turnover and handing out a team-high five assists. Loyd has 17 assists and nine turnovers thus far in 2005.

LONGWOOD NOTES: Michael Jefferson introduced himself to the Crusaders last season with 22 points and six rebounds in a losing effort, and he's back to his old tricks this year. Through 10 games, the junior is averaging a team-high 15.6 points and shooting 41.9% from three-point range.

The Lancers are allowing opponents nearly 80 points/game this year, and the last three outings have been even worse, with Longwood surrendering 88, 90, and 89 points respectively in losses to Kansas State, #4 Villanova and High Point. Opposing teams are making 48.5% of their shot attempts and making a robust 39.0% from beyond the arc.

Head Coach Mike Gillian has had no shortage of players to bring in off his bench so far this year, with nine Lancers averaging double-figure minutes per game and a tenth averaging 9.8. Jefferson and Maurice Sumter lead the team at a 30.8 minutes/game clip.