Wednesday, February 15, 2006
CHICAGO STATE (6-17, 5-7 Mid-Con) at VALPARAISO (14-9, 7-6 Mid-Con)

WHEN: Thursday, February 16, 2006 ? 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, 1230 AM, WWCA, and 1500 AM, WAKE). Todd Ickow will handle the play-by-play with Brent Whitlock providing the color commentary.

TV: WYIN 56 in Merrillville, Ind. and WHME 46 in South Bend, Ind. Dick Harlan will serve as the play-by-play announcer alongside Joe Arredondo. Todd Medland is the sideline reporter.

THE COACHES: Valparaiso is led by Homer Drew, who is in his 29th season of coaching, and 17th with the Crusaders. He is 552-344 overall and 283-222 at Valpo. Chicago State is led by Kevin Jones, who is 27-68 in his fourth season overall and with the Cougars.

BEHIND THE SERIES: A lopsided series through much of their histories, the Chicago State Cougars come into tonight's game having won two straight times against Valpo. The Cougars picked up a 90-76 win January 19 after knocking the Crusaders out of the Mid-Con Tournament in the first round last season. Those were the second and third wins in the series for the Cougars, who trail the Brown and Gold 26-3 all-time. CSU still has failed to overcome one hurdle, never winning at the Athletics-Recreation Center, where Valpo holds a commanding 11-0 edge.

LAST TIME OUT: Valpo won a third straight home game, downing Western Illinois 76-64 to move back above .500 in the Mid-Continent Conference. As usual, Dan Oppland led the way, recording his fourth double-double of the Mid-Con season with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Mohamed Kone, Ron Howard and Ali Berdiel all also reached double-figures, paced by Kone who had 14 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Berdiel scored 10 points and set a new career-high with seven rebounds. The Brown and Gold led through much of the second half and dominated inside, out-scoring the Leathernecks 38-18 in the paint.

THE NUMBERS GAME: Statistically, the Crusaders are one of the elite teams in the Mid-Con, sitting in the top two in 11 different statistical categories including key ones like scoring margin, field goal percentage, rebounding margin and assist-to-turnover ratio. In fact, Valpo ranks in the top 75 nationally in eight different categories.

SHARING IS CARING: With their league-best 1.28 assist-to-turnover ratio and 18.2 assist per game averages, this year's Crusaders are among the best sharing groups ever to play at Valpo. Two of the top 15 career assist men in program history, Ali Berdiel (3rd) and Ron Howard (14th) are on this year's team, and another, Jarryd Loyd, is on the verge of cracking the top 20. The last team to have this many proficient passers was the 1997-98 Sweet 16 team that had Bryce Drew (1st), Jamie Sykes (7th) and Jared Nuness (11th), all of whom finished their careers with at least 290 assists.

SCORER/SCHOLAR: Not only is Dan Oppland one of the best players to ever don the brown and gold on the court, he's also one of the strongest in the classroom. For the third straight year, the Saint Louis native has been named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District V Team. A Third Team Academic All-American last season, Oppland, who carries a 3.55 cumulative GPA, will appear on the Academic All-American ballot again later this year.

ROCKIN' RONALD: Ron Howard's move to the bench back on January 28 may have been just the spark the senior co-captain needed to get going this season. In four games in the month of February, Howard has scored in double-figures each time out and is averaging 14.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and shooting 51.2% from the floor. The Chicago native matched a career-high with 10 rebounds February 4, posting the second points-rebounds double-double of his career. Five nights later, he nearly carried the Brown and Gold to victory, going on a personal 7-0 run to pull Valpo within three in the second half before the Crusaders ultimately fell 75-67 at IUPUI. In 23 games overall this season, Howard ranks second on the team in points and assists, and leads Valpo in steals with 37 (1.6/game).

FEELING REJECTED?: Valpo's opponents have been this season, time and time again facing the outstretched arms of Mohamed Kone in the middle. Kone's Mid-Con leading 46 blocked shots this season are the eighth-highest total in a single-season at Valpo, and just five out of the top five. The 6'11" senior has blocked at least one shot in 19 of 21 games this year, and has swatted three or more in a single-game nine times. Kone's prowess inside has also had a tangible impact on the Crusaders' overall defense this year, helping the Brown and Gold hold opponents to 44.2% shooting.

ALI DOES IT ALL: Senior guard Ali Berdiel used every inch of his 6'6" frame Saturday night against Western Illinois, pulling down a career-high seven rebounds in Valpo's 12-point win. With one of the top five assist and steal totals in school history also at his disposal, Berdiel can score on occasion too. The Andrean High School grad has 934 points in his career, just 66 shy of becoming the 26th Crusader with at least 1,000 career points. With 15 more assists, he would join now-Assistant Coach Bryce Drew as the only Valpo players with 1,000 career points and 500 career assists.

LOVE THAT LINE: There's something about sophomore Jarryd Loyd and the three-point line this season. The Lincolnwood, Ill. native has made a Mid-Con best 53.3% of his three-point attempts (24-of-45), but only 40.3% (21-of-52) from inside the arc. The trend has exploded from last season, when Loyd made a less-dramatic 41.0% of his three-pointers compared to 40.2% of everything else. The only Valpo player with that strange balance, the numbers are more crooked in conference play at 58.1% from three and 34.5% from two.

COUGAR NOTES: 5'6" guards Royce Parran and David Holston lead the Cougars on both sides of the ball, scoring in bunches and anchoring a pesky backcourt defense. Parran paces CSU with 18.0 points and 4.1 assists per game, while Holston is next with 12.9 points, 3.0 assists and a team-high 2.0 steals per game. The duo can also shoot the triple, hitting 39.6% and averaging 4.9 combined makes per contest.

The one place the Cougars are most lacking, however, is on the inside. No post player is averaging more than six points per game, and Chicago State is being out-rebounded by their opponents 37.3 - 32.0 so far this season.

CSU played one of the toughest non-conference schedules in America, playing exactly zero games at home. But since a 1-14 start, the Cougars are 5-3, including back-to-back wins. And the Cougars are dangerous in March, too, winning a game in the last two Mid-Con tournaments.