Tuesday, January 10, 2006
IPFW (5-11) at VALPARAISO (9-4, 3-1 Mid-Con)

WHEN: Wednesday, January 11 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.

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 547-340 overall and 278-217 at Valpo. IPFW is led by Dane Fife who is 5-11 overall and in his first season with the Mastodons.

BEHIND THE SERIES: Meeting tonight for the fourth time in the last three seasons, the Crusaders have never lost to their intrastate rivals from Fort Wayne. The Brown and Gold knocked off the Mastodons to open the season, winning 74-68 in Fort Wayne on November 23. The two clubs first squared off February 28 of 2004 at the ARC, with Valpo winning 83-61. Last year, the Crusaders won a thrilling 74-72 overtime game, getting 21 points from Dan Oppland and 18 from Ron Howard on senior night at the Athletics-Recreation Center.

LAST TIME OUT: For the fourth-straight game the Crusaders raced out of the gate early and pulled away early in the second half, earning an 80-60 win Monday night over preseason Mid-Continent Conference favorite Oral Roberts. The Brown and Gold got a double-double from Dan Oppland (23 points and 11 rebounds) and placed four players in double-figures. Ron Howard had 19 points and three assists, with Jarryd Loyd contributing 12 and Ali Berdiel chipping in 10 from the bench. The win snapped the Crusaders' three-game losing streak to ORU and moved them within a half game of conference-leading IUPUI in the Mid-Con standings.

NO, YOU SHOOT IT: Valpo leads the league and ranks 16th nationally, averaging 18.3 assists per game. The Crusaders have assisted on 63.1% of their made baskets this season and have a 1.28 assist to turnover ratio. By comparison, Crusader opponents are averaging 13.7 helpers per game and have a .79 assist to turnover ratio.

SOME KIND OF A WAKE UP CALL: Since the Crusaders December 27 home loss to UMKC, the team has gone on an unbelievable tear. In four games, all wins, Valpo is averaging 92.2 points/game, shooting 49.8% from the floor, 52.8% from three-point range, averaging 19.3 assists, 11.8 turnovers, and posting an average margin of victory of 24.5 points. Over that span five players, Oppland, Shawn Huff, Howard, Mohamed Kone and Loyd, are averaging in double-figures scoring, and Loyd has made a ridiculous 8-of-10 three-pointers. Making the run more notable is the fact that three of the wins have come over conference foes.

POINT PARADE: The Crusaders have cracked the top 25 in scoring, clocking in at 24th nationally with an 80.5 point per game scoring average. The last Valpo team to average over 80 points per game was the Gene Bartow coached 1969-70 Crusaders who averaged 84.1 points per game. Senior Bruce Lindner led that club with a school-record 27.8 point per game scoring average.

HO-HUM RUN: As senior Dan Oppland's career rolls on, the Saint Louis native keeps slowly but surely marching into Valpo lore. With his 23-point, 11-rebound effort in Monday's big win, Oppland scored in double-figures for the 20th straight game and moved into the top eight in points and rebounds in a career. Aside from all the records he's piled up at Valpo, Oppland will soon make his presence felt on the Mid-Con record lists, with the senior sitting 105 points behind UIC's Brian Hill for 20th all-time in the conference and 90 rebounds behind Eastern Illinois' Barry Johnson for 10th all-time in that category. Back at Valpo, Oppland's 20.5 point/game average is 29th in the country and has him on pace to become the first Crusader since Tracy Gipson in 1992-93 to average at least 20 points/game.

HOWARD TO THE HOOP: Ron Howard, whose 13.5 point per game scoring average is second on the team this season, can do a whole lot more than just fill the bucket. A solid shooter at 47.2% from the floor, the senior's main contributions still come on the defensive end, where he averages 2.0 steals per game. Back on the offensive side, Howard also has excellent vision, leading the team and ranking fifth in the Mid-Con with a 3.6 assist per game average and can bang inside, too, averaging 3.4 rebounds per game. He put together one of his best all-around nights on Monday, going for 19 points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals.

SUPER SOPHOMORES: In Valpo's recent four-game run, perhaps no two players have been more important than classmates Jarryd Loyd and Shawn Huff. Loyd, who made 23 starts as a freshman last season, was averaging 3.5 points per game through the first 10 games this year. In the three games since then, the Lincolnwood, Ill. native is averaging 13.3 points per game and has made 8-of-9 three-pointers. Not to be outdone, Huff set a career-high with 18 points against Oakland and then matched it later that week in a win over Longwood. During the four-game winning streak, Huff is averaging 12.5 points and 4.5 boards, and has made 8-of-11 three-pointers and 14-of-16 free throws.

SWEET REVENGE: Ali Berdiel, then the Crusaders' lone senior, watched helplessly from the bench last season when Oral Roberts came into the ARC and beat Valpo for the first time in school history. With a medical redshirt behind him, Berdiel took out his anger on Monday, playing an inspired 26 minutes off the bench, totaling 10 points, three assists and just one turnover.

IPFW NOTES: DeWitt Scott, IPFW's leading scorer at 13.9 points per game, is a familiar face to at least one Crusader. Ron Howard and Scott were teammates at Chicago's Whitney Young High School, and after transferring into IPFW last season, Scott has become the Mastodons main weapon. He scored 26 on Valpo when the two teams met in November.

The Mastodons may sit at just 5-11, but they're playing their best basketball of the season, currently on a three-game win streak. The run began with the marquee win of first year Head Coach Dane Fife's career, a 54-46 shocker on the road at Indiana State. Since then, they've taken down Longwood (in overtime) and Tri-State at home.

Dane Fife, the smart, hustling point guard on Indiana's 2001-02 nation runner-up team, has taught his young team well about being smart with the ball. IPFW is averaging only 13.6 turnovers per game this season.