Wednesday, February 8, 2006
VALPARAISO (13-8, 6-5 Mid-Con) at IUPUI (15-7, 10-1 Mid-Con)

WHEN: Thursday, February 9, 2006 ? 6:00 p.m.

WHERE: Indianapolis, Ind. ? IUPUI Gymnasium (2,000)

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 551-343 overall and 282-221 at Valpo. IUPUI is led by Ron Hunter who is 188-155 in his 12th season overall and with the Jaguars.

BEHIND THE SERIES: Strangely enough, Valpo is a perfect 7-0 all-time against IUPUI in Indianapolis, while only 7-5 everywhere else. The Crusaders' domination in Indy began in the 1998-99 season and even continued last year when the Brown and Gold knocked off the Jaguars 64-61 at Conseco Fieldhouse. Meanwhile, Valpo has lost three straight games to IUPUI at the Athletics-Recreation Center, including an 87-82 overtime loss on January 28 of this season. The two teams have met four times in the Mid-Con Tournament, including three times to decide the title.

LAST TIME OUT: Valpo won for a second straight night and moved back over .500 in the Mid-Con with a 76-64 win over Southern Utah Saturday at the ARC. The Brown and Gold shot 50.9% for the game, their fourth straight outing shooting over 50%, and maintained a comfortable cushion after opening a 23-9 lead midway through the first half. The Crusaders again played smart on their end of the floor, matching a season-low for the second straight night with nine turnovers, and forced 18 from the Thunderbirds. Dan Oppland led Valpo with 20 points while Ron Howard tied a career-high with 10 rebounds and posted a double-double (13 pts.).

CRAZY EIGHTIES: The nation's 13th highest scoring offense at 81.0 points per game, this year's Crusader team has a chance to become the first team since Gene Bartow's 1969-70 Valpo squad to average at least 80 points per game. That team featured Bruce Lindner and his single-season record 27.8 point per game scoring average.

NOBODY DOES IT BETTER: 18.3 assists per game. It's the top number in the Mid-Con by over 2.0 per, and ranks sixth in the entire nation. Valpo has been especially proficient moving the ball since the calendar turned to 2006, posting 20 or more assists six times in 11 games. With a team assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.26, Valpo has held opponents to a 0.8 assist-to-turnover number and forced 16.5 miscues per game. No Valpo player really stands out in individual assist numbers, with Ali Berdiel leading the charge at 3.7 per game, Howard next with 3.4, and Jarryd Loyd at 2.8.

TRIPLE TROUBLE: Valpo's season turned for good December 29 at Centenary, when Seth Colclasure's 5-of-6 night from three-point range helped the Crusaders hit 47.1% of their attempts from deep and post the first of six straight wins. Since that game, only twice have the Brown and Gold hit under 41.2% and six times they've drained more than half of their attempts. The best indicator of Valpo's success, the Crusaders have shot 46.1% in their wins.

SETH IS SMOKIN': Shooting 50.5% from three-point range this season, there is not a more dangerous outside shooter in the conference than Seth Colclasure. Technically behind teammate Jarryd Loyd (53.8%) in the Mid-Con rankings, Colclasure's average of 2.3 makes per game is seventh in the league and tops on the team. In Mid-Con action the former Indiana High School All-Star has been even better, making 56.5% of his shots from deep and averaging 3.2 made each night. Perhaps most staggering is what the Decatur, Ind. native has done since December 29, draining 62.7% of his triples and making over three a night, including four nights of at least five makes. Not just an outside shooter, Colclasure's touch from inside the three-point line has been good too, making 64.7% of his two-point field goals and 19-of-20 free throws. Also strong with the ball, Colclasure has just 15 turnovers in 518 minutes.

THE ROARING TWENTIES: Sure he's scored in double-figures 28 straight times out, but this season Dan Oppland's most likely to have eclipsed that figure by halftime. Twelve times this year Oppland's gone for at least 20 points, including a career-high 35 point outburst in Valpo's January 14 win at Western Illinois, and he's averaging over 20 per night. If he maintains his current pace he'll have one of the top 10 scoring seasons in Crusader history and become the first man since Tracy Gipson in 1992-93 to average over 20 per game.

MO' DEFENSE: Mohamed Kone's Mid-Con leading 43 blocked shots have moved him into eighth on the single-season blocked shots list at Valpo, and has made him the Crusaders' most feared post defender since Raitis Grafs. Kone's work on the boards and on the offensive end has improved too, and the juco transfer is quickly becoming one of the league's toughest inside matchups. In eight conference games, Big Mo' has three double-doubles, and the 6'11" center is averaging 10.3 points and 7.8 rebounds overall this season.

WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED: Needing badly to break out of a slump, preseason all-conference forward Ron Howard stepped up and delivered an impressive 13-point, 10-rebound double-double against Southern Utah Saturday. Howard matched his career-high output in rebounds and recorded his highest point total since January 19. A lighting quick swingman, Howard is the most versatile Crusader, averaging 13.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, a team-high 1.7 steals, and is shooting 45.8% from the field 34.4% from 3-pt. range.

JAGUAR NOTES: IUPUI sophomore George Hill is in the running for Mid-Con Player of the Year, turning an All-Newcomer freshman season into averages of 18.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.7 steals this year, leading the team in points, assists, steals, field goal percentage and free throw shooting.

The top three Jaguar scorers, Hill, Brandon Cole and David Barlow, are each averaging more than 34 minutes per game in conference action and have started every game. In the first Valpo-IUPUI meeting this season, the trio each played 40+ minutes including Hill, who played all 45.

5-6 in the non-conference season, Ron Hunters' club has turned it up since Mid-Con play began in late December, winning 10 of 11 games. IUPUI's only loss came January 14 at Oral Roberts and the Jaguars have won six straight games since then. In home conference games, the Jags are 6-0 and have a 9-1 overall mark at the IUPUI Gymnasium.