OAKLAND (5-7, 0-0 Mid-Con) AT VALPARAISO (6-4, 1-1 Mid-Con)
WHEN: Monday, January 2, 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, 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: WYIN 56 in Merrillville, Ind. and WHME, Channel 46 in South Bend, Ind. Dick Harlan will provide the play-by-play with Joe Arredondo adding 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 544-340 overall and 275-217 at Valpo. Oakland is led by Greg Kampe who is 354-262 in his 22nd season overall and with the Golden Grizzlies.
BEHIND THE SERIES: No Valpo opponent has been more frustrated by the Crusaders than Greg Kampe the Oakland Golden Grizzlies. Fifteen times the two teams have squared off, and each time the Brown and Gold have come out on top. Last season, the Crusaders won 87-78 at the O'Rena in Rochester, Mich. and took an 82-71 decision January 24 at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Ron Howard and Seth Colclasure had a pair of big nights, with Howard combining for 33 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds and Colclasure going for 30 points and 13 assists.
LAST TIME OUT: Using and 18-5 run in the second half, the Crusaders pulled away from Centenary on the road and earned their first conference win of the season, 89-74 Thursday night. Dan Oppland just missed a second straight double-double, finishing with 22 points and nine rebounds, while Mohamed Kone had nine second half points. Valpo forced 20 turnovers, and pulled down a season-high 17 offensive rebounds. The Crusaders also passed out 19 assists, getting six from Jarryd Loyd and four from Ron Howard, who also had five boards and four steals.
SECOND HALF DEFENSE: The Crusaders' big win and strong second half run came courtesy of a suffocating full-court defense. The first six plus minutes of the second period saw seven Centenary turnovers, and Valpo forced every Gent to commit at least one turnover. The Centenary player Valpo frustrated most was leading scorer Alexander Starr, who turned it over seven times.
RETURN TO DOMINANCE?: Since the 1994-95 season, few teams in America can match the Crusaders' run of dominance in their conference. Nine times since then Valpo has won at least a share of the regular season title, and eight times they have come out on top in the Mid-Con Tournament. Last season, the Crusaders finished in third place in the conference with a 10-6 record, their worst mark in the league since 2000, and their lowest finish in the Mid-Con since a sixth place finish in 1993.
THE DAN AND RON SHOW: All-Conference selections a year a go, and members of the preseason All-Mid-Con First Team this year, Ron Howard and Dan Oppland are heating up right at conference play is beginning. Oppland has been strong scoring points all year, going for at least 20 in six of his ten games this year, but in the first two conference games he's been Valpo's best on the glass, averaging 10 rebounds. Howard's well-rounded last two games have him averaging 14.5 points, 5.0 assists and 3.5 steals.
OPPLAND IN EXCLUSIVE COMPANY: Senior forward Dan Oppland's career is steam-rolling along at a staggering pace, as the Saint Louis native continues his assault on Valpo's record books. Oppland is averaging 20.7 points/game and has a shot to become 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 had another strong night Thursday at Centenary, adding 22 points and 11 rebounds to his already impressive numbers. He can crack the all-time top 10 in scoring with 16 points tonight and with 86 more points he will join Harry Bell, Raitis Grafs and Lubos Barton as the only Crusaders with 1,500 points and 600 rebounds.
HOWARD'S END: Senior Ron Howard has shook off a sluggish start and is again playing like the preseason First Team All-Conference selection he is. In his last five games, Howard is averaging 16.0 points, 4.4 assists, 2.2 steals, and shooting a sizzling 51.9% from the field. Always Valpo's best man-to-man defender, his play on that side of the ball has remained solid, and Howard is also securing the basketball much better than he was in the early part of the season. In the last five games, the Chicago native has only nine turnovers, compared to 16 in the season's first five games.
SETH'S SHOOTING KEYS WINS: Senior guard Seth Colclasure's 2005-06 season got off to a miserable start when the Decatur, Ind. native suffered wrist and toe injures and missed both of the Crusaders' exhibition games. Upon his return to the lineup, the shooter seemed to have lost his stroke, making 2-of-15 three-point attempts and scoring 14 total points in five games. Then, after a pair of bad shooting nights for the Brown and Gold, Head Coach Homer Drew reinserted Colclasure in the starting lineup December 10 at Charlotte, and he responded with a career-high 24 points on 8-of-9 shooting, including 4-of-4 triples. In the three games after Charlotte, Colclasure was up and down, shooting poorly against Duke and UMKC, but scoring 14 at Longwood. Then Thursday night at Centenary, the senior got hot again, hitting 5-of-6 triples and exploding for 17 points in 22 minutes off the bench. In fact, when Colclasure makes a three-pointer this season, the Crusaders are 4-1, compared to a 2-3 mark when he does not connect from long distance.
OAKLAND NOTES: Needing a scoring spark this year with the loss of all-conference stars Rawle Marshall and Courtney Scott, Rutgers transfer Calvin Wooten has picked up the slack. The league's leading scorer this year, Wooten is averaging 21.5 points and 4.0 three-pointers per game.
Both Vova Severovas, a transfer from Wright State, and Rick Billings, a transfer from Ohio State, have been big contributors since they became eligible in early December. Severovas is averaging 13.0 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, while Billings is third on the team with a 9.4 point/game scoring average.
Through 12 games, 10 different players have earned at least two starts for coach Greg Kampe, while only one player, Severovas, has started every game they have played in. The minutes have been spread around too, with eight different players seeing at least 20 minutes/game.