CENTENARY (4-16, 2-7 Mid-Con) at VALPARAISO (11-8, 4-5 Mid-Con)
WHEN: Thursday, February 2, 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.
THE COACHES: Valparaiso is led by Homer Drew, who is in his 29th season of coaching, and 17th with the Crusaders. He is 549-343 overall and 280-221 at Valpo. Centenary is led by Rob Flaska who is 4-16 in his first season overall and with the Gents.
BEHIND THE SERIES: Meeting for the second time this year, the Gents and Crusaders will play for the 10th time overall Thursday night. Valpo holds a 5-4 advantage in the all-time series, but the Brown and Gold have three in a row and are 4-1 against the Gents since the two became conference foes in 2003. Back in 2005, Valpo visited the Gold Dome December 29 and kicked off a six-game winning streak with an 89-74 win. Dan Oppland led three Crusaders in double-figures with 22 points while Seth Colclasure hit on 5-of-6 three-pointers and scored 17 points.
LAST TIME OUT: The Mid-Con leading IUPUI Jaguars fought back from a 22-point second half deficit to stun Valpo 87-82 in overtime Saturday at the ARC. The Crusaders led 60-39 with under 12 minutes to go when hot outside shooting from the Jags and a brutal cold stretch for the Brown and Gold made the game close. George Hill sent the game to the extra session with a layup in the final minute. In the overtime period, IUPUI made only one field goal but connected on 13-of-14 free throws to hold off the gritty Crusaders, winning in Valparaiso for the third consecutive season.
FROM WAY DOWNTOWN: Through the first nine games of this season, the Crusaders were shooting a mystifying 29.7% from three-point range, down 12% from a season ago. In the ten games since then, however, the Brown and Gold are making 47.9% of their attempts from long distance and averaging 9.3 makes per game. Valpo's 39.1% overall mark is second in the Mid-Con and 23rd in the nation.
CHANGE ON A DIME: Thanks to a pair of 20+ assist games last week, the Crusaders have cracked the top 10 nationally in assists per game, checking in ninth with a 18.4 per game average. Seven times this season, Valpo has totalled at least 20 assists in a single game, including a school-record 36 in their November 28 win over IUSB. Ron Howard leads the Brown and Gold with a 3.6 assist per game average, one of five Crusaders averaging at least 1.94 helpers. The Brown and Gold also have maintained a positive team assist-turnover ratio, currently sitting at a 1.21 mark.
TO THE FALLS NEXT SEASON: The Crusaders will close out their home slate February 18 at 7:05 p.m. when Niagara comes to town for a game arranged through the BracketBusters presented by eBay pool. The two teams will meet for the fourth time, and first since 1993, with Niagara holding a 2-1 advantage in the all-time series that began in the 1967-68 season. Per their agreement, the Purple Eagles and Crusaders will meet next year in New York.
MAN ON FIRE: Seth Colclasure's senior year has turned around from a sluggish start into the best of his four seasons in a Valpo uniform. The one-time Indiana H.S. All-Star is averaging 9.2 points per game and shooting a league-leading 48.8% from three-point range. In nine conference games, Colclasure's been better still, averaging 11.6 points and connecting on 29-of-53 (54.7%) three-pointers, fourth in the conference. Always steady with the ball in his hands, the Decatur, Ind. native has made 14-of-15 foul shots this season, and has turned the ball over only 15 times in 19 contests. The senior made the 125th triple of his career at Chicago State and has the eighth-highest total all-time.
TAKE THAT: After holding Dan Oppland to 13 combined points in two meetings last season, the senior went off on Ron Hunter and the Jaguars Saturday night, scoring a game-high 27 points and pulling down eight rebounds. It was Oppland's 26th straight game scoring in double-figures and the 10th time this year he scored at least 20 points in a game. His work Saturday also pushed him back over 20 points per game this season with a 20.3 average, 26th in the nation. The Saint Louis native has been hovering around 20 per game all year, and could become the first Crusader since Tracy Gipson in the 1992-93 season to average 20-plus in a season.
IN THE BOOKS: Mohamed Kone's lone season in Valparaiso will at the very least put him in the record books. The senior stuffed his 39th shot of the season Saturday, surpassing Raitis Grafs' 1999-2000 total and moving into tenth on the single-season blocks chart. Kone is just two behind current Assistant Coach Ivan Vujic's 41 blocks in 1998-99 and on pace to challenge Grafs' single-season blocked shots record of 67. Big Mo's not a one trick pony either, averaging 10.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game and posting his team-high fifth double-double of the year Saturday against IUPUI.
OUT OF NOWHERE: Taking on a strong bench role this season due to tremendous backcourt depth, Ali Berdiel's offensive production took a little bit of a downturn. The fifth-year senior had scored in double-figures only five times and never had more than 11 points through the season's first 17 games. Last Thursday night at Oakland, Berdiel made his first start in nearly a month and went off for 25 points, on 8-of-14 shooting, four rebounds and four assists in 34 minutes. The Andrean High School graduate made 4-of-8 three-pointers and came up just three points shy of his best career night.
CENTENARY NOTES: Centenary's Chris Watson is the main Gent culprit, averaging 15.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game this season, the only player on the club averaging double-figures in scoring. Watson, who missed the first meeting between the two teams, shoots 54.2% from the field, fourth in the Mid-Con. In conference play, Watson's been even better, scoring 16.5 points/game along with 5.4 boards, second on the team.
Outside of Watson, the Gents have a very balanced attack, with five other players averaging at least 7.2 points per game and no player earning more than 29.4 minutes per contest. The shots go around too, as no one has taken more than Watson's 203 shots (11.3 per game) and five players average between 5.7 and 6.9 attempts per night.
Rob Flaska's taken some good steps in his first season. The Gents have already surpassed last season's win totals, and the squad has just one senior.