VALPARAISO (11-6, 4-3 Mid-Con) at OAKLAND (7-13, 2-6 Mid-Con)
WHEN: Thursday, January 26, 2006 ? 6:00 p.m.
WHERE: Rochester, Mich. ? Athletics Center O'Rena (4,000)
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 549-341 overall and 280-219 at Valpo. Oakland is led by Greg Kampe, who is 356-268 over 21 seasons, all spent with the Grizzlies.
BEHIND THE SERIES: One of the great statistical anomalies of the Mid-Continent
Conference over the last eight seasons has been the Crusaders' unblemished dominance over the Oakland Golden Grizzles. The series now stands at 16-0 in favor of Valpo, including a 95-64 Crusader win January 2 at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
The Brown and Gold are 15-0 all-time during the regular season and have once knocked the Grizzlies out of the conference tournament. The Crusaders are 7-0 at the O'Rena after shooting 60.0% from the floor and downing Oakland 87-78.
LAST TIME OUT: The Crusaders dropped their second straight game Saturday night at Southern Utah, 73-61. Dan Oppland led Valpo, who trailed by 11 at the half, with 20 points and eight rebounds. Ron Howard was the only other Crusader in double figures with 12 points, as Valpo posted their lowest offensive output since a 69-54 loss to Marquette on December 7. The Brown and Gold shot 41.4% from the floor, but only 31.6% from three-point range and a miserable 7-of-18 from the free throw line. The Thunderbirds, who moved into fourth place in the Mid-Con with the win, placed four players in double-figures, led by 15 from Henry Uhegwu. Steve Barnes had 14 points (4-of-5 FG) and five assists.
TAMING THE GRIZZLIES: The last time Valpo and Oakland met, the Crusaders were in the second game of a six-game winning streak where they looked unbeatable. Shawn Huff led five Crusaders in double-figure scoring with a career-high 18 points on 4-of-4 triples.
THE 500 CLUB: Tonight's game is the 500th Crusader game coached by Homer Drew, the winningest coach in Valpo and Mid-Continent Conference history. Drew's impressive 280 wins at Valpo are 178 more than any other Crusader coach, and his 549 overall wins are 12th most among active Division I coaches. His 890 games coached in his career are 11th most among active Division I coaches, and his 29 seasons in the profession are 12th most. Drew's lengthy list of accolades includes the 1998 Naismith Good Sportsmanship Award, the 2002 Mid-Con Commissioners Award of Merit, and four Mid-Con Coach of the Year awards. Drew is also a member of the William Jewell College, Bethel College and National Christian Collegiate Athletics Association Hall of Fames.
BACK AT HOME AGAIN: With tonight's game at Oakland, the Crusaders conclude their last lengthy road trip of the year, and get set for six of their next seven games to be played at the ARC. Valpo concludes the regular season on the road at ORU and UMKC.
ENERGIZER OPPLAND: #42 just keeps going and going and going this year for the Crusaders, scoring in double-figures for the 24th consecutive game Saturday at Southern Utah. Oppland is one of only three Crusaders to score over 1,500 points and grab at least 600 rebounds in a career (joining Raitis Grafs and Lubos Barton). Averaging over 20 points per game, Oppland has a shot at becoming the first Crusader since Tracy Gipson in 1992-93 to score more than 20 points per game. A strong shooter throughout his career, Oppland is connecting on 53.2% of his field goal attempts this season, and could become only the third Crusader to make at least 50% of his shots for four consecutive seasons (joining Grafs and Antti Nikkila). The Saint Louis native set a career-high in Valpo's last win, scoring 35 points in a 82-68 victory at Western Illinois.
HE'S ON FIRE: Seth Colclasure started the season 2-for-15 from three-point range before igniting his stroke for 4-of-4 triples at Charlotte. Since that game, Colclasure's been burning up the nets, making 56.4% of his shots from deep. The Decatur, Ind. native has moved into second place in the Mid-Continent Conference with a 47.3% mark overall, and is shooting 53.7% in conference games. Averaging 2.1 three-point makes per game, Colclasure is only 0.4 away from qualifying for the top three-point percentages in the country. If he did meet that number with his current percentage, Colclasure would sit seventh in the country. His 42.3% career mark from three is tied for third all-time at Valpo.
HOWARD FILLS IT UP: No player on the Crusaders fills out a stat sheet quite like Ron Howard, and this year has been no exception. Averaging 13.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.9 steals per game, he leads the team in assists and steals, is second in points, and fourth in rebounding. Since being held scoreless for the first time in his career against Oakland January 2, Howard has scored in double-figures in five straight. Howard's best scoring night of the season came last Thursday, when he poured in 23 points on 7-of-12 shots.
LOYD FOR THREE: After quietly making 41.0% of his three-pointers last season, Jarryd Loyd is making a team-leading 55.2% from deep this season. The sophomore point guard has hit 16-of-29 triples, including a career-high four January 2 against Oakland. Loyd's also continued his strong work running the offense too, ranking third on the team with a 2.8 assist per game average and leading Valpo with a 1.9 assist-turnover ratio.
OAKLAND NOTES: Rutgers transfer Calvin Wooten is back in his hometown and is lighting up the Mid-Con, averaging 20.7 points per game. A deadly three-point shooter, Wooten is fifth in the country in three-point makes per game (3.79) and is shooting 40.9% from beyond the arc. Not a one-dimensional player, Wooten is also averaging 2.5 assists and 2.1 steals/game.
Wooten isn't the only Golden Grizzly who can score, either. Four players are averaging in double figures for Oakland, including Wright State transfer Vova Severovas, averaging 13.4 points and 5.5 rebounds. The 225-pound Severovas and 275-pound Shawn Hopes give the Grizz one of the stronger one-two punches inside in the Mid-Con.
The Golden Grizzlies shoot just 33.8% from behind the three-point line, but they're not afraid to shoot it. Oakland averages 20.6 three-point attempts per game, led by Wooten, who has taken one three-pointer every 3.6 minutes.