VALPARAISO (4-2) AT #1 DUKE (9-0)
WHEN: Sunday, December 18, 7:00 p.m.
WHERE: Durham, N.C. ? Cameron Indoor Stadium (9,314)
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: Fox Sports Net, channel 40 in Valparaiso. Bob Rathbun will handle the play-by-play alongside Dan Bonner. Check your local listings for the channel in your area.
THE COACHES: Valparaiso is led by Homer Drew, who is in his 29th season of coaching, and 17th with the Crusaders. He is 542-338 overall and 273-215 at Valpo. Duke is led by Mike Krzyzewski who is 721-246 in his 31st season overall and 648-187 in his 26th season with the Blue Devils.
BEHIND THE SERIES: Tonight's meeting with the #1-ranked Blue Devils is the third all-time meeting between the two teams, and the third time the Crusaders will face the top-ranked team in the country. Duke and Valpo squared off at the United Center in Chicago, Ill. last season, with the Blue Devils taking home a 93-61 win after the two teams first made acquaintances in the 2003-04 season, when Duke beat Valpo 97-63 in Durham. The Crusaders have fallen twice to the #1 team in the country, losing at Illinois last season and falling to DePaul in 1980.
LAST TIME OUT: Seth Colclasure shook off a shaky start to the season by ripping off a career-high 24 points on 8-of-9 shooting as the Crusaders took home an exciting 80-77 win over Charlotte December 10. Colclasure scored 10 more points Saturday than he had totaled the first five games of the season, and made 4-of-4 three-point attempts. Charlotte's DeAngelo Alexander was just as good, scoring 32 to keep the 49ers in it, but Valpo made 12-of-12 free throw attempts and held on late for the three-point win.
SENIORS SPELL VICTORY: Colclasure's explosion came on the same night as his first start of the season, as the senior was inserted into the lineup in an effort to break him out of a 2-for-15 three-point slump. His start gave Valpo five seniors (Colclasure, Ron Howard, Dan Oppland, Mo Kone and Ali Berdiel) in the starting lineup for the first time this season. The seniors came through big too, scoring 76 points and playing at least 25 minutes apiece.
SLUMP BUSTERS: The new starting five helped the Crusaders not only snap a two-game losing streak, but put on one of their best offensive performances of the year at Charlotte. Excluding Valpo's win over NAIA IU-South Bend, the Crusaders scored more points and shot better from the floor, three-point range and the free throw line than any other game this season. The 8-of-18 shooting from three-point range was especially encouraging, considering Valpo had made only 9-of-41 triples in the previous two games.
HOME AWAY FROM HOME: The state of North Carolina's become a more familiar spot for the Crusaders than their own hometown of Valparaiso. Tonight's game will be the second straight for the Brown and Gold in The Tar Heel State, compared to their lone home contest, played November 28 at the Athletics-Recreation Center against Indiana-South Bend. To compound matters, Valpo's road warriors have faced four of the nation's top programs, taking on Iowa, Marquette, Charlotte and now Duke.
WELCOME BACK, SETH: 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, after averaging nearly nine per game last season. Then, after a pair of bad shooting nights for the Brown and Gold, Head Coach Homer Drew reinserted Colclasure in the starting lineup at Charlotte, and he responded with a career-high 24 points on 8-of-9 shooting, including 4-of-4 from long range. Colclasure's night raised his career three-point percentage back to 40%, and bumped his season shooting from long range 18 points.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT DAN: While he's been held under 20 points each of the last two games (the first time that's happened since early February of last season), senior forward Dan Oppland's still Valpo's number one offensive option. He poured in 26 points in the season opener at IPFW and dropped 23 points on #14 Iowa. His 20.3 points/game scoring average is among the Mid-Con leaders and ranks him 38th in the country. Dangerous inside and out, Oppland's on the verge of becoming only the third player in school history to shoot over 50% from the field each of his four seasons. The 6'8" forward is shooting 52.6% this year.
KONE STOPS THE OPPOSITION: Quietly, Mohamed Kone, whose 12.8 points/game are second on the team, is having a terrific defensive season. Aside from his 17 blocked shots (best in the Mid-Con), Kone has helped shut down two of the nation's top big men, Iowa's Greg Brunner and Charlotte's Curtis Withers. Brunner shot 3-of-11 from the floor and scored only nine points in a Hawkeye win, and Withers, who averages a double-double, was held to seven points and seven rebounds in Valpo's road win December 10.
HOWARD'S HOT SHOOTING: Through an up and down early season for the Crusaders, senior Ron Howard has remained a steady shooter from all over on the court. The Chicago native's made 52% of his field goal attempts and a team-leading 8-of-15 three-pointers through the first six games. In his last two games, against Marquette and Charlotte, Howard has made 10-of-17 shots, including 5-of-8 three pointers, scoring 26 points. Howard, who is averaging 12.5 points/game, was a preseason All-Conference selection.
DUKE NOTES: The Duke Blue Devils proved emphatically why they're the number one team in the country last Satuday, humiliating second-ranked Texas 97-66 at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J. J.J. Redick was on fire, scoring 41 points on 9-of-15 three-pointers, both career highs, and Sheldon Williams added 23 points for the Blue Devils.
Redick, the 2005 National Player of the Year, is having another Player of the Year-caliber season, averaging 24.9 points/game, second in the country to Gonzaga's Adam Morrison. The senior's shooting a blazing 47.1% from three-point range while averaging 3.6 makes/game.
The Blue Devils are a blistering 675-141 (.827) all-time at Cameron Indoor Stadium including 111-6 (.949) since 1998. Duke's last two non-conference home losses came February 26, 2000 against Saint John's and December 8, 1996 against Michigan.