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BIG TESTS AWAIT AS CRUSADERS HEAD TO HAWKEYE CHALLENGE
Wednesday, November 30, 2005VALPARAISO (2-0) VS. TULANE (1-1)
WHEN: Friday, December 2, 5:45 p.m.
WHERE: Hawkeye Challenge - Iowa City, Iowa - Carver-Hawkeye Arena (15,500)
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.
THE COACHES: Valparaiso is led by Homer Drew, who is in his 29th season of coaching, and 17th with the Crusaders. He is 540-336 overall and 271-213 at Valpo. Tulane is led by Dave Dickerson who is 1-1 in his first season overall and with the Green Wave.
BEHIND THE SERIES: A rivalry that dates back nearly 50 years, Valpo and Tulane meet tonight for the first time since 1977, when the Crusaders won a Valentine's Day thriller, 79-76 in overtime at Hilltop Gymnasium in Valparaiso. After the two teams met on a neutral court in 1946 (a 74-59 Tulane win), they did not face off again for 20 years, when Valpo coach Gene Bartow put the Green Wave on the schedule in 1969. The two schools went on to meet six of the next eight seasons with the Brown and Gold holding a 4-3 edge over Tulane in the all-time series.
LAST TIME OUT: Valpo picked up their second straight win with a convincing 111-41 rout of NAIA Indiana-South Bend. The 70-point margin was the second largest in school history. Dan Oppland had 20 of his game-high 22 points in the first half and Ali Berdiel had 10 points, eight assists and six rebounds. In all, the Brown and Gold got a school-record 36 assists on 45 baskets.
HAWKEYE CHALLENGE: Tonight's game is Valpo's first in the two-day Hawkeye Challenge, hosted by the University of Iowa. The winner of tonight's contest will meet the Fairfield-Iowa winner tomorrow at 8:05 p.m. The losers will meet in Saturday's third place game at 5:45 p.m. The Crusaders have never before competed in the Hawkeye Challenge, a tournament that has been won by the hosts 22 times in the 23 history of the event. Iowa's only loss came in 1985 when they fell to Arkansas State in the opening round. UAB went on to claim the 1985 Hawkeye Challenge crown.
WINNING BIG: The 70-point margin of victory Monday night was bested in history only by a 132-53 victory the Crusaders had over Western Ontario in 1964. The only game in the last 40 years that came close to Monday's laugher was a 100-49 win the Crusaders picked up over Trinity International in 1999. That 51-point margin was previously the biggest win of Home Drew's tenure.
A LONG ROAD HOME: The Hawkeye Challenge marks the beginning of a busy month of travel for the Crusaders, who will not return home until December 27. The upcoming six-game road swing will take Valpo through Iowa, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Virginia and feature up to four teams from ?power" conferences. The next two weeks are especially hectic, with the Crusaders returning home late Saturday from Iowa City, leaving Tuesday for Marquette, coming back to Valpo late Wednesday and hitting the road again Friday for Charlotte. To make matters worse, the road swing ends with games at Longwood and top-ranked Duke.
STEADY TWENTY: Dan Oppland has started this season right where last year left off, scoring 26 points in the season-opener at IPFW and adding 22 in limited action Monday against IUSB. Oppland has scored at least 20 points in six straight, and at least 16 points in nine in a row. His performances this year have been as efficient as they have been impressive, with Oppland scoring 48 points on only 34 field goal attempts, and in just 54 total minutes. His 64.7% field goal shooting is second in the Mid-Con, and Oppland's also hit two-of-five three-point attempts and pulled down 12 rebounds.
WELCOME BACK ALI: Ali Berdiel had a miserable 2004-05 season, sitting out all but two games with a foot injury and taking a medical redshirt. Healthy again this year, Berdiel had one of the best all-around nights of his career Monday night, scoring 10 points, handing out eight assists and pulling down six rebounds. In the opener at IPFW, Berdiel picked up the 400th assist of his career, third all-time at Valpo, and his three steals this season have moved him into seventh on the Valpo charts. A native of Ponce, Puerto Rico, Berdiel played a year of high school ball in Indiana before beginning an impressive run at Valpo. He earned Second Team All-Conference honors as a junior in 2003-04 and was named to the preseason Second Team this year.
HUFF BENCHING A HEAVY LOAD: Shawn Huff spent the summer competing against some of the best players Europe has to offer while a member of the Finnish National Team, and has come back this year stronger than ever. The sophomore has put forth two strong efforts to start the season, snatching a career-high eight rebounds in the win at IPFW and then matching his career-high with 14 points against IUSB. Huff leads the Mid-Con, making 70% of his field goal attempts, and is averaging 9.0 points and 5.5 rebounds/game.
BIG MO' FILLS THE STAT SHEET: Much-ballyhooed juco transfer Mohamed Kone has been piling up numbers in every category. A native of the Ivory Coast, Kone is averaging 12.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.5 blocks through the first two games. His rebounding and blocked shots averages are second best in the league thus far, and his 4.0 offensive rebounds/game is also good for second. After struggling from the free throw line in the exhibition season, Kone has hit 3-of-4 free throws so far this year, and has made 11-of-24 field goal tries (45.8%).