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VALPO BEGINS DEFENSE OF MID-CON TITLE HOSTING PRESEASON FAVORITE WESTERN ILLINOIS

Thursday, January 09, 2003

WESTERN ILLINOIS (8-5, 0-0 Mid-Con) at VALPARAISO (7-6, 0-0 Mid-Con)

WHEN: Saturday, January 11, 2003, 2:05 p.m. CST.

WHERE: Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000), Valparaiso, Ind.

RADIO: WVUR (95.1-FM), Valparaiso. Ed Schillinger will provide the play-by-play, with Andrew Stem adding the color commentary.

TV: AT&T Cable (tape delay). Dick Harlan and Paul Curtis broadcasting.

THE COACHES: Valparaiso is led by Keith Freeman, who is in his 15th season of coaching, and 9th with the Crusaders. He is 273-146 overall and 144-99 with Valpo. Western Illinois is led by Leslie Crane, who is 65-59 in her 5th season overall and with the Westerwinds.

SERIES RECORD: Valpo leads the overall series with the Westerwinds 14-8.

LAST SEASON: The Crusaders downed Western Illinois twice last season. Valpo was a 72-66 victor over the Westerwinds in Macomb behind 18 points from Amber Schober. Tugba Palazoglu led the Westerwinds with 18 points in the first meeting. The Crusaders then pulled out a 61-59 win at the ARC as Jeanette Gray scored 17 points for the Brown and Gold. Erica Zielinski led WIU with 16 points.

The Valparaiso Crusaders begin defense of its Mid-Continent Conference regular season title on Saturday afternoon hosting this season's preseason favorite, Western Illinois, at the ARC.

KNOCKING THEM DOWN: Jamie Gutowski maybe a freshman, but she is anything but a rookie at the free throw line. She ranks second in the conference from the charity stripe, making 83.8% of her tosses on the season. She leads Valpo in trips to the line and makes, converting on 31-of-37 attempts from the stripe.

GRAY CLOSES IN ON THIRD: Jeanette Gray needs just two points to move into third place on the Crusaders all-time scoring charts. She enters play with 1,272 career points, just one shy of Amber Schober. Gray needs 226 points to move into second place on the list.

DEFENSE WIN CHAMPIONSHIPS: The Crusaders discovered last season the success that comes from quality defense, ranking among the top-15 in the nation in scoring defense. Valpo has turned in the same effort over the last six games, not allowing a team to score more than 60 points since back on December 7 against Ball State, a string of six straight games. The Crusaders are allowing opponents to score 59.3 points per game on the season and just 50.0 points during the six-game span.

VALPO CREATES TAKEAWAYS: The Crusaders forced a season-high 33 turnovers from Jacksonville. The game was the third this season that Valpo has forced thirty or more turnovers, as Concordia coughed the ball up 32 times and Indiana Wesleyan turned the ball over 30 times against Valpo.

HAMMEL AMONG NATION'S BEST: Suzie Hammel entered the week 23rd in Division I connecting on 2.8 three-point attempts per game. The mark ranks her second in the Mid-Continent Conference.

CRUSADERS IN MID-CON OPENERS: Valparaiso is 6-4 all-time in Mid-Continent Conference openers. The Crusaders have met Western Illinois each of the last two seasons in league openers, with Valpo winning last season 72-66 last year in Macomb, while falling 57-52 at the ARC in 2001-2002.

WESTERN ILLINOIS NOTES: Western Illinois visits the ARC this afternoon having won four of its last five games, including a 67-52 victory at Saint Louis on Wednesday night. The preseason Mid-Continent Conference favorites rallied from ten down against the Billikens to post the win.
Becky Tyo and Tiffany Cornelius have paced the Westerwinds in scoring on the season. Tyo leads the team scoring 14.9 points per contest while grabbing 6.5 rebounds. She tallied 17 points against Saint Louis.

Cornelius is scoring 13.2 points per night while pulling down a team-best 7.5 boards per contest. She ranks second in the Mid-Con from the field, connecting on 57.6% of her shots.

Tugba Palazoglu is the third Westerwind averaging in double-figures. Her 10.2 points per game average was boosted after her 22 point effort at Saint Louis.

Today's game concludes a three-game road trip for Western Illinois, as the Westerwinds will host Southern Utah next Saturday.

DOWN THE ROAD: The Crusaders will have a week off before continuing their current three-game homestand next Saturday afternoon hosting Chicago State in another 2:05 p.m. start. The homestand will conclude one week from Monday, January 20, against Southern Utah in a 7:05 p.m. contest. Valpo will then take to the road on January 25 for a 2:30 p.m. CST game at Oakland.