VALPARAISO (12-8, 5-2 Mid-Con) at WESTERN ILLINOIS (14-6, 6-1 Mid-Con)
WHEN: Saturday, February 8, 2003, 4 p.m. CST.
WHERE: Western Hall (5,139), Macomb, Ill.
RADIO: WVUR (95.1-FM), Valparaiso. Steve Rhodes will provide the play-by-play, with Phil Morris adding the color commentary.
THE COACHES: Valparaiso is led by Keith Freeman, who is in his 15th season of coaching, and 9th with the Crusaders. He is 278-148 overall and 149-101 with Valpo. Western Illinois is led by Leslie Crane, who is 71-60 in her 5th season overall and with the Westerwinds.
SERIES RECORD: Valparaiso leads the overall series with Western Illinois 14-9. The Westerwinds won the last meeting between the two schools.
LAST MEETING: Western Illinois defeated the Crusaders 50-43 on January 11 at the ARC. The Westerwinds jumped out to an eight point halftime lead as Valpo shot just 19% in the opening stanza and never relinquished the lead. Suzie Hammel led all scorers with 15 points for Valpo, while Becky Tyo led Western Illinois with 14 points.
The Valparaiso Crusaders begin the second half of their conference schedule on Saturday at 4 p.m. traveling to Western Illinois for a battle with the first place Westerwinds. Valpo, a game back in the Mid-Con standings, look to forge a tie at the top with a victory.
HAMMEL EARNS MID-CON HONORS: Suzie Hammel was named the Mid-Con Player of the Week after averaging 20.5 points per game against UMKC and Oral Roberts. In the win over the Kangaroos, the junior guard scored 22 points, including 10-of-12 from the free throw line, grabbed four rebounds, and added four assists and three steals. Against ORU, Hammel tallied 19 points in 19 minutes on 6-of-9 shooting from three-point range.
LOOKING FOR 150: Head coach Keith Freeman shoots for his 150th victory at the helm of the Brown and Gold against Western Illinois. Freeman, in his 9th season with the Crusaders, began his career during the 1994-1995 season and has averaged over 17 wins per year over his first eight at Valpo.
PLAYING DEFENSE: After finishing in the top 15 in the nation in scoring defense last season, Valpo has returned to the national rankings this week. The Crusaders are currently allowing just 56.9 points per game, which puts the Brown and Gold in a tie for 24th with Ohio State in scoring defense.
VALPO TO BECOME ROAD WARRIORS: The Crusaders game against Western Illinois begins a stretch of five games out of their next seven contests in which Valpo will play on the road, prior to the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament. Valpo has just two home games remaining on the schedule.
BOONE CONTINUES TO IMPRESS: Sophomore guard Katie Boone has continued to improve directing the Valpo attack. After missing the first five games of the season with an injury, Boone has broken into the top-ten in the Mid-Con in assists (5th), steals (5th), and assist-to-turnover ratio (2nd).
SUCCESS AT WESTERN HALL: Valpo has won four of their last six contests in Macomb, dating back to the 1996-1997 season, including last year's 72-66 triumph.
WESTERN ILLINOIS NOTES: Western Illinois enters the game tied for the nation's ninth longest home court win streak (through 2/4) after its 78-55 victory over UMKC on Monday evening. The Westerwinds have won seven of their last eight games overall.
Becky Tyo leads the Western Illinois offense scoring 14.4 points per game, ranking third in the Mid-Con in that category. The senior is also fifth in the conference at the free throw line, shooting 78.2%.
Tiffany Cornelius is the only other Westerwind averaging in double-figures, scoring 12.1 points per night. She is second in the conference in field goal percentage, making 59.1% of her shots.
As a team, Western Illinois ranks 23rd in the nation in field goal percentage, shooting 45.8% from the floor on the season. The Westerwinds also rank 27th in rebounding margin at +6.3. They lead the Mid-Continent Conference in both categories.
Following the game with Valpo, the Westerwinds will play four of their final six on the road beginning with Chicago State next Saturday afternoon.
DOWN THE ROAD: Valparaiso will continue its current three-game road trip next Saturday evening when the Crusaders travel to Cedar City, Utah to face Southern Utah. Tip-off is slated for 6:15 p.m. CST. The Brown and Gold will then complete the road trip on Monday, February 17 with a 7 p.m. contest at Chicago State. Valpo's next home game is set for February 22 when Valpo entertains IUPUI in a 2:05 p.m. tilt. The game is the second game of a doubleheader with the men's team.