Sunday, March 9, 2003
#4 VALPARAISO (16-12, 8-6) vs. #1 WESTERN ILLINOIS (21-7, 12-2)

WHAT: Conoco Mid-Continent Conference Tournament Semifinals

WHEN: Monday, March 10, 2003, 12:00 p.m. CST.

WHERE: Kemper Arena (18,646), Kansas City, Mo.

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

TV: None.

THE COACHES: Valparaiso is led by Keith Freeman, who is in his 15th season of coaching, and 9th with the Crusaders. He is 282-152 overall and 153-105 with Valpo. Western Illinois is led by Leslie Crane, who is 78-61 in her 5th season overall and with the Westerwinds.

SERIES RECORD: Valparaiso leads the overall series with the Westerwinds 14-10. Western Illinois has won the last two meetings between the schools.

SEASON MEETINGS: Western Illinois downed Valpo 50-43 back on Jan. 11 at the ARC. The Crusaders shot just 25.5% in the loss. Suzie Hammel led the Crusaders with 15 points, while Becky Tyo scored 14 for the Westerwinds. In the rematch in Macomb on Feb. 8, Western Illinois rallied in the final minute to force overtime and the defeated Valpo 73-62. Hammel led the Crusaders with 16 points, while Meredith Baugher added 12. Tiffany Cornelius scored 21 for Western Illinois, while Jessica Cook added 14.

The Valparaiso Crusaders continue their track to a NCAA bid when they take on regular season champion Western Illinois in the semifinals of the Conoco Mid-Continent Conference Tournament. Valpo, the tournament's fourth seed, is coming off of a 94-56 victory over Oral Roberts in the quarterfinals on Saturday. Katie Boone led the Crusaders with 18 points in the win.

LOOKING FOR A FIRST TOURNAMENT TITLE: Valparaiso has never won the Mid-Con Tournament nor have the Crusaders ever received a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Valpo has made the championship game three times, including last season when the Brown and Gold fell to Oakland 52-40 in the title tilt. The Crusaders also reached the championship game in 1998 and 2000, but were defeated by Youngstown State on both occasions.

GRAY NAMED FIRST TEAM ALL MID-CON: Senior Jeanette Gray was named to the Mid-Continent Conference First Team for her play this season. She ranks in the top-ten in the conference in scoring, rebounding, and steals. Gray was named to the Mid-Con Second Team last season and to the All-Newcomer Team as a freshman.

BAUGHER AND BOONE EARN HONORABLE MENTION HONORS: A pair of sophomores earned Mid-Continent Conference Honorable Mention honors when the postseason awards were released on Thursday. Meredith Baugher is third on the team in scoring, averaging 8.9 ppg, and is second in rebounding with 5.5 rpg. She came on during conference play scoring a team-leading 12.1 points per Mid-Con game and grabbing 6.6 boards per contest. Katie Boone, last year's Newcomer of the Year, also earned the Honorable Mention honor after ranking in the top six in the conference in both steals and assists, while ranking second in assist-to-turnover ratio.

BOMBS AWAY: Valpo made 8-of-10 threes in the first half against Oral Roberts, shooting 68.8% (11-of-16) for the game from long range, while shooting a season-high 57.7% from the floor in the quarterfinals. The Crusaders also made 23-of-26 (88.5%) of their free throws in the win.

WESTERN ILLINOIS NOTES: Western Illinois defeated Southern Utah 66-56 on Saturday afternoon in the quarterfinals for its second straight victory. The Westerwinds defeated Oral Roberts 82-67 in their regular season finale.

Becky Tyo is the team's leading scorer, and ranks sixth in the Mid-Con tallying 12.9 points per game. She also is fifth in free throw percentage making 79.0% of her attempts. She also ranks sixth from the floor at 46.6%.

Tiffany Cornelius ranks eight in the Mid-Con in scoring, tallying 12.2 points per game. She also ranks eighth in the conference grabbing 6.8 boards per contest and is the league's leading shooter from the floor, connecting on 60.4% of her shots.

As a team, Western Illinois leads the Mid-Con in both scoring offense (67.8 ppg) and scoring defense (58.1 ppg), shooting a league-best 46.5% from the floor.

DOWN THE ROAD: With a win against Western Illinois would propel Valpo into the conference title game on Tuesday night at 5 p.m. in a game that will be televised by Fox Sports Net. The Crusaders opponent would be the winner of the second semifinal between second-seeded Chicago State and #6 seed Oakland.