VALPARAISO (12-9, 5-3 Mid-Con) at SOUTHERN UTAH (8-13, 1-8 Mid-Con)
WHEN: Saturday, February 15, 2003, 6:15 p.m. CST.
WHERE: The Centrum (5,300), Cedar City, Utah.
RADIO: WVUR (95.1-FM), Valparaiso. Drew Wolf will provide the play-by-play, with Ed Schillinger 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 278-149 overall and 149-102 with Valpo. Southern Utah is led by Joe Hillock, who is 87-97 in his 7th season overall and with the Thunderbirds.
SERIES RECORD: Valparaiso leads the overall series with Southern Utah 8-3. The Crusaders have won the last three meetings between the two schools.
LAST MEETING: Valpo defeated Southern Utah 89-53 on Jan. 20 at the ARC. The Crusaders broke open an eight-point halftime lead by exploding for 53 second half points. Four players scored in double-figures for the Brown and Gold, led by Jenna Stangler with 13 points. Casey Cooke led the Thunderbirds with 19 points.
The Valparaiso Crusaders look to return to the win column on Saturday evening when the Brown and Gold travel to Southern Utah for a battle with the Thunderbirds. Valpo is coming off of a 73-62 overtime defeat at Western Illinois last Saturday.
LOOKING FOR 150: Head coach Keith Freeman shoots for his 150th victory at the helm of the Brown and Gold against Southern Utah. 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.
HAMMEL GETS HOT AGAIN: After struggling through a four-game stretch scoring a total of 17 points, junior Suzie Hammel has broken out of her slump over the past three games. The guard is averaging 19.0 points per game over the last three contests.
GRAY APPROACHES 700: Senior Jeanette Gray has moved into third place on Valpo's all-time rebounding list after grabbing eight boards at Western Illinois. Her 683 career rebounds leave her just 17 shy of becoming the third player in Valpo history to record 700 boards. She needs 20 rebounds to move into second place all-time for the Crusaders, and just eight boards to move into the top-ten in Mid-Con history.
HAMMEL MOVES UP SINGLE SEASON CHARTS: Suzie Hammel's 49 three-point field goals rank her ninth on Valpo's single season list. With three more makes, she will move into seventh place. The junior's 140 attempts are the tenth most in Crusader history.
FORCING TURNOVERS: Valpo's tenacious defense has helped the Crusaders force a league-high 22.0 turnover per game from its opponents. The Brown and Gold also does a good job of protecting the ball on offense, committing just 16.1 turnovers per game and lead the Mid-Con with a +5.81 turnover margin.
IT'S BEEN AWHILE: Before Valpo surrendered 73 points in its overtime defeat at Western Illinois, the Crusaders had not allowed an opponent to score 65 or more points since back on Dec. 7 against Ball State, a span of 13 straight games.
SOUTHERN UTAH NOTES: Southern Utah enters the game against the Crusaders looking to end a two-game losing skid. The Thunderbirds, which have lost eight of their last nine contests, are coming off of a 70-50 defeat on Monday evening at the hands of UMKC.
Offensively, the Thunderbirds are led by Casey Cooke. The junior guard is averaging 13.8 points per game and 2.52 steals per contest. She ranks sixth in the Mid-Con in scoring, seventh in assists (3.10), third in steals, and fourth in three-point field goal percentage (.408). Her assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.55 is second in the league.
Lacey Yates is the only other Southern Utah player to average in double-figures, scoring 10.6 ppg. She leads the team in rebounding (7.3), ranking fifth in the Mid-Con in the category. The junior's .455 field goal percentage is fifth in the conference and she ranks eighth in free throw percentage (.740).
Following their games with Valpo, the Thunderbirds will host Western Illinois on Monday evening before hitting the road for their final three regular season games.
DOWN THE ROAD: Valparaiso will conclude its three-game road trip on Monday evening when the Crusaders head to Chicago State for a 7 p.m. contest with the Cougars. The Brown and Gold will then return to the ARC for its final two home games of the season. On Feb. 22 Valpo will entertain IUPUI in a 2:05 p.m. tilt. The Crusaders will end their home schedule on Feb. 24 with a Senior Night contest against Oakland. Tip-off is slated for 7:05 p.m.