Wednesday, December 31, 2003
VALPARAISO (5-6, 0-0 Mid-Con) at OAKLAND (7-4, 0-0 Mid-Con)

WHEN: Saturday, January 3, 2004, 2:30 p.m. CST.

WHERE: Athletics Center O'Rena (4,000), Rochester, Mich.

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

TV: None.

THE COACHES: Valparaiso is led by Keith Freeman, who is in his 16th season of coaching, and 10th with the Crusaders. He is 289-159 overall and 160-112 at Valpo. Oakland is led by Eileen Shea-Hillard, who is 20-20 in her 2nd season overall and with the Golden Grizzlies.

SERIES RECORD: Oakland leads the all-time series with the Crusaders 8-6 dating back to the 1998-1999 season.

LAST MEETING: Valpo defeated Oakland 48-46 on March 11, 2003 to win the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament Championship in Kansas City, Mo. Katie Boone scored 13 for the Crusaders, including two game-winning free throws with 7.6 seconds left. Romica Clint led the Golden Grizzlies with 15 points.

Valparaiso will open Mid-Continent Conference play on Saturday afternoon as the Crusaders travel to Oakland for a rematch of the last two Mid-Con Tournament title games. Valpo won last year's title tilt 48-46 to earn its first NCAA Tournament berth ever, while the Golden Grizzlies won the 2002 contest 52-40.

VALPO-OAKLAND CLASH: Over the past two seasons, the Valpo-Oakland series ranks among the best in the league. Each school has defended its own home court, with Oakland winning four straight at home and the Crusaders taking the last two at the ARC. The Crusaders and Golden Grizzlies have also met for two tournament championships, each claiming one title.

STANGLER IS DOUBLE TROUBLE: Jenna Stangler posted her first double-double of the season at Miami (Ohio) on Tuesday night, scoring a career-high 24 points while grabbing ten rebounds. The junior forward now ranks tenth in the Mid-Con in both scoring and rebounding. The double-double was the second of her career.

KNOESTER PROVIDES SPARK FROM THE BENCH: Kathryn Knoester has helped to jump start the Valpo offense, coming off of the bench to score in double figures in three of the last four games. Tuesday at Miami, she poured in a season-high 14 points, and is averaging 9.0 points per game over the last four contests.

GUTOWSKI CONTINUES TO SHINE: Jamie Gutowski has tallied double-figures in four of the last five games for the Crusaders, averaging 11.0 ppg over the span. She made a career-high four three-pointers at Miami, scoring 13 points.

PROTECTING THE BALL: Valparaiso has done a solid job of protecting the basketball this season, despite a difficult schedule. The Crusaders lead the Mid-Con turning the ball over just 13.5 times per game.

OAKLAND NOTES: Oakland enters Mid-Con action having won four of their last five and six of their last eight contests. The Golden Grizzlies are coming off of a 51-47 victory over Akron on Tuesday evening at home.

Jayme Wilson leads three players averaging in double figures in scoring for the Golden Grizzlies. The sophomore guard is third in the league in scoring, averaging 13.9 points per contest. Wilson also leads the Mid-Con shooting 47.9% from three-point range.

Anne Hafeli is adding 10.5 points per outing, while Petra Manakova is chipping in 10.4 points for Oakland.

Amanda Batcha ranks third in the Mid-Con in rebounding, grabbing 8.5 boards per night. She has posted four double-doubles on the year, tied for the league lead.

As a team, Oakland leads the Mid-Con in field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to shoot just 36.8% from the floor. The Golden Grizzlies will head to Western Illinois following the game for a Monday night contest against the Westerwinds.