Wednesday, January 26, 2005
VALPARAISO (11-7, 5-2 Mid-Con) at SOUTHERN UTAH (8-9, 4-2 Mid-Con)

WHEN: Saturday, January 29, 2005, 6:15 p.m. CST.

WHERE: The Centrum (5,300), Cedar City, Utah.

RADIO: WVUR (95.1-FM) and on the internet at Andrew Stem and Baron Brendel will call all of the action.

TV: None.

THE COACHES: Valparaiso is led by Keith Freeman, who is in his 17th season of coaching, and 11th with the Crusaders. He is 315-172 overall and 186-125 at Valpo. Southern Utah is led by Joe Hillock, who is 114-121 in his 9th season overall and with the Thunderbirds.

SERIES RECORD: Valparaiso leads the all-time series with Southern Utah 9-5 dating back to the 1997-1998 season. The Thunderbirds do hold the advantage in Cedar City though, by a 4-3 margin. Southern Utah has won three of the last four at home.

LAST SEASON: The two schools split a pair of meetings last season, with each defending its own home court. On January 24, Valpo was a 73-63 victor at the ARC behind 26 points by Jenna Stangler. Casey Cooke led Southern Utah with 16 points. In the rematch in Cedar City on February 21, the Thunderbirds posted a 66-52 win. Cooke scored 14 in the win, while Mayella Kuikhoven led Valpo with 15 points.

Valparaiso will look to finish the first half of the Mid-Continent Conference season with back-to-back wins as the Crusaders travel to Southern Utah on Saturday to battle the Thunderbirds. Valpo is coming off of a convincing 69-36 win over IUPUI on Monday night.

PLAYING DEFENSE IN LEAGUE PLAY: Valpo is allowing just 51.6 points per game during Mid-Continent Conference play. Opponents are shooting just 36.5% from the floor against the Crusaders in league play and are committing 16.7 turnovers per game.

CRUSADERS AMONG NATION'S BEST: The Crusaders' 13.6 turnovers per game through January 24 ranked as the sixth fewest in the country. Valpo is also 13th in fewest personal fouls committed at 13.8 per contest. Individually, Tamra Braun's 2.1 blocks per contest rank her 39th in rejections, while Jenna Stangler is 49th in free throw shooting, making 84.3% of her attempts from the line.

MIXING UP THE LINE-UP: Valparaiso has had eight different players draw starting assignments this season, and not one player has started all 18 games due to various injuries throughout the season. The Crusaders have had nine different starting combinations thus far this season.

KEEPING THEM OFF THE SCOREBOARD: Valpo just missed holding IUPUI to a record-low on the scoreboard January 24. The Jaguars scored 36 points, two more than the Crusader record of 34 set against Manchester back on November 22, 1985.

UNABLE TO MISS: Valpo shot 62.2% from the floor against IUPUI, the second best shooting night in school history. The Crusaders were a blistering 77.3% from the field in the second half.

GETTING PRODUCTION FROM THE BENCH: Valpo's bench contributed 29 points on Monday night in the win over IUPUI. All 11 players dressed scored in the game, and the bench connected on 12-of-17 (70.6%) from the field. Krystal Taylor scored a season-high six points for Valpo.

SOUTHERN UTAH NOTES: Southern Utah has won four of its last five contests following a 70-61 victory at Centenary on Monday night. The Thunderbirds are 5-3 at home this season overall, and a perfect 2-0 in Mid-Continent Conference action.

Janis Beal is the only Thunderbird averaging in double-figures in the scoring column, tallying 10.6 points per contest. The senior has scored 11.2 points per Mid-Con game this season and led Southern Utah with 16 points against Centenary.

Sarah Hutton adds 9.6 points per night, while grabbing a team-leading 6.2 rebounds per contest. Cassie Warburton (9.5 points) and Kristin Pierce (9.0 points) are the other Thunderbird scoring threats.

As a team, the Thunderbirds ranks second in the Mid-Con averaging 10.59 steals per game. Southern Utah averages 5.94 three-pointers per contest, also second best in the league.

Southern Utah hosts Western Illinois on Monday night.