Sunday, March 5, 2006
#4 VALPARAISO (16-12, 9-7 Mid-Con) vs. #1 WESTERN ILLINOIS (22-5, 13-5 Mid-Con)

Mid-Continent Conference Tournament Semifinal.

WHEN: Monday, March 6, 2006, 12 p.m. CST.

WHERE: John Q. Hammons Arena (5,662), Tulsa, Okla.

RADIO: WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and on the internet at Ken LaVicka and Andrew Hansen will call all of the action with Andrew Hansen on the sidelines.

TV: None. Video is available online at on a pay-per-view basis.

THE COACHES: Valparaiso is led by Keith Freeman, who is in his 18th season of coaching, and 12th with the Crusaders. He is 338-187 overall and 209-140 at Valpo. Western Illinois is led by Leslie Crane, who is 139-86 in her 8th season overall and with the Westerwinds.

SERIES RECORD: Valparaiso holds an 17-14 all-time advantage against UMKC in a series that began December 9, 1988. The schools have met on a neutral floor twice times, both in the Mid-Con Tournament, with the Crusaders going 2-0 against the Westerwinds.

THIS SEASON: Western Illinois defeated Valpo 61-57 in Macomb, Ill. on January 16. Tamra Braun led the Crusaders with 20 points while Zane Teilane had 18 for the Westerwinds. On February 11 at the ARC, the Westerwinds were 53-42 victors over the Crusaders. Braun again led the Brown and Gold with 13 points while Teilane led Western Illinois with 17 points.

Valparaiso will face the Mid-Continent Conference's top seed and regular season champion Western Illinois on Monday afternoon at 12 p.m. in the semifinals of the league tournament. The Crusaders and Westerwinds have regularly produced close games and are meeting in the semifinals for the second time in four years.

BRAUN STEPS UP IN QUARTERS: Tamra Braun dominated the paint in Valpo's quarterfinal win over UMKC. The junior scored 18 points and tallied a career-high 16 rebounds in posting her seventh double-double of the year.

RIETEMA TALLIES 22 IN QUARTERS: Betsy Rietema, Valpo's leading scorer, showed why in the quarterfinals. She finished with a game-high 22 points, including a 6-of-6 performance from the line.

CRUSADERS WELL REPRESENTED ON THE ALL MID-CON TEAMS: Valparaiso had three players earn All Mid-Continent Conference honors when the league handed out its annual postseason awards. Tamra Braun (11.9 ppg, 7.9 rpg) was named to the First Team for the second straight season while Betsy Rietema (13.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg) earned Second Team accolades. Carrie Myers (11.3 ppg, 41.0% 3-pt.) earned Honorable Mention honors for the Crusaders.

A WINNING TRADITION: Valpo has assured itself of its 15th winning season in the last 16 years. The Crusaders also clinched their 13th winning Mid-Con season in the 14 years of conference play.

SHADES OF THE 2002-2003 SEASON?: The end of this season draws comparisons to the end of the 2002-2003 regular season for the Crusaders. That was the last season Valpo played its final game of the regular season on the road (a loss like last year). The Brown and Gold finished as the fourth seed in the tournament that year, and returned the following weekend to the same city (Kansas City) that they finished the regular campaign in, just as they are this year heading back to Tulsa. Valpo also finished the regular season with the same 15-12 record in that year. The end result? The Crusaders won their first ever Mid-Con Tournament crown and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.

DOWN THE ROAD: The winner of the Valparaiso-Western Illinois Mid-Continent Conference semifinal contest will return to the court on Tuesday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. to face the winner of the other semifinal game between second-seeded IUPUI and sixth-seeded Oakland. The championship game will be broadcast live on ESPNU. The Mid-Con champion earns the league's automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.

WESTERN ILLINOIS NOTES: Western Illinois won the Mid-Con regular season title and enters the semifinals on the heels of a 50-37 victory over Southern Utah in the quarterfinals on Saturday. The Westerwinds are the tournament's top seed.

Zane Teilane leads the Westerwinds attack. The Mid-Con Player of the Year, she is second in the league in scoring and first in rebounding, tallying 16.4 points and grabbing 10.4 rebounds per game. In the quarterfinal win, she posted a double-double with 13 points and 16 boards while dishing out five assists and blocking four shots.

Samantha Greer is also scoring in double figures for the Westerwinds posting 10.7 points per night to go along with 5.1 boards.