CRUSADERS SEEKING CHAMPIONSHIP GAME BERTH MONDAY
Monday, March 06, 2006
#1 ORAL ROBERTS (19-11, 13-3 Mid-Con) vs. #4 VALPARAISO (17-11, 8-8 Mid-Con)

WHEN: Monday, March 5, 2006 ? 6:00 p.m.

WHERE: Tulsa, Okla. ? John Q. Hammons Arena at the UMAC (5,662)

RADIO: Valpo Sports Radio Network (95.1 FM, WVUR, 95.9 FM, WEFM, 1230 AM, WWCA, and 1500 AM, WAKE). Todd Ickow will handle the play-by-play with Brent Whitlock providing the color commentary.

TV: Live throughout Chicagoland on WYIN 56.

THE COACHES: Valparaiso is led by Homer Drew, who is in his 29th season of coaching, and 17th with the Crusaders. He is 555-346 overall and 286-224 at Valpo. Oral Roberts is led by Scott Sutton who is 119-90 in his 7th season overall and with the Golden Eagles.

BEHIND THE SERIES: While the Crusaders and Golden Eagles have split their 22 all-time meetings, their games in Tulsa are not quite as even. The Brown and Gold have dropped all 10 meetings in the Oklahoma city, including a 87-78 loss just over one week ago at the nearby Mabee Center. Monday's meeting is their third in the conference tournament for the two rivals, with the Crusaders coming out on top in the previous two meetings. Valpo knocked off Oral Roberts 71-56 in the 2000 Mid-Con tourney semis after dropping the Golden Eagles 73-69 in the 1999 title game.

LAST TIME OUT: Valpo won for the first time in 12 games in the city of Tulsa, Okla., dropping the Southern Utah Thunderbirds 77-66 Sunday night in the quarterfinals of the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament. All five Crusader starters finished in double-figures, led by Dan Oppland's game highs of 17 points and nine rebounds. Jimmie Miles had an outstanding all-around ballgame, finishing with 10 points, a career-high eight rebounds, four assists and only one turnover. Jarryd Loyd matched a career-high with 14 points, as did Mohamed Kone who blocked five SUU shots.

THREE'S COMPANY: The Crusaders placed three players on the 2006 All-Conference teams, more than any other school in the Mid-Con. Oppland earned First Team All-Conference honors for the second straight year, and Howard repeated on the Second Team. Mohamed Kone, who transferred from the College of Southern Idaho, placed on the Honorable Mention and All-Newcomer teams.

MUSCLING UP: The Crusaders have dominated their last six opponents on the glass, out-rebounding each team by an average of 7.7 caroms per night. Over that stretch, Oppland has been particularly proficient underneath, averaging 10.5 rebounds including 3.8 on the offensive end. The Crusaders, who are 4-2 over that stretch, have a +4.1 rebounding margin overall this season and boast two of the Mid-Con's top four rebounders (Oppland and Kone). Valpo out-rebounded Southern Utah 36-30 in Sunday's quarterfinal game.

NO, YOU SHOOT IT: The best passing team in the Mid-Con, Valpo leads the league with an 17.9 assist per game average. That average also puts the Crusaders among the nation's elite, ranking eighth in the country, less than two assists behind national leader Texas A&M Corpus-Christi. Ali Berdiel, one of three Crusaders with over 500 career assists, leads the team with 109 helpers (3.9 per game), which ranks fifth in the league. Ron Howard is next at 3.5 per contest, with Jarryd Loyd chipping in 2.6 each night.

THE ONE AND ONLY: Already one of the most decorated players in Valpo basketball history, Dan Oppland was selected First Team All-Mid-Con earlier this week, the second straight First Team nod for the senior, and the third all-conference commendation of his career. One of only six Valpo players to earn All-Conference honors three or more times, Oppland is the only player in Crusader history with 1,700 and 700 rebounds in his career, and one of only two players in Mid-Con history to do so. The Saint Louis native is averaging career-highs of 19.8 points and 8.1 boards this year, and has scored in double-figures 55 times in his last 59 games.

HOWARD'S END: The Crusaders' other repeat all-conference selection, Ron Howard is second on the team in scoring this season at 13.5 points per game. A terrific man-to-man defender, Howard has 41 steals this season, tops on the team, and 101 in his collegiate career. One of the best shooters on the team at 48.5% on the season, the Marquette transfer picked up his game in the final month of the regular season, scoring in double-figures all eight games and averaging 14.6 points and 4.4 rebounds, and making an impressive 43-of-76 field goals (56.6%). The senior posted a double-double, 13 pts. and 10 rebs., against SUU February 4.

MILES AWAY: Junior guard Jimmie Miles missed 10 games this season with various ailments, but the Chicagoland native is back now and playing some of the best basketball of his career. Miles had an outstanding game Sunday night, playing 28 minutes and racking up 10 points, a career-high eight rebounds and four assists. The Crusaders' most secure guard with the ball, Miles had only one turnover Sunday and has just 17 turnovers in 255 minutes this season. Miles is also heating up from the outside, making 7 of his last 18 triples after starting the season a lowly 2-of-18 from long range.

FEELING REJECTED?: Senior Mohamed Kone matched a career-high with five blocked shots Sunday night against Southern Utah, altering dozens more. The 6'11" juco transfer now has 55 swats this season, the third highest single-year total in Crusader history. His total this year is tied for 19th most in Mid-Con history, and helped earn the big man a spot on both the All-Newcomer and Honorable Mention All-Mid-Con teams.

IT'S 14, AGAIN: Jarryd Loyd's 14-point effort Sunday night was the fourth time in the sophomore's career he scored 14. Loyd's never reached the 15 point mark, however, in his two seasons with the Crusaders.

GOLDEN EAGLE NOTES: Ken Tutt missed ten games during the regular season, but now the preseason all-conference choice looks like he's rounded into form. Tutt has 29 points in Oral Roberts' quarterfinal win, single-handedly carrying his club to victory. In 20 games this season, the junior is shooting 40% from three-point range and averaging 14.0 points per game.

Caleb Green captured the 2006 Mid-Continent Conference Player of the Year Award, winning the honor for the second straight season. Green, who leads the Mid-Con with averages of 21.0 points and 9.0 rebounds, is one of only four players to win the award twice. No player has ever won it three times, something the junior will shoot for next season.

The best rebounding team in the conference and one of the top 20 rebounding teams in the country, the Golden Eagles have two of the league's top three players on the glass. ORU boasts a +5.6 edge on the glass this season.