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STREAKING CRUSADERS SET SIGHTS ON SEVEN STRAIGHT
Wednesday, January 18, 2006VALPARAISO (11-4, 4-1 Mid-Con) at CHICAGO STATE (2-14, 1-4 Mid-Con)
WHEN: Thursday, January 19, 2006 ? 7:00 p.m.
WHERE: Chicago, Ill. ? Jacoby D. Dickens Center (2,500)
RADIO: Valpo Sports Radio Network (95.1 FM, WVUR, 95.9 FM, WEFM, and 1500 AM, WAKE). Todd Ickow will handle the play-by-play with Brent Whitlock providing the color commentary.
TV: WYIN 56 in Merrillville, Ind. and WHME, channel 46, in South Bend, Ind. Dick Harlan and Joe Arredondo will call all of the action.
THE COACHES: Valparaiso is led by Homer Drew, who is in his 29th season of coaching, and 17th with the Crusaders. He is 549-339 overall and 280-217 at Valpo. Chicago State is led by Kevin Jones, who is 23-65 in his 4th season overall and with the Cougars.
BEHIND THE SERIES: One of the most lopsided series in Crusader history, Valpo holds a 26-2 advantage all time over the Cougars. The Brown and Gold won the first 13 matchups between the two teams, beginning in 1995, before losing 69-47 on the road late in the 2000 season. Following that loss, the Crusaders again won 13 straight over Chicago State before losing dramatically last season 72-67 in the first round of the Mid-Con Tournament. Valpo is 11-1 all-time at the Dickens Center including a 77-67 win last season with Matt Bowen subbing for an ill Homer Drew.
LAST TIME OUT: Dan Oppland lit Western Hall on fire and carried Valpo to a 82-68 win over Western Illinois Saturday night. Oppland had 24 first half points en route to a career-high 35, including a breakaway dunk late in the second half that moved the senior into sixth all-time in scoring. His 13-of-16 shooting night included 3-of-4 three-pointers, six rebounds, a blocked shot and two steals. The Crusaders shot a season-high 63.8% in the game, making 10-of-18 three-pointers, but did commit a season-high 24 turnovers. Ron Howard and Seth Colclasure each had 12 points.
IT'S PAYBACK TIME: All eight Crusader returnees will take the court against the Cougars tonight for the first time since their 72-67 upset loss in the first round of the 2005 Mid-Con Tournament. The loss made last year the first time since the 1989-90 season that the Crusaders lost in the tournament's opening round. A 30-8 Chicago State run early in the second half propelled the Cougars to victory.
SOME KIND OF A WAKE UP CALL: Since the Crusaders December 27 home loss to UMKC, the team has gone on an unbelievable tear. In the six games, all wins, Valpo is averaging 89.8 points/game, shooting 53.6% from the floor, 54.3% from three-point range, averaging 19.5 assists, 13.8 turnovers, and posting an average margin of victory of 21.3 points. Over that span four players, Dan Oppland, Shawn Huff, Ron Howard and Mohamed Kone, are averaging in double-figures scoring, and Seth Colclasure has made 16-of-23 three-point tries. Making the run more notable is the fact that four of the wins have come over Mid-Con opponents.
NO, YOU SHOOT IT: No team in the Mid-Con shares the ball like Valpo, with the Crusaders averaging a league-leading 18.5 assists per game, 10th in the country. Five times this year Valpo has racked up at least 20 assists in a game, including a school-record 36 in the Brown and Gold's rout of IUSB. Ron Howard and Ali Berdiel are each averaging better than 3.5 assists per game.
MR. EVERYTHING: Three days after being named the Mid-Continent Conference's December co-Male Athlete of the Month, Crusader senior Dan Oppland was honored as Mid-Con Player of the Week Monday, guiding the Brown and Gold to three wins last week. The marquee performance came Saturday, when the Saint Louis native exploded for a career-high 35 points at Western Illinois. But the week began strong too, when Oppland led the Crusaders to their biggest win of the season, posting a 23 point-11 rebound double-double in Valpo's 80-60 win over Oral Roberts. Oppland's play last week also vaulted him up the record books, where he is now one of only three Crusaders with at least 1,500 career points and 650 career rebounds. Oppland scored his 1,500th point early in Saturday's game, and is now 18 points out of fifth all-time at Valpo.
BIG MO'S HOUSE: Crusader senior Mohamed Kone has improved leaps and bounds since arriving at Valpo in early September, and is now a dangerous weapon on both ends of the floor. The 6'11" big man struggled with his touch in the early season, making below 40% of his shots through the first nine games of the year. During Valpo's hot streak, Kone is shooting 53.3% from the floor and has posted a pair of double-doubles, against Oakland and IPFW. On the defensive end, Kone comfortably leads the Mid-Con with 34 blocked shots.
HOWARD FILLS IT UP: No player on the Crusaders fills out a stat sheet quite like Ron Howard, and this year has been no exception. Averaging 13.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.9 steals per game, he leads the team in assists and steals, is second in points, and fourth in rebounding. Since being held scoreless for the first time in his career against Oakland January 2, Howard has scored in double-figures in four straight.
HE'S HEATING UP: Seth Colclasure's 2-for-15 start to the season from three-point range seems like a distant memory, as the senior has rounded nicely into form now making 45.8% of his three-point attempts, good for fifth in the Mid-Con. But this season hasn't been just about the three for Colclasure, averaging 8.0 points per game, as the senior has done a terrific job of securing the basketball, with nine turnovers in 329 minutes.
BAD BREAK: Sophomore Shawn Huff's breakout 2005-06 season has come to a screeching halt, with the Finn expected to miss 4-6 weeks after surgery to repair a broken bone in his left foot Wednesday. Huff is averaging 7.5 points and 4.0 rebounds per game this year.
CHICAGO STATE NOTES: Diminutive Chicago State guards Royce Parran (5'9") and David Holston (5'6") may not look like much on paper, but on the court they're two of the best scorers in the conference. Parran, a junior, leads the team with an 18.7 point per game average overall, while Holston, just a sophomore, is averaging 18.4 points in four Mid-Con games.
The quickness of the Cougar guards this season has put opponents on high alert, with Chicago State forcing 15.5 turnovers per game. Three guards, Parran, Holston and Kevin Jones, Jr. are averaging better than 1.5 steals per game this year, all three ranking among the Mid-Con leaders.
When Chicago State hosted Oral Roberts January 2, they were playing at home for the first time in the 2005-06 season. The Cougars played all 11 of their non-conference games on the road, going 1-10 against teams like Ohio State, Louisville, Michigan, Nebraska and Purdue.