CRUSADERS OPEN 2006 ON THE ROAD AT OAKLAND AS FREEMAN LOOKS FOR 200TH WIN AT VALPO
Sunday, January 01, 2006
VALPARAISO (6-5, 1-0 Mid-Con) at OAKLAND (4-7, 0-1 Mid-Con)

WHEN: Monday, January 2, 2006, 6 p.m. CST.

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

RADIO: On the internet at www.sportsjuice.com. Ken LaVicka and Mike Haase will call all of the action.

TV: None.

THE COACHES: Valparaiso is led by Keith Freeman, who is in his 18th season of coaching, and 12th with the Crusaders. He is 328-180 overall and 199-133 at Valpo. Oakland is led by Beckie Francis, who is 124-109 in her 9th season overall and 94-61 in her 6th season with the Golden Grizzlies.

SERIES RECORD: Oakland leads the all-time series with Valparaiso 10-8. The Golden Grizzlies hold a 4-3 lead all-time at the ?O'Rena but the Crusaders have won two straight on Oakland's home floor.

LAST MEETING: Valparaiso rallied from an 18-point first half deficit to take a lead late, but Oakland rebounded to post a 58-56 victory over the Crusaders at the ARC on January 31, 2005. Jenna Stangler led Valpo with 13 points while Tamra Braun came off of the bench to add 11 points, nine rebounds, and five blocks. Nicole Piggott, Anne Hafeli, and Jayme Wilson scored nine points each to pace the Golden Grizzlies.

After setting a school mark for fewest points allowed in the win against UMKC, Valparaiso takes to the road on Monday evening to open 2006 against the Oakland Golden Grizzlies. The Crusaders posted a 65-31 win over the Kangaroos on Friday night in their Mid-Continent Conference opener.

FREEMAN SHOOTS FOR WIN NUMBER 200 AT VALPO: Head coach Keith Freeman is on the verge of becoming the first coach in Valparaiso women's basketball history to win 200 games on the Crusader bench. Freeman enters the game with 199 career triumphs at the helm of the Brown and Gold. He is also the Mid-Continent Conference's winningest all-time coach.

A RECORD-SETTING DEFENSIVE EFFORT: Valparaiso set a new school mark allowing just 31 points against UMKC on Friday evening. The Crusaders bettered their previous mark of 34 set 20 years ago against Manchester on November 22, 1985.

LITKA, BECHTOLD, AND TAYLOR HAVE CAREER HIGHS: Aimee Litka, Lauren Bechtold, and Krystal Taylor all were able to post career highs in the win against UMKC. Litka posted a career-best eight points, including two three-pointers. Bechtold tied a career-high with seven rebounds and Taylor grabbed a personal-best six boards.

GOOD PERIMETER DEFENSE: Valparaiso has allowed opponents to shoot just 27.5% from three-point range this season, tops in the Mid-Con. That defense has helped the Crusaders allow just 55.5 points per game, second fewest in the league.

BRAUN ON FIRE IN LAST FOUR GAMES: Tamra Braun is shooting 67.7% (25-of-37) from the floor over the last four games for the Crusaders. During the span, she has averaged 14.8 points per contest. The junior center has also posted five straight double-figure scoring games for Valpo.

BECHTOLD TAKES CARE OF THE BALL: Lauren Bechtold has done a solid job at point guard over the last six games. She has committed just three turnovers in 186 minutes of action.

DOWN THE ROAD: Valparaiso continues its two-game road swing to begin 2006 on Wednesday evening as the Crusaders head to Shreveport, La. for a 7 p.m. contest at Centenary. The contest will mark the end of a stretch where Valpo plays four games in eight days. The Brown and Gold will then return to the Athletics-Recreation Center on Monday, January 9 as the Crusaders host Oral Roberts. The game is the first game of a doubleheader with the men's team. Tip-off is set for 5:15 p.m. and the game will be carried live on WYIN-56 in Northwest Indiana and WHME-46 in South Bend.

OAKLAND NOTES: Oakland is preparing to play the middle game of a seven-game homestand against the Crusaders and looking to snap a two-game losing skid. The Golden Grizzlies opened Mid-Continent Conference play on Wednesday night dropping a 78-74 decision to IUPUI at the ?O'rena.

The Golden Grizzlies have a trio of scorers averaging in double figures, all Mid-Con Preseason First Team picks. Jayme Wilson leads the way tallying 17.5 points per contest and is shooting 46.3% from the floor. She scored 27 points Wednesday against the Jaguars.

Anne Hafeli adds 16.2 points per game for Oakland and is an 87.9% free throw shooter. Nicole Piggott has posted 12.5 points and a team-high 5.9 rebounds per game thus far.

Oakland, picked to finish fourth in the Mid-Con, is shooting 41.4% from the floor and committing just 15.8 turnovers per contest.