Game #8: December 21, 2008, 2 p.m. CST
Valparaiso (4-3, 0-0 Horizon)
at #22/- South Dakota State (11-1, 2-0 Summit)
Frost Arena (6,500) - Brookings, S.D.
Coming Up in Crusader Hoops: For the first time in
school history, Valparaiso will take to the floor against a top-25 team
for a third straight game on Sunday afternoon, as the Crusaders battle
the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State, ranked #22 in the latest USA
On the Air: Sunday’s game against South Dakota State can be heard live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpoathletics.com. Danny Robertson and Molly Smerika will call all of the action live from Frost Arena.
Series Notes: Valparaiso and South Dakota State are meeting for just the second time ever, and the first in Brookings, S.D. Last season, Leah Hochstetler’s three-point with 48 seconds to play lifted the Crusaders to a 65-62 win over the Jackrabbits in the first meeting ever between the two schools on December 16, 2007. Agnieszka Kulaga scored a team-high 18 points for the Crusaders while Aimee Litka added 11 more. Jennifer Warkenthien led all scorers with 24 points for the Jackrabbits.
Wrapping Up Notre Dame: The Crusaders battled back from 12 points down to take a three-point lead with 6:50 to play, but the eighth-ranked Fighting Irish closed the game with a 17-6 run to defeat Valpo 63-55 on Saturday, December 13 at the ARC. Agnieszka Kulaga led Valpo in scoring with 12 points while Lauren Kenney had her first double-double as a Crusader, scoring 11 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. Melissa Lechlitner led Notre Dame with 18 points while Ashley Barlow added 15 and Lindsay Schrader chipped in 14 for the Fighting Irish.
Scouting South Dakota State: The Jackrabbits moved into the top-25 in the USA Today/Coaches Poll for the first time in school history this week, checking in 22nd in the country, while sitting in 26th in the latest Associated Press rankings. South Dakota State has won seven in a row following a win against UC Davis, 59-47, on Wednesday night. The Jackrabbits are 3-0 against the Big Ten this season and also have wins against Missouri, Utah, and Oregon. Jennifer Warkenthien leads the Jackrabbits averaging 11.6 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. Kristin Rotert has added 11.3 points per night this year. The Jackrabbits are outscoring their opponents by 10.9 points per game. South Dakota State has not lost more than one game at home in a season since 2000-2001 and is a perfect 6-0 at Frost Arena this year.
Valpo vs. the Top-25: When the Crusaders head to South Dakota State on Sunday afternoon, this will mark the first time ever the Crusaders will have played three top-25 teams in the same season, and are doing so in consecutive contests. The only other time Valpo battled top-25 teams in back-to-back contests was to open the 2001-2002 season at #6 Purdue and #15 Notre Dame. The Brown and Gold also hosted both Notre Dame and Purdue this season, just the second time Valpo has entertained two top-25 programs in the same year.
First Win Ever Against a Ranked Foe: The victory against Purdue was the first ever for a Crusader squad against a team ranked in the top-25. It occurred in the 22nd game Valpo had played all-time against an opponent ranked in the Associated Press top-25 all-time.
Continuing to Climb Up the RPI: As of Thursday morning, December 18, Valparaiso had risen to 37th overall in RPI among the 341 Division I programs according to collegerpi.com while the Horizon League ranked ninth out of 31 conferences. The Crusaders’ strength of schedule ranked 11th in the country to date.
Kulaga Leads League in Scoring: Agnieszka Kulaga enters the weekend leading the Horizon League in scoring, averaging 19.3 points per game. The senior guard has poured in double figures in every game this season and has tallied 10 or more points in 17 straight games dating back to last season.
Kenney Crashes the Offensive Glass: Lauren Kenney has already made a presence of herself just seven games into her Valpo career. The junior college transfer leads the Horizon League grabbing 3.4 offensive rebounds per game. She had a season-high six boards on the offensive end last Saturday against Notre Dame. Kenney has had at least three offensive rebounds in each of the last six games for the Brown and Gold and has one-third of the team’s offensive rebounds on the season.
Double Trouble: Lauren Kenney recorded her first double-double in a Crusader uniform against the Fighting Irish scoring 11 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. The rebounding total was a season-high, and her second double-figure effort of the campaign while she has scored in double figures in four of the seven games, including 22 points at Central Michigan.
Varner Records Career Night: Ashley Varner came off of the bench against Notre Dame to score a career-best seven points for the Brown and Gold. The sophomore went 3-for-4 from the floor in 12 minutes of action.
Good Shooting/Defense Thus Far: The Crusaders have posted a better field goal percentage than six of their first seven opponents thus far this season. Defensively, Valpo is holding opponents to just 30.3% shooting from three-point range and 37.8% overall. Offensively, the Crusaders are connecting at a 42.2% overall and 36.1% from beyond the arc.
Kulaga Nearing Top-20 All-Time at Valpo in Scoring: Agnieszka Kulaga has the opportunity to move into the top-20 all-time at Valpo in scoring within the next couple of weeks. The senior guard enters Sunday with 772 career points (9.1 per game), and needs just 58 more to match Jill Otto’s (1985-1989) 20th place mark of 830 points.
Now That is Consistency: Head coach Keith Freeman has stayed with the same five starters in all seven games this year. Agnieszka Kulaga, Aimee Litka, Launa Hochstetler, Lauren Kenney, and Sylwia Zabielewicz have taken to the court each night for the tip.
Zabielewicz Breaks Out: Sylwia Zabielewicz saw a season-high 25 minutes of action against Purdue, scoring five points and grabbing a season-best seven rebounds, including three on the offensive end. The 6’6” center followed that effort up with a season-high six points on 3-of-4 shooting from the field in 16 minutes of play against Notre Dame.
Super Women: Launa Hochstetler and Aimee Litka both played all 40 minutes in the win against Purdue. They rank second and fourth in the Horizon League in minutes played, while teammate Agnieszka Kulaga leads the conference averaging more than 37 minutes of action per night.
Big Crowds: Valpo has played in front of more than 1,000 fans in each of the last six games. The Crusaders drew their biggest home crowd in years last Saturday against Notre Dame, with 2,046 fans in attendance. Valpo ranks second in the Horizon League this season in home attendance averaging 1,403 fans per game at the ARC. More than 1,700 spectators have been on hand on average this season overall, including a season-high 4,478 at Central Michigan.
Freeman Earns Milestone Win: Head coach Keith Freeman’s victory against Florida State was the 375th of his career coaching women’s basketball. In his 21st season overall, his next milestone on tap is 250 victories at Valpo. He needs just three more wins to reach the Valpo mark, where he has been coaching the last 15 years.
Kenney Sets School Record for Free Throws: Lauren Kenney’s 13-for-13 free throw performance against Florida State in the championship is the best single game performance in school history. The junior bettered Lisa Diefenthaler’s 1994 mark of 12-for-12 set against Western Illinois. Debbie Bolen made all 11 of her tosses in 1991 while three others have gone 10-for-10 in a game. Ironically, Kenney entered the game having gone just 5-for-12 on the season prior to the game.
More Solid Free Throw Shooting: In addition to Kenney’s efforts at the line, Agnieszka Kulaga drained 11-of-12 from the charity stripe against Florida State. As a team, Valpo went 35-of-42 from the line, with the 35 makes ranking second all-time in school history. The 42 attempts were tied for fifth most ever in a game, while Kenney’s 13 makes tie for fifth on the individual charts.
Hochstetler Ranks Among Career Assist Leaders: Launa Hochstetler continues to climb Valpo’s career assist list. With two assists against Notre Dame, the senior moved into ninth place all-time at Valpo passing Kathryn Knoester (2000-2004). She now has 259 assists, and trails Lisa Winter (1998-2000)’s eighth place total of 264 helpers by just five.
Kulaga Joins Hochstetler on Assist List: Agnieszka Kulaga had three assists against Notre Dame and now has 205 career assists to pass Amy Cole (1987-1991) and Heidi Diefenthaler (1992-1996) and move into 17th place all-time wearing the Brown and Gold. The senior needs three more assists to match Lynda Kukla’s (1988-1992) 16th place mark of 208.
Litka Moves Into Top-10 All-Time in Triples: Aimee Litka made two more three-pointers against Notre Dame to solidify her spot in the top-10 in school history. The senior now has 126 career triples and ranks ninth all-time in a Crusader uniform. Litka needs six more treys to match Kathryn Knoester’s (2000-2004) eighth place mark of 132 threes.
Kulaga Earns Two Honors: Agnieszka Kulaga was named the Horizon League’s Player of the Week as well as the Most Valuable Player at the Coors Rocky Mountain Invitational for her stellar play from November 25-29. The senior guard averaged 22 points per game and shot 58.3% for the week in three games while garnering her fourth career conference honor. She scored 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the floor in the first game of the tournament against Colorado State, then added 22 points, including an 11-of-12 performance from the free throw line, in the championship against Florida State.
Litka Also Named to All-Tournament Team: Aimee Litka also was named to the All-Tournament Team at the Coors Rocky Mountain Invitational. She averaged 17 points and five rebounds per game in the event, including a 20-point effort in the championship against Florida State.
Valpo Captures Division I Tournament Title For First Time: Valpo’s win at the Coors Rocky Mountain Invitational was the first tournament title for the Brown and Gold in the Division I era. The last time the Crusaders captured a tourney title was at the Lady Redmen Classic hosted by Carthage in the 1985-1986 season as Valpo downed Lakeland, Carthage, and Clarke.
Kulaga Earns Preseason Honors: Agnieszka Kulaga was named to the Preseason All-Horizon League Second Team after averaging 14.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last year for the Crusaders. She had a triple-double last season and earned Second Team All-League honors as a junior.
Valpo Tabbed Sixth in Horizon League: The Crusaders were picked to finish in sixth place this season in the Horizon League according to the conference’s preseason poll. Last year the Crusaders finished 14-16 overall and 9-9 in their inaugural league campaign to finish sixth. Green Bay was selected to win the Horizon League title for the 11th consecutive season.
Home Sweet Home: Valpo has had constant success at the ARC over the past seven years. Last season the Crusaders were 9-4 at home and are already 2-1 this year with wins over Bowling Green and Purdue. Since the beginning of the 2001-2002 campaign, Valpo has posted a 73-21 (.777) record at the ARC.
Valpo Adds Two for Next Year’s Class: Head coach Keith Freeman has signed two players to National Letters of Intent for the 2009-2010 season. Skyler Gick is a 5’7” guard from Otterbein, Ind. who averaged 15.1 points per game as a junior at Benton Central High School. Laura Richards is a 5’9” guard from Connersville, Ind and averaged 16.0 points an 5.2 rebounds per game a year ago at Connersville High School.