Game #9: December 29, 2008, 4 p.m. CST
Valparaiso (4-4, 0-0 Horizon)
vs. La Salle (7-5, 0-0 Atlantic 10)
Stabler Arena (5,600) - Bethlehem, Pa.
Christmas City Classic - 1st Round
Coming Up in Crusader Hoops: After taking eight
days off for the Christmas holiday, the Valparaiso University Crusaders
will return to the hardwood on Monday as the Brown and Gold battle La
Salle in the opening round of the Christmas City Classic hosted by
Lehigh. The Crusaders are looking to move over the .500 and advance to
the championship game of a tournament for the second time this year.
The host Mountain Hawks will face North Florida in the second game of
On the Air: Monday’s game against La Salle can be heard live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpoathletics.com. Adam Tein and Danny Robertson will call all of the action live from Stabler Arena.
Series Notes: Valparaiso and La Salle are meeting for just the second time ever and the first time on a neutral court. The only other contest between the Crusaders and Explorers resulted in a Valpo victory 95-90 in overtime on January 3, 1992 at the Athletics-Recreation Center in Valparaiso.
Wrapping Up South Dakota State: The Crusaders played their third straight game against a top-25 foe last Sunday afternoon, and jumped out to an early lead only to see the Jackrabbits rally and defeat Valparaiso 74-58. A late first half run put South Dakota State on top by eight at intermission, and after the Crusaders tied the game early in the second half, the Jackrabbits held Valpo without a field goal for 11 minutes to help pick up the victory. Launa Hochstetler led the Crusaders with a career-high 24 points while Lauren Kenney added 10 points and seven rebounds. Stacie Oistad led South Dakota State with 15 points on the afternoon.
Scouting La Salle: The Explorers won three straight games to close out the pre-holiday schedule, including a 63-47 victory over Rider a week ago Sunday in Philadelphia. Morgan Robertson leads La Salle scoring 13.6 points per game and is also grabbing 9.4 boards per night. Margaret Elderton adds 11.1 points per contest, including a 19-point effort against Rider. Ashley Gale is the third Explorer averaging in double figures, scoring 10.3 points per contest. As a team, La Salle is shooting 73.3% from the free throw line and is +1.6 in turnover margin.
Crusaders Seek Second Tournament Title: After capturing their first in-season tournament title since 1985-1986, the Crusaders will look to make it two tournament crowns in the same season at the Christmas City Classic. Valpo has never won two in-season tournaments in the same season, last playing two during the 2004-2005 season with the Subway Classic in Minneapolis, Minn. and the Blue Sky Classic in Hanover, N.H.
Valpo and the RPI: Even with a 4-4 record, Valparaiso ranks 50th overall in RPI among the 341 Division I programs according to collegerpi.com while the Horizon League ranked 11th out of 31 conferences. The Crusaders’ strength of schedule ranked 11th in the country to date as well through games of December 26.
Four Among League’s Leading Scorers: Valparaiso boasts four of the Horizon League’s top-15 scorers through the Christmas holiday. Agnieszka Kulaga is third in the conference scoring 17.4 points per night while Aimee Litka ranks ninth pouring in 13.1 points per game. Lauren Kenney adds 12.4 points per contest, 11th best in the conference while Launa Hochstetler’s 11.4 points place her 15th. As a team, Valpo is averaging 68.0 points per game, second in the Horizon League.
Hochstetler Has Career Effort: Launa Hochstetler poured in 20 of her career-high 24 points in the second half for the Crusaders at South Dakota State. The senior guard also brought down a season-high five rebounds. Her previous high scoring output came as a sophomore with 21 points against Western Illinois.
Valpo vs. the Top-25: When the Crusaders battled South Dakota State, it marked the first time ever the Crusaders have played three top-25 teams in the same season. 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.
Adams Takes Advantage of Opportunity: After having played just 18 minutes of action all season entering the South Dakota State game, Betsy Adams made the most of her number being called against the Jackrabbits. The freshman played 15 minutes in the road contest, scoring four points on 2-of-4 shooting from the floor. She had scored only three points total in her six previous games on the court.
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. Last Sunday at South Dakota State, the junior matched her season’s best with another seven boards.
From Downtown: The Crusaders rank near the top of the Horizon League in both three-point shooting percentage and defending the arc. Valpo’s 36.8% shooting from downtown leads the conference and ranks 35th nationally. On the defensive end, the Brown and Gold are allowing opponents to connect on just 30.1% from long range, second best in the league.
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 the tournament with 776 career points (9.0 per game), and needs just 54 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 eight games this year. Agnieszka Kulaga, Aimee Litka, Launa Hochstetler, Lauren Kenney, and Sylwia Zabielewicz have taken to the court each night for the tip.
Super Women: Launa Hochstetler and Aimee Litka both played all 40 minutes in the win against Purdue. They rank third and fourth in the Horizon League in minutes played, while teammate Agnieszka Kulaga leads the conference averaging nearly 37 minutes of action per night.
Big Crowds: Valpo has played in front of more than 1,000 fans in each of the last seven games. The Crusaders drew their biggest home crowd in years against Notre Dame on December 13, 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. Nearly 1,700 spectators have been on hand on average this season overall, including a season-high 4,478 at Central Michigan. Valpo’s total attendance average is highest in the Horizon League
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. She had two assists against South Dakota State, and currently sits in ninth place all-time at Valpo passing Kathryn Knoester (2000-2004). She has 261 assists, and trails Lisa Winter (1998-2000)’s eighth place total of 264 helpers by just three.
Kulaga Joins Hochstetler on Assist List: Agnieszka Kulaga had one assist against South Dakota and now has 206 career assists to move into 17th place all-time wearing the Brown and Gold. The senior needs two 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 three more three-pointers against South Dakota State to solidify her spot in the top-10 in school history. The senior now has 129 career triples and ranks ninth all-time in a Crusader uniform. Litka needs three 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.