Hoop Preview — Valpo

<B>Penn State vs. Valparaiso <P>azcentral.com Holiday Classic <P>Wells Fargo Arena, Tempe, Ariz.</B>

Game Time: 6:30 p.m.

Records: Penn State (5-5); Valparaiso (2-6).

Coaches: Ed DeChellis is 14-24 in his second season at Penn State and 119-117 overall. Homer Drew is 256-203 in 16 years at Valpo and 525-325 overall.

Series: Penn State leads 1-0.

Last meeting: The Lions beat Valpo 52-40 in the consolation game of the 1985 Milwaukee Classic.

Last time out: State fell to Buffalo (72-70) at the BJC Dec. 21. The Crusaders tumbled to Illinois (93-56) in the Las Vegas Holiday Classic Dec. 19.

TV: None

Radio: Penn State Sports Network (Steve Jones, Dick Jerardi).

Probable Starters:

• Penn State — G Mike Walker, 6-2 Fr. (8.1 ppg), G Marlon Smith, 6-0 So. (11.0 ppg), F Geary Claxton, 6-5 Fr. (10.6 ppg), F Travis Parker, 6-5 Jr. (11.7 ppg), F Aaron Johnson, 6-8 Jr. (16.2 ppg).

• Valpo — G Seth Colclasure, 6-2 Jr. (5.8 ppg), G Jarryd Loyd, 6-0 Fr. (3.8 ppg), G Ron Howard, 6-5 Jr. (9.3 ppg), F Moussa Mbaye, 6-9 So. (3.8 ppg), F Dan Oppland, 6-8 Jr. (17.1 ppg).

Quick Quiz: When was Penn State’s last trip to Tempe for a tournament?

Penn State Notes:

• DeChellis tried like crazy to get out of this tournament (the scheduling commitment was made by previous PSU coach Jerry Dunn) but the ASU folks would not let him off the hook. DeChellis sees holiday tourneys as relics because they force a team to play two games on the road without getting any home games in return.

• Another reason DeChellis hates this tournament: Forcing the players to travel so close to Christmas. Each Nittany Lion flew from his respective hometown to Phoenix on Christmas day. Despite the travel nightmares facing parts of the nation, all players and coaches arrived when they were supposed to.

• In its last three games, all losses, Penn State has averaged 18 turnovers and allowed its opponents to shoot a collective 50 percent (85 of 169) from the floor.

Valparaiso Notes:

• Tough year so far for Valpo, whose only wins are over Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Northwestern (La.) State. This is a bit misleading, however. Among the teams that have beaten the Crusaders: Cincinnati, Charlotte, Duke and Illinois.

• From the Are-You-Crazy department: Valpo plays today and tomorrow in this tournament. On Thursday, it heads back to the Las Vegas Holiday Classic, facing Northern Iowa at Valley High School at 9 p.m. Twelve hours later, the Crusaders are up against Longwood in the Vegas Classic. That’s four games in two cites in three and a half days.

• Valpo has been in the NCAA tournament eight of the last 10 years. Don’t count the Crusaders out of this year’s dance just yet. They are an incredible 25-2 all-time in the Mid-Continent Conference tournament.

• Injuries have hurt Valpo, which played its last three games with only eight scholarship athletes. The biggest loss has been point guard Ali Berdiel (foot problems), the team’s only senior and a second-team All-Conference pick a year ago. He is out indefinitely.

Quiz Answer: The Lions beat Manhattan then lost to Arizona State in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl Classic

FOS Prediction: Penn State 75, Valpo 70

The Lowdown: The depleted Crusaders begin a stretch of four games in four days. Penn State is rested and has more depth.

FOS Prediction Record: 5-5.

Next Up: The winner advances to the final, most likely against host Arizona State, Wednesday at 9 p.m. The loser plays in the consolation, probably against Long Island, at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

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