Valparaiso bounces back to beat Milwaukee
VALPARAISO — The return of Ben Boggs to a starting role was a triumphant one all around for Valparaiso.
With Matt Kenney sidelined with a back injury, Boggs matched his season high with 12 points in a season-high 33 minutes as the Crusaders flattened Milwaukee 71-40 on Friday night at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
After Wednesday’s 80-68 loss at Youngstown State, they responded emphatically by posting their largest margin of victory since joining the Horizon League; their previous most lopsided win was 24 points, done three times, including 76-52 at Milwaukee on Jan. 12. It also was their largest margin of victory in a conference game since a 95-64 win against Oakland on Jan. 2, 2006.
First-place Valparaiso (17-6, 7-2 Horizon League) matched its fewest points allowed in a game since a 68-40 win against Grinnell on Dec. 9, 1987; and allowed its fewest against a Division I opponent since a 35-33 win against Green Bay on Jan. 21, 1984.
“We had a tough game a couple nights ago, and I think the guys were really focused, and mentally prepared, ready to come into today’s game, and it showed with their play,” said Crusaders coach Bryce Drew, whose team led the last-place Panthers (5-18, 1-8) by as many as 36 points.
Perhaps no one showed it more than Boggs, who scored all of his points in the first half, including 10 in the first six-plus minutes. After missing the Cleveland State game because of turf toe, he had come off the bench in Valparaiso’s last six games, playing a total of 41 minutes and scoring 11 points. He had started the first 15 games of the season.
“It was nice,” said Boggs, who shot 5-of-7, including 2-of-2 from 3-point range, making his first five shots. “Unfortunately, I had that toe injury set me back a little bit, and I just kept working hard. I was able to provide a spark for the team with Matt being out.
“Just keep getting extra shots up, keep working hard in practice, just little things like that. You never know when it’ll happen, and that’s the main thing, just always being ready.”
Said Drew: “He’s one of our hardest workers. He comes in every day — how he stays prepared is he’s always in the gym, he comes in in the morning, gets shots up, and he always stays after and gets shots up. I’m really happy for him, because of all his hard work. It’s nice as a coach to have a guy like that that’s ready, prepared and ready to step right in. … It’s a nice luxury for a coach to have a guy that works as hard as him.”
Beyond Boggs, the Crusaders received contributions from up and down their roster, with all nine of their available players getting significant minutes. Will Bogan had 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point range, and Ryan Broekhoff had 11 points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes. Three others had at least eight points, as eight Valparaiso players scored in all, with all eight scoring at least five.
“I couldn’t have been more excited for Ben,” said Bobby Capobianco, one of those players who came off the bench to produce well, with eight points, a game-high nine rebounds and two blocked shots. “Ben’s my roommate, so we get to spend a lot of time talking about basketball. I know he had that injury, and he’s been working really hard. I was just excited to see him get out there and take a chance, and do well. It helped our team have a lot of momentum, and it left that to the bench guys to come in and to keep that energy up and to play at the level that those guys had set. That’s our role, and we have to come in and keep that energy high. Credit to Ben and the starters to get that rolling.”
Valparaiso shot 56.3 percent (27-of-48) from the field, including 11-of-21 (52.4 percent) from 3-point range, after going 3-of-20 from deep at Youngstown. Milwaukee shot just 27.3 percent (12-of-44), including 2-of-12 from 3. The Crusaders had 19 assists, against 10 turnovers.
Valparaiso used a 10-1 run — including 3-pointers from Bogan and LaVonte Dority (nine points, game-high five assists), and a three-point play from Broekhoff — to take a 22-11 lead, and the rout was in progress. They took a 37-21 lead into halftime on Capobianco’s putback with four seconds left.
The Crusaders then scored the first 11 points of the second half, including five by Kevin Van Wijk, who had gone scoreless in the first half.
“You have to credit the seniors for coming out, and the rest of the team for following their focus,” Drew said. “I thought our second group did a tremendous job.”
Note: Drew termed Kenney’s status as day-to-day, hoping he will return for the Crusaders’ game on Tuesday at the ARC against UIC.