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Men’s Basketball: Red-hot Crusaders cruise past UIC

Valparaiso's Ryan Broekhoff takes three pointer with UIC's Daniel Barnes defending first half Valparaiso University Tuesday night. | Jeffrey D.

Valparaiso's Ryan Broekhoff takes a three pointer with UIC's Daniel Barnes defending in the first half at Valparaiso University Tuesday night. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media

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VALPARAISO — In the waning seconds of the first half, Ryan Broekhoff raised up from the right wing, at least 30 feet from the basket, about two steps from the sideline, and nailed the shot.

It was that kind of game for Valparaiso.

The Crusaders were clicking on all cylinders, turning in probably their best performance of the season with an 86-61 rout of UIC on Tuesday night at the Athletics-Recreation Center.

Against the respected defense of the Flames (14-10, 5-6 Horizon League), Valparaiso (18-6, 8-2) shot 30-of-50 from the field, including a season-best 15-of-26 from 3-point range — 8-of-13 in the first half, 7-of-13 in the second half. The Crusaders also went 11-of-12 from the foul line.

“The last two games, we really came out with a lot of energy, we really came out focused,” said Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew, whose team had beaten Milwaukee 71-40 on Friday. “And we shot the ball extremely well. Any time the ball goes in the basket, it covers up a lot of mistakes that you’re making.”

Not that the Crusaders were making a whole lot of mistakes against the Flames, who had entered the game averaging 60.0 points allowed.

Valparaiso did commit 19 turnovers, but also had 24 assists.

The Crusaders also held UIC to 36.4 percent shooting (20-of-55), including 2-of-14 from 3-point range.

“It was a great effort by Valpo,” Flames coach Howard Moore said. “They showed why they’re the top team in our league. They played with a phenomenal awareness and approach, and we just felt like we were in quicksand the whole game. It’s hard to catch up. We gave up some unbelievable open shots. Just a tough game for us.

“They had a heck of a night shooting, they were well-rested and ready to go. And our defense was atrocious.”

Broekhoff scored 22 points, including 19 in the first half, on 8-of-13 shooting, including 6-of-9 from 3-point range. His way-beyond-deep 3-pointer with two seconds left in the first half gave the Crusaders a 44-27 lead.

The play that had been called apparently went awry, and Broekhoff — who had shot 9-of-29 from the field in his previous three games, including 5-of-19 from 3-point range — took matters into his own hands.

“I kind of saw the shot clock,” said Broekhoff, who shot 7-of-10 in the first half — when he played 18 of his 25 minutes — including 5-of-7 from 3. “I made the last couple. I actually didn’t realize how far out I was. I shot it with confidence, and it was one of those lucky shots.”

Said Drew: “He bails out the coaching staff when we don’t make good decisions. I want to thank him for bailing us out there.”

The Crusaders had scored 15 straight points, including eight from Broekhoff in less than a minute, to take a 17-7 lead with 13:27 left in the first half. They led by as much as 82-47 with 6:21 left in the game, when LaVonte Dority hit a 3-pointer off an offensive rebound and assist from Bobby Capobianco.

Dority had 13 points off the bench. And Capobianco had a terrific all-around game with 10 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

Erik Buggs had 10 points, including 6-of-6 from the foul line. And Matt Kenney, returning after missing the game against Milwaukee because of a back problem, had nine points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals.

Josh Crittle and Daniel Barnes had 12 points each for UIC. The Crusaders now have won eight straight games against the Flames.

Six of the previous seven had been by single digits; this one clearly was not.

“I’m really happy how we played tonight,” Drew said. “Hopefully we can continue these efforts.”



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