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Seniors proud of accomplishments at Valpo

Valparaiso's Ryan Broekhoff Matt Kenney hug after Crusaders loss Michigan State during NCAA Tournament The Palace Auburn Hills Thursday afternoon.

Valparaiso's Ryan Broekhoff and Matt Kenney hug after the Crusaders loss to Michigan State during NCAA Tournament at The Palace in Auburn Hills Thursday afternoon. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 23, 2013 2:42PM



AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — As best he could, Ryan Broekhoff was trying to appreciate the moment.

With Michigan State’s 65-54 win in Thursday’s NCAA Tournament Round of 64 game, seniors Broekhoff, Will Bogan, Ben Boggs, Erik Buggs, Matt Kenney and Kevin Van Wijk each played his final game in a Valparaiso uniform.

“The realization that my time here is over and my time with this team is finished,” Broekhoff said when asked about what was going through his mind in the waning seconds. “The score of the game didn’t even faze me at that point. We knew we couldn’t come back in the last 30 seconds. It just dawned on me I’m going to play as hard as I can until the final siren. When it did finish, just embrace all of my teammates I’ve gone to battle with.”

The Crusaders made their first trip to the tournament in nine years, and won a program-record 26 games, among other milestones. But, understandably, the loss was still too fresh for them to have a ton of perspective.

“Very sad,” Van Wijk said. “We knew we had a good chance. Obviously, they’re a great team, but we also knew what we were able to do against them. … Obviously, we can be very proud of each and every one in this (locker) room. We accomplished some things that haven’t been accomplished in a long time and have never been accomplished in Valpo history. That’s something we can look forward to. But at this moment, don’t think about that yet; maybe in a couple weeks from now, when you’re working out, or the seniors are going to go wherever they’re going to go, we can think we had a special group and a great career at Valpo.”

What’s next? Bryce Drew has been mentioned as a potential candidate for Northwestern’s coaching job. He generally deferred on such questions after Thursday’s game.

“I’m very excited to get our recruits in and coach here next year,” said Drew, a Mississippi State target last season who again figures to be prominent in searches this season. “I graduated from Valpo, I love Valpo, and haven’t really thought about the future, except for focusing on this game and trying to prep our seniors to give them the best opportunity to win. I really haven’t had a chance to talk to the seniors yet. … I still have to regain myself and what I’m going to tell these guys, because they’re such good kids — not just players, but such good kids off the court. They left our program in a great state.”

Off day: Valparaiso’s top two scorers, Broekhoff and Van Wijk, each had a rough game offensively.

Broekhoff had eight points — just the fourth time this season he didn’t reach double figures — on 2-of-11 shooting, including 1-of-9 from 3-point range. Van Wijk had two points, missing all six of his shots, though he did have a team-high seven rebounds, before fouling out with 5:34 left.

Broekhoff didn’t score his first basket until 1:21 remained in the first half, his only 3-pointer of the game. Lew Wallace graduate Branden Dawson drew the primary assignment of defending Broekhoff.

Van Wijk essentially hasn’t practiced since spraining his right ankle in the Horizon League Tournament semifinals against Green Bay, but downplayed the injury.

“I’m a little banged up, but it’s not an excuse to miss shots because of that,” said Van Wijk, who also hurt his elbow in this game. “I wasn’t able to do much the whole week, but the shots I took were basic layups. No excuse — I shouldn’t have missed those.

“The shots just didn’t want to fall, for some reason. Me and Coach talked about it, trying to laugh about it in a way, but it’s hard. The biggest game of your career until now, it’s hard I wasn’t able to make those shots for the team.”

Said Drew: “I feel bad he didn’t get to play his best. The country didn’t get to see how good he’s been for us.”

Also, Bogan went scoreless, missing all three of his 3-point attempts.

Digging deep: Drew pulled out all the stops against the Spartans.

He employed a zone. He played Van Wijk and Bobby Capobianco together for a bigger lineup. He played Vashil Fernandez (one minute) and Jordan Coleman (two), two guys who have not been part of the team’s eight-man rotation.

“Everybody had a chance to play, everybody had an opportunity to give us a spark and help us tonight,” Drew said. “I thought the five guys at the end were playing extremely hard and going on a run. Like I told Erik and Ryan, they deserve to be out there, but part of it was the coach just wanted to see them out there as long as he could, because all six seniors, we’re really going to miss.”



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