Valpo still getting its ‘chemistry’ figured out
By Michael Osipoff 648-3137 or email@example.com December 19, 2012 11:14PM
Updated: January 21, 2013 4:05PM
VALPARAISO — No, seriously.
As Valparaiso prepares to play its third game in six days, and its first home game since Dec. 5 after three straight on the road, the Crusaders appear to be relatively intact. All of their players available without limitation, no illnesses or injuries, beyond the usual bumps and bruises.
The Crusaders (7-4) meet former Mid-Continent Conference rival IUPUI (4-9, 0-2 Summit League) on Thursday night at the Athletics-Recreation, seeking to rebound from their stunning loss at Oakland on Monday, and to continue to sort out the best way to utilize the array of quality players at their disposal.
“Any time you add new pieces, it takes time for chemistry, it takes time to blend and get the right lineups, and just a feel for each other on the court,” Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew said.
The Crusaders stand less than two weeks away from their Jan. 2 Horizon League opener against Loyola.
“It is a lot of learning on the go, and the coaches have done a really good job integrating everyone into practices, getting different lineups, different matchups, running all the plays,” senior forward Ryan Broekhoff said. “It’s just going to take a little bit of time to get accustomed to playing with everyone.
“We’re not where we want to be. But we’re continuing to work on it, and we’re getting better every day, and getting used to playing with the new faces. It’s just a work in progress. We’ve got the talent we need; it’s just about putting it all together. We’re figuring that out right now.”
While not dwelling on it, the Crusaders were still trying to process what happened against the Grizzlies. They led by nine points with less than five minutes left in the game, then witnessed Oakland score the final 11.
“The situation we got ourselves into, being up nine with a few minutes left, we set ourselves in the best possible opportunity to come out with a win,” Broekhoff said. “We watched a lot of film, going over the things we did wrong, and we just didn’t show enough intensity and desire to get a final stop or to get a final basket. We learned a lot from our end-of-game situation.”
Ben Boggs went 5-of-5 from the field for 11 points against Oakland.
“I thought we played hard and competed,” the senior guard said. “But the last five minutes, obviously, didn’t go how we wanted. We have to find a way to be more successful down the stretch and close out a game like that. That’s something we’re all going to take away from it.”
LaVonte Dority has led Valparaiso in scoring in each of the two games he has played since becoming eligible after his transfer from South Florida. He put up 20 points at Missouri State, then followed up with 14 at Oakland.
“LaVonte Dority’s done a great job,” Drew said. “He’s only played two games with our team, and hadn’t play a game in a whole year. As easy as it might look for a player to go in, there’s a lot more to it with all five guys being on the same page. A lot of that just comes from time, so the more time we can get them in a game out there together, the better they can get acclimated to each other.”
The Crusaders are familiar with the Jaguars, including last season’s 97-88 loss on Dec. 23 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Valparaiso trailed 43-26 at halftime, stormed all the way back to tie, then wound up losing a game in which it had four players foul out and three others with four fouls, with IUPUI going 41-of-48 from the foul line. Broekhoff played limited minutes in that game because of a hip injury, but said it wouldn’t have even mattered with the way everyone played.
“Obviously, it was a very disappointing game on our behalf,” he said. “We learned from last year, and there’s no complacency with our team. … From what I remember from last year, they really pushed the ball, attacked, had some really athletic, good guards. It’s really going to be a tough game for us.”
Purdue transfer John Hart leads IUPUI with 14.5 points per game this season. Junior center Mitchell Patton has added 14.4 points and 5.6 rebounds. Junior guard Ian Chiles, who scored a career-high 19 points against Valparaiso last season, averages 10.3; the preseason All-Summit League second-team pick has played three games since returning from an injury, with a start in the most recent one. Bowman Academy graduate Elijah Ray, a 6-foot-6 freshman forward, has yet to play this season, and was expected to redshirt.
“They’ve always played well against us,” Drew said. “We’ve struggled against their style and how they play, so it’ll be a challenge for us.”
Around the rim: Valparaiso is 15-8 all-time against IUPUI, though the Jaguars have won five of the last six games between the schools … The Crusaders are 5-0 at the ARC this season.