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Valparaiso bench looks to keep rolling

Updated: March 10, 2013 6:48AM



VALPARAISO — In its last two games, Valparaiso has won handily. In those two games, its bench has contributed significantly to the blowouts.

“The guys have been playing very well — LaVonte (Dority), Bobby (Capobianco), Jordan (Coleman), Vashil (Fernandez), and then last game it was Matt (Kenney) who came in,” Crusaders coach Bryce Drew said. “They’ve come in, and with us subbing, we haven’t missed a beat. They’ve kept the same intensity, and really just brought a lot of energy with them.”

The group will try to maintain that level when Valparaiso (18-6, 8-2 Horizon League), which has won consecutive league games by at least 25 points for the first time since January of 2003, plays Cleveland State (12-12, 4-6) on Saturday at the Wolstein Center, in a game televised by ESPN2.

Dority has averaged 11.7 points over the last three games, including two 13-point performances. After Capobianco had eight points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots against Milwaukee, he followed up with 10 points, nine rebounds and nine assists against UIC.

“Bobby had his best game in a Valpo uniform, just really played well,” Drew said. “He was a big key to our team.”

After missing the better part of two games because of back problems, Kenney returned with nine points, five rebounds and five assists against the Flames. Ben Boggs has started the last two games, after having started the first 12 games of the season. Who starts against the Vikings remains to be seen.

“We feel very confident in Ben and very confident in Matt,” Drew said. “We’ll see how Matt’s feeling, we’ll see how the rest of our guys are feeling, and make a decision before the game. And I think both are comfortable in either role, which makes it nice. They’ve been used to it for a while. And, last game, Ben and Matt played really well together at the end of the first half.”

Kenney, who has 11 starts this season, just was happy to be back on the court.

“Obviously I like starting, but Ben does a great job,” he said. “Me and him have kind of traded on and off. Either way, because Coach Bryce plays a lot of people — LaVonte comes off the bench and plays starter minutes, other guys come off the bench and play starter minutes. It’s just who’s playing well at the time, and he’ll leave them in. It doesn’t really matter to me.”

Boggs actually missed Valparaiso’s first game against Cleveland State, because of turf toe. Changes have occurred since the Crusaders, who were coming off a league-opening loss to Loyola, routed the Vikings, who were playing their first conference game of the season, 74-50 on Jan. 4 at the ARC.

“They’re a different team in some ways,” Drew said. “They have a lot of freshmen that they’re playing, and now they have a lot more experience, and they’re playing that way. They have a lot more confidence, and they’re really executing well on offense and defense. Coach (Gary) Waters does a tremendous job.”

Freshman guard Bryn Forbes (11.7 points per game) is the leading active scorer for Cleveland State, which has won back-to-back games, at UIC and against Youngstown State, after four straight losses.

Junior big man Devon Long scored 23 points against the Penguins on Tuesday, a career high and the most by a Vikings player this season.

“They play especially well at home, and they really have been playing a lot better than when we faced them the first time,” Ryan Broekhoff said. “We’re not going into this thinking it’s going to go all our way like it did the first game. We’re preparing, going over any changes they might have made, and we’re really focused. It’s going to be a big test.”

Kenney scored a team-high 14 points in the Crusaders’ first game against the Vikings.

“If we go in and dictate the pace, and keep doing what we’ve been doing, we can come out with a win,” he said. “But I know they’re going to be ready, they’re going to play loose. They’re going to want to knock us off, first place; that probably will give them some momentum, to show that they can beat the first-place team.”



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