Men’s basketball: Another challenge awaits Valparaiso
By Michael Osipoff 648-3137 or firstname.lastname@example.org January 18, 2013 9:52PM
Valparaiso senior Ryan Broekhoff puts up a shot over Chicago State junior Markus Starks during the first half of their game for the Joe Cipriano Nebraska Classic at Valparaiso University Friday, November 23, 2012 in Valparaiso, Ind. | Scott M. Bort~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 20, 2013 6:13AM
After its emotional, just-short-of-impossible come-from-behind win at Detroit on Thursday, Valparaiso had precious little time to refocus for its next game.
And it’s another key game, at that.
First place in the Horizon League will be on the line when the Crusaders (14-5, 4-1) meet Wright State (13-4, 4-0), the conference’s lone remaining undefeated team, on Saturday night at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
“They’re the No. 1 team right now and that’s where we want to be,” Ryan Broekhoff said after the Crusaders shocked the Titans 89-88 after they had faced an 18-point halftime deficit and a 22-point hole early in the second half.
Few, if any, people would have envisioned the Raiders being in this position. In the preseason, they were picked to finish last in the league. But they have won five straight games and eight of their last nine, with their only loss coming at Cincinnati, already matching their win total from last season, when they went 13-19, including 7-11 in the conference.
Wright State hangs its hat on defense under coach Billy Donlon. The Raiders allow a league-low 55.8 points per game, which ranks 10th nationally, with Loyola (58.3) the next-best. They have allowed 54.5 in conference games, with Green Bay at 59.6. Wright State, which is last in scoring at 62.0 points per game, also is second overall in the league in field goal percentage defense (39.9) and 3-point defense (29.9).
“They have the No. 1 defense in the league for a reason,” Broekhoff said. “We’re going to have to figure out where we can attack.”
Though the Raiders play three road games in five days (at Valparaiso, Detroit, Youngstown State), and four games in eight days, they have not played since Jan. 11, when they rallied for a 62-61 win at Loyola behind a career-high 29 points from Reggie Arceneaux. The 5-foot-9 sophomore point guard averages 10.8 points; and junior forward Cole Darling, who missed four games this season because of injury, adds 10.7 points and 5.0 rebounds as part of a relatively balanced offense.
“They really share the ball around,” Broekhoff said.
The teams split last season, with the series tied 6-6 since Valparaiso joined the Horizon League.
“Saturday, they’re undefeated, they’re No. 1, so that’s kind of our rival right now because they’re on top of us,” Kevin Van Wijk said after Valparaiso’s win at Detroit when asked about the Crusaders’ rivalry with the Titans.
“We’re very excited to play them (the Raiders). It’ll be good to go back home and try to get the first position in the Horizon League. It will be a good challenge for us. They knocked off some good teams, and we’re excited to get back at it.”
Note: Valparaiso’s game at Cleveland State at 3 p.m. on Feb. 9 will be televised by ESPN2, it was announced on Friday.