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Lately, Valparaiso has been great late in games

Updated: February 24, 2013 6:39AM



VALPARAISO — It’s not necessarily the way Valparaiso would have drawn it up. OK, clearly it’s not.

But the Crusaders have become rather proficient at this whole comeback thing.

“I’d rather have leads, I know that,” Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew said with a laugh. “But the nice thing is, with the experience of the players and them knowing each other, they have a confidence in each other that they feel even if they’re down, they have a chance to come back, just because they’ve played together for so long. They have a confidence level in each other.”

Valparaiso (15-5, 5-1 Horizon League) needed all of that confidence and more in its last two games, wins at Detroit and against Wright State. Against the Titans, the Crusaders trailed by 22 points with 17 minutes left and by 11 with less than three; against the Raiders, they trailed by seven points with less than eight minutes left.

Valparaiso, now tied for first place with Wright State, will try for a less bumpy path on Wednesday night at the Athletics-Recreation Center against third-place Green Bay (10-9, 4-2). In their last three close games (including at UIC), the Crusaders have scored on 24 of their 26 possessions in the last four minutes (10-of-11 at the Flames, 6-of-7 at Detroit, 8-of-8 against Wright State). They shot 15-of-16 from the field, including 6-of-6 from 3-point range, and 18-of-21 from the foul line.

“We always have belief, no matter how bad it sort of seems,” Ryan Broekhoff said. “We feel like we can make a run, play good defense, we can always come back from deficits. Obviously, we don’t want to put ourselves in that position every week, because there will be times when we aren’t able to play in the last few minutes like we have. We have to improve on our starts and the middle of the game, and not leave it up to a large rally at the end to steal games away. It’s something we’ll continue to work on.

“It may be something we weren’t able to do in years past, come back from deficits like we have. Hopefully it is a really good sign that we’re able to do things like that and never really be out of games. But we need to work on other parts of our game and not get ourselves in that situation in the first place.”

With its rallies, Valparaiso now is seeking its sixth straight win.

The Crusaders have not had that long of a streak since late in the 2007-08 season, and not in conference play since January of 2004.

The Phoenix have won four consecutive games, all at home, after losing at Wright State and at Detroit to begin the conference season. They are 0-7 on the road this season.

“They present a lot of challenges for us with their size, and they’re very, very quick at the guard position,” Drew said. “They have a very good blend of outside-inside players that makes them very difficult to guard.”

Sophomore point guard Keifer Sykes averages 15.3 points and 4.2 assists. Seven-foot-1 junior Alec Brown averages 11.8 points and 6.6 rebounds, and 6-9 senior Brennan Cougill 11.5 and 6.2. Jordan Fouse, a 6-7 freshman swingman, has averaged 14.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in Green Bay’s last two games.

“Their big guy (Brown) is one of the best players in the league, he’s an NBA prospect, so it’s a big challenge,” Kevin Van Wijk said. “Their whole starting five is as good as any starting five in the league. They’re as good as any candidate to win it, so we have to be careful and play our game.”



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