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Crusaders’ win streak hits six games

Valparaiso's Ryan Broekhoff reacts after giving Valparaiso 65-58 lead over Green Bay late second half Valpariaso University Wednesday evening. |

Valparaiso's Ryan Broekhoff reacts after giving Valparaiso a 65-58 lead over Green Bay late in the second half at Valpariaso University Wednesday evening. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 25, 2013 1:05PM



VALPARAISO — No need for a comeback this time.

Valparaiso led from start to finish on Wednesday night against Green Bay, though the Crusaders did have some dicey moments along the way.

They built a 16-point first-half lead, saw it dwindle to one, then pulled away for a 73-61 win at the Athletics-Recreation Center. With their sixth straight win — their first such streak since late in the 2007-08 season and first in conference play since January of 2004 — and Wright State’s loss on Wednesday, they reclaimed sole possession of first place in the Horizon League.

Ryan Broekhoff didn’t make his first field goal until more than three-fourths of the way through the game, but still managed to post 19 points, including 14-of-15 from the foul line, and nine rebounds.

“They were really good getting through screens, their rotations were really sharp, and especially on the break they made sure to locate me,” said Broekhoff, who had 12 points in the second half, and shot 2-of-7 from the field for the game, including 1-of-5 from 3. “I missed a couple shots that probably normally I’d make, and that kind of happens in a game. Over the course of a season, you have ups and downs shooting, but I was lucky enough to find my way to the free-throw line and make a good percentage, and help my team out in any way I could.”

Kevin Wan Wijk scored all 12 of his points in the second half.

“We just kept playing our game, and we tried to find the open man, and that was me,” Van Wijk said. “We just kept playing, and kept moving the ball.”

Green Bay coach Brian Wardle said of Van Wijk: “He’s a physical guy, and they find him on those dives off of ball screens. He just constantly is posting, hitting bodies, and he’s just very good at it. He’s just a tough matchup.”

After the Phoenix (10-10, 4-3) closed to 61-58 with 2:04 left in the game, Broekhoff nailed a 3-pointer with 1:37 left. His first field goal had come on a three-point play with 7:03 left that gave the Crusaders (16-5, 6-1) a 55-46 lead.

“Down the stretch we just couldn’t stop Ryan Broekhoff, I felt,” said Wardle, whose team had carried a four-game win streak into the game. “He just kept making plays. … We just could never cut into it and make that run, that push that we needed.

“We were conscious of him (Broekhoff), but he’s a great player. He doesn’t force it. Everybody could go into halftime with zero points, that means nothing to a really good player, and I consider him one of the best I’ve seen in the league in eight years. He’s just patient, and then when his time comes, man, he makes the most of it, and he capitalizes, and he takes over games. … He did it again tonight.”

Erik Buggs sparked Valparaiso at the outset, scoring its first seven points — on a 3-pointer less than a minute into the game, and two layups off steals — and assisted on a Matt Kenney basket, as the Crusaders jumped out to a 9-2 lead with 16:22 left in the first half.

The senior point guard finished with nine points (all in the game’s first 10 minutes), five assists and a career-high six steals, as Green Bay had 16 turnovers.

“That’s just one of my roles, to bring energy to the team,” Buggs said. “I just do what needs to be done. We have shooters all over that I’m surrounded by, we have Kevin in the post, so it’s easy to forget about me, so I just take my chances and take my opportunities.”

The Crusaders eventually led 25-9 with 8:41 left, and 27-11 with 8:04 left. But the Phoenix went on a 20-7 run over the final 7:47 of the half, including 10 straight points to make it 30-29, to close to 34-31 at halftime.

Valparaiso — which went without a field goal from the 8:41 mark of the first half to 3.1 seconds, both by Bobby Capobianco — had its advantage cut to 38-37 with 17:10 left in the game. But the Crusaders never relinquished the lead, affording them a pleasant stretch before their next game on Jan. 30 at Youngstown State.

Alec Brown led Green Bay with 18 points, and Keifer Sykes added 15.

“I was really proud of our team in the second half, because there were times Green Bay could’ve taken momentum, and Ryan would make a shot, or Kevin would make a shot, or Erik would make a great play on defense,” Crusaders coach Bryce Drew said. “The score wasn’t close to showing how competitive the game was.”



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