Valpo men getting close to Horizon League crown
By Michael Osipoff 648-3137 or email@example.com February 11, 2013 11:12PM
Valparaiso's Lavonte Dority is fouled by Cleveland State's Josh Ivory during the first half at Valparaiso University Friday night. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 11, 2013 11:16PM
As it begins a pivotal — and potentially momentous — week of its season, Valparaiso should be in relatively good shape physically, after greater concern over the weekend.
Crusaders coach Bryce Drew termed LaVonte Dority a game-time decision for Tuesday night at Wright State, after the junior guard hurt his ankle in the first half of Saturday’s win at Cleveland State and did not return. On Monday, Dority tweeted his “ankle feels so much better.”
Senior guard Matt Kenney continues to manage his back problems. And Ryan Broekhoff (illness) — who added his fourth Horizon League Player of the Week award, becoming just the second player to win at least that many in a season in the last 12 years, with Norris Cole winning five in 2010-11 — on Monday tweeted: “Finally feeling like I’m getting over this sickness.” The senior forward did not practice the night before the game against the Vikings, remaining in the team’s hotel.
“Hopefully he’ll be at full strength tomorrow,” Drew said on Monday, adding more would be known about all of the banged-up players when the team got off the bus after its second trip to Ohio in less than a handful of days.
The first-place Crusaders (19-6, 9-2 Horizon League) this week play the two teams tied for second — the Raiders (17-8, 8-4) on Tuesday at the Nutter Center, then Detroit (16-9, 8-4) on Saturday at the ARC. If Valparaiso wins both of those games, it would clinch at least a share of the regular-season title, on the cusp of securing the No. 1 seed and hosting the latter stages of the conference tournament.
Of course, the Crusaders are concentrating on the here and now.
“Things can change can change very, very quickly,” Drew said. “We’re just focused on our next game. We do know we have five really tough conference games left, and every game is really important. We have to be at our best to win any of those games.”
Valparaiso has been in that sort of form especially in its last three games, shooting 57.1 percent from the field, including 50.8 from 3-point range, in three impressive wins. Wright State, too, enters the game with three straight wins, after having lost three in a row.
The Raiders are coming off back-to-back wins at Green Bay and Milwaukee. It was their first win in Milwaukee since 1998, ending a 14-game losing streak; and gave them a road sweep of those two teams for the first time in program history, with those three schools having been in the same conference since the 1993-94 season.
Wright State returns home, where it has gone 9-2 this season and 4-2 against Valparaiso, including a league tournament win, since the Crusaders joined the Horizon.
“They’re really, really good at home, but the main thing, they’re a very good team, and that makes it hard no matter where you play them,” said Drew, whose team is 7-5 on the road this season, with a win guaranteeing an above-.500 finish away from the ARC for the first time since the 2001-02 season.
On Jan. 19 at home, the Crusaders, who also need one win for their 13th 20-win season in the last 20, had to rally for a 69-63 win against the Raiders, gaining their fourth in the last five games of the series. Valparaiso had trailed Wright State — which has allowed 58.5 points per game, 23rd nationally — 51-44 with 7:44 left, and scored on its final 10 possessions. Broekhoff scored 12 of the Crusaders’ 14 points over the game’s final 2:17, including the first 10 of that stretch, to help halt the Raiders’ five-game win streak and 4-0 league start.