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Valparaiso can clinch share of title with win against rival Detroit

Valparaiso head coach Bryce Drew watches Crusaders from bench first half against UIC Valparaiso University Tuesday night. | Jeffrey D.

Valparaiso head coach Bryce Drew watches the Crusaders from the bench in the first half against UIC at Valparaiso University Tuesday night. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media

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The Big Number

Jordan Coleman played in every game but one this season. The junior guard didn’t see the court on Tuesday at Wright State.

“It was an in-game decision,” Crusaders coach Bryce Drew said. “The other players were playing well. We decided to go bigger, playing Bobby (Capobianco) a little more, playing him and Kevin (Van Wijk) together.”

The Bonus

Ryan Broekhoff’s mother and stepfather, Jo and Kevin Toebelman, arrived in town last week from Australia. They’re staying nearby in a fully furnished two-bedroom apartment.

“They’re here for about four more weeks, which is really great,” Broekhoff said. “I’ve had a couple home-cooked meals, stuff like that you miss from home. I do a bit of cooking around the house, but it’s just so nice to get some of Mom’s cooking and kind of be taken care of again, and just get that sense of home and family again. It’s really nice, and they came at a great time of the year.

“It’s been really great having them in the stands, and being able to go out after the game and see family, as well as everyone else.”

They attended the Crusaders’ games at both Cleveland State and Wright State, remaining in Ohio in between. They last visited around this time during Broekhoff’s sophomore season, along with his brother, Daniel.

“A lot’s changed since then. We’re in a good position now, and hopefully we can keep building on it,” Broekhoff said.

Updated: March 17, 2013 6:50PM



VALPARAISO — When last these teams played at the Athletics-Recreation Center, Ray McCallum was dunking to punctuate Detroit’s win over Valparaiso in last season’s Horizon League Tournament championship game.

If the first-place Crusaders defeat the second-place Titans on Saturday night at the ARC, they will be on the verge of forcing Detroit — or any other league opponent — to again have to beat them on their home floor in the league tournament to deny them a trip the NCAA Tournament. A win would clinch at least a share of the regular-season conference title for Valparaiso (20-6, 10-2 Horizon League), oh-so-close to guaranteeing it would host the league tournament. With both Youngstown State (against Milwaukee) and Green Bay (at Cleveland State) both winning on Friday night, the Crusaders, even with a win against the Titans (17-9, 9-4), cannot clinch the outright title and be assured to host, though they could reduce their “magic number” to one.

“We’re still pretty far away from what we really want to achieve, but it’s a good feeling, because everybody worked so hard — coaches, staff, players,” Kevin Van Wijk said. “Everyone has put extra time into our goals.

“A lot of guys have a lot of memories about them (the Titans), thoughts behind what this game means. I think the guys have a little more motivation, because it’s called a rivalry — it kind of helps you get more motivated than you already are. There will be a great vibe in the building, and it’s great to feel that.”

The game will be televised by ESPN2, as part of “Rivalry Week.” A sellout crowd was anticipated at the ARC.

“You try to approach each game the same,” Ryan Broekhoff said. “But tomorrow, when the ARC is packed out and the environment’s really good, all of us will get a little more adrenaline and a little more excitement through us than maybe another game.

“We set ourselves up really well. We’re in the position we want to be, and they’re standing in our way of claiming at least first or second. So obviously it’s a huge game for us. I know everyone on campus and through the team are excited for the game.”

The Crusaders have won six of the last seven games against the Titans, including an 89-88 stunner on Jan. 17 in Detroit. Valparaiso trailed by 22 points with 17 minutes left in the game and still 88-77 with less than three minutes left, before scoring the game’s final 12 points. Broekhoff’s free throws with 17.4 seconds left gave the Crusaders their first and only lead.

Valparaiso snapped Detroit’s 17-game win streak at Calihan Hall — dating to last season’s game between the teams, when Erik Buggs went coast-to-coast for the winning basket — though the Titans subsequently lost at home to Wright State on Jan. 21. Since that loss, they have won five of their last six games, including a 92-62 shellacking of Cleveland State on Tuesday.

“They score the ball extremely well, and force a lot of turnovers on defense, so we’re going to have to be able to take care of the ball,” Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew said of the Titans, who also had won 22 straight games in which they had scored at least 80 points before losing to the Crusaders. “I don’t know if you can really stop them on defense, but hopefully just keep them from scoring tons of points.”

Said Broekhoff: “They have shooters, they have athletes, they space the floor. It’s going to be tough to contain all their offensive weapons. We did an OK job last time, and we learned a lot from that game, mainly with rotations and things like that.”

Valparaiso and Detroit have played in the league tournament three straight seasons, and could be on course for a fourth.

“Everybody talks about the rivalry, and the last game was a special thing,” Van Wijk said. “It’s going to be a fun game for everybody.”



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