Valparaiso bounces back against YSU to clinch Horizon League title
By Michael Osipoff 648-3137 or firstname.lastname@example.org February 26, 2013 10:54PM
Valparaiso's Ryan Broekhoff blocks Youngstown's Damian Eargle in the first half at Valparaiso University Tuesday night. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 28, 2013 6:51AM
VALPARAISO — On Senior Night, Valparaiso simply would not be denied.
The Crusaders overcame a 13-point first-half deficit to beat Youngstown State 73-64 on Tuesday night at the Athletics-Recreation Center, guaranteeing that they will host the Horizon League Tournament. They will be the No. 1 seed, clinching at least a share of the regular-season title, and can claim the outright championship with a win at Green Bay on Saturday.
Valparaiso (23-7, 12-3 Horizon League) ratcheted up its intensity in the second half, after a shaky — if unexpected — first half.
“We never got too worried about it (falling behind by 13 points),” Ryan Broekhoff said. “It wasn’t the position we’d like to be in, but we’re a veteran group. We’ve been in that position too many times.”
Youngstown State (16-13, 7-8) shot 8-of-34 (23.5 percent) in the second half, going 1-of-14 to start, after going 17-of-29 (58.6) in the first.
Broekhoff had 21 points and 10 rebounds, largely taking over the game early in the second half. Kevin Van Wijk had 15 points and a career-high 14 rebounds. Will Bogan had 10 points and a career-high five assists.
Van Wijk gave Valparaiso a lead it would not relinquish, 47-45 with 10:53 left in the game, in the middle of a personal 5-0 spurt, as part of a 12-0 run for the Crusaders that gave them a 53-45 edge. LaVonte Dority added a 3-pointer to make it 56-47, and Van Wijk’s thunderous dunk made it 60-50 with 4:12 left.
Valparaiso improved to 20-1 on Senior Night over the last 21 seasons.
Youngstown State, which was without standout guard Kendrick Perry (knee), led by as much as 39-26 on Blake Allen’s three-point play with 2:44 left in the first half. But Valparaiso chipped away to trail 40-33 at halftime. In the final minute of the first half, the Crusaders forced a shot-clock violation and a five-second call, with Dority scoring on a drive with three seconds left.
“There’s a lot of ballgame left,” Van Wijk said when asked about the mindset when the Crusaders trailed by 13. “The guys just said we needed to sharpen up our defense, and we made a good little run at the end of the first half. ... We kept attacking, and playing our game.”
The Penguins shot 3-of-5 from 3-point range in the first half. The Crusaders shot 12-of-26 (46.2), including 3-of-12 from 3. They went without a field goal for almost seven minutes during one stretch, missing seven straight shots, and missed nine 3-pointers in a row after making their first two attempts of the game.
Valparaiso had gotten off to a fast start, leading 8-2 less than two minutes into the game on 3-pointers from Erik Buggs and Broekhoff, and a follow dunk by Broekhoff.
Allen had 22 points for the Penguins. D.J. Cole had 15, and Damian Eargle added 12 and three blocked shots.
Valparaiso avenged an 80-68 loss at Youngstown on Jan. 30, and has not been swept by a conference opponent in the last two seasons. Dority credited the six seniors for their leadership.
“We were just telling each other to stick together and not let this opportunity slip away,” the junior guard said. “There wasn’t any panic. We just wanted to play our hardest and leave it all on the floor.”