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Business as usual for Valparaiso

Valparaiso University's Will Bogan makes layup past Eastern Kentucky's Corey Walden (behind) during their game held Valparaiso University Saturday February

Valparaiso University's Will Bogan makes a layup past Eastern Kentucky's Corey Walden (behind) during their game held at Valparaiso University on Saturday February 22, 2013. | Charles Mitchell~For Sun-Times Media

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The Big Number

Green Bay is ranked No. 1 in Horizon League games in field goal percentage defense (38.3), rebounding margin (plus-6.7) and blocked shots (5.9).

The Bonus

After Valparaiso’s senior night win over Youngstown State to wrap up the top seed in the Horizon League Tournament, Bryce Drew sung the praises of those six seniors.

“It’s just such a mix of different people, from different parts of the world, and how they’ve blended together and become such great friends is incredible,” he said. “That’s a reason why they’ve been able to win games on the floor, is because they care for each other so much and they really trust each other. They want each other to be happy, to be successful. Don’t know if we’ll see another senior class like this. It has to be one of the best in the history of Valpo. Don’t know how long it will be until we see another one that’s comparable.”

Updated: April 2, 2013 6:42AM



VALPARAISO — Clinching the No. 1 seed in the Horizon League Tournament.

On senior night.

For sure, Tuesday’s 73-64 win over Youngstown State at the Athletics-Recreation Center was special for Valparaiso.

But from the high of that night, the Crusaders have returned to reality as they prepare to close the regular season at Green Bay on Saturday, in a game televised by ESPNU. It’s business as usual for this mature group.

“It’s really the same thing we’ve been doing all year; even though it’s a win, forget about that game, it’s in the past and start focusing on the next one,” Will Bogan said, matter of factly, on Thursday.

Despite already ensuring that the Horizon League road to the NCAA Tournament will run through the ARC, the Crusaders were not planning to alter their approach.

“We’re going to treat it like any conference game,” coach Bryce Drew said.

“Tuesday was really emotional, from the game standpoint and the senior night standpoint. Any time you exert that much emotion, it does take some time, whether it be 24 hours or 48 hours or whatever, to get back into your routine. Hopefully with the day off (on Wednesday), we’ll be ready to go in practice and then the game. We’ll have to be, because they’re a very good team.”

If the Crusaders (23-7, 12-3 Horizon League), guaranteed at least a share of the regular-season title, defeat the third-place Phoenix (16-13, 10-5), they secure the outright championship. Green Bay needs a win in order to grab the No. 3 seed, with that position’s first-round bye in the league tournament; a loss coupled with a Wright State win against Youngstown State would give the Raiders the third spot, by virtue of their season sweep of the Phoenix.

In addition to the standings implications, Valparaiso would like to close the regular season on an upswing, before it plays again on March 9 in the league tournament semifinals.

“It’s important for our team’s confidence and carrying momentum into the Horizon League Tournament,” Bogan said. “And it’s another chance to play, especially for us seniors. There’s not a whole lot of games left in the season, so we cherish every single game that we get to play.”

When the teams played earlier this season, the Crusaders won 73-61 on Jan. 23, never trailing, but seeing a 16-point lead dwindle to one, before pulling away. The Phoenix have won their last four league games — they lost a BracketBusters game at Drake during that stretch — with standouts Keifer Sykes averaging 20.3 points during the streak (15.4, 4.2 assists for the season) and Alec Brown 17.8 (13.5, 6.0 rebounds, 1.9 blocks).

Valparaiso has lost its last two trips to Green Bay and four of five since joining the Horizon League, including twice in overtime. The Phoenix are 11-2 at the Resch Center this season, with their only league loss coming to Wright State in double-overtime.

“It’s one of the toughest places to play in the Horizon League,” Bogan said.



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