Valparaiso locks up outright Horizon League title
Post-Tribune Staff report March 2, 2013 6:50PM
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Updated: April 4, 2013 7:02AM
GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Crusaders rolled to a 75-56 win at Green Bay on Saturday, clinching their second straight outright regular-season Horizon League title to head into the postseason on a high note. Already guaranteed to host the league tournament as the No. 1 seed, they next play in the semifinals on March 9.
With Detroit also beating UIC on Saturday, Valparaiso (24-7, 13-3 Horizon League) had to beat Green Bay (16-14, 10-6) to claim sole possession of first place. And the Crusaders — who have tied for the second most wins in a season in program history, and tied the record for the most in the regular season dating to the 1923-24 season; and, at 10-5, set a program record for road wins in a season — delivered emphatically against the Phoenix, who had been 11-2 at the Resch Center this season and 4-1 at home against Valparaiso since it joined the league.
“It’s a great compliment to our players,” Crusaders coach Bryce Drew said. “They were excited for the game, and came out with a lot of determination. You only get some many opportunities to play, and they came out with a lot of urgency, especially our seniors.”
Senior guard Matt Kenney scored a season-high 21 points on 7-of-7 shooting, including 6-of-6 from 3-point range, matching the program record for 3s in a game without a miss. And junior Bobby Capobianco provided a spark off the bench, with a career-high 16 points (on 7-of-8 shooting) and seven rebounds.
“They both might have played their best game in a Valpo uniform,” Drew said. “Like I told them, as good as they were offensively, they were just as good defensively.”
The Crusaders shot 60.4 percent (29-of-48) from the field, including 10-of-18 from 3-point range, absolutely exploding in the second half. They scored 46 points and shot 76.0 percent (19-of-25), including 7-of-9 from 3, making nine straight shots during one stretch, including all four of their attempts from deep.
“Once one shot went in, it seemed like a lot of shots went in,” Drew said. “It was contagious.”
Valparaiso held Green Bay to 28.6 percent (8-of-28) shooting in the first half — taking a 29-20 lead into halftime, before the second-half onslaught that saw the lead swell to as many as 24 points — and the Phoenix committed 16 turnovers for the game. With their loss and Wright State’s rout of Youngstown State, they fell to the No. 4 seed, meaning the Crusaders could face them again in the semifinals.
Kevin Van Wijk had eight points, becoming the 32nd player in program history to score at least 1,000 in his career, and set a record by shooting 69.5 percent from the field in Horizon League games this season. Erik Buggs had eight points and seven assists. Ryan Broekhoff had a season-low seven points — only the second time he has not reached double figures — but Valparaiso’s ability to hurt opponents in various ways was abundantly evident.
“Part of the reason they enjoy playing together, is that they make the extra pass,” Drew said. “It’s a great example of how they get along.
“We don’t play for another week, so it was important that we came out and competed, and played well.”
Alec Brown had 15 points for Green Bay, and Keifer Sykes added 14.