Freshman guard Matt
Kenney (Mooresville, Ind./Mooresville) scored a career-best 27 points off
the bench Wednesday, leading a 52-point night from Valparaiso’s reserves as the
Crusaders led by as many as 20 in an 84-73 win over Loyola at the ARC. With the win, the Crusaders secured a
first-round home game in the Horizon League Championship.
“There’s lots of good news coming out of tonight’s game,”
said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “Obviously, the fact that we won is
important, as is secondly that we get to host a game in the league championship
with tonight’s win. Also, I’m excited
because it’s our tenth league win, which is the most we’ve had in a season
since joining the Horizon.”
Kenney, who had previously set his career high in points
last time out at Youngstown
State with 15, rolled
right past that mark with over 14 minutes to play en route to his 27
points. The freshman connected on
9-of-13 shots from the field, including 3-of-5 from behind the arc, and hit
6-of-7 from the foul line on the night.
He also added six rebounds, three assists and two steals in the win.
Kenney was just one of three reserves for Valpo who finished
the night in double figures, however.
Junior Howard Little (Chicago,
Ill./Stoneridge [Calif.] School) hit 4-of-7 from the floor and 6-of-8 from the
line en route to 15 points, while also pacing the Crusaders with seven rebounds
and three steals. Freshman Ryan Broekhoff (Frankston, Victoria,
Australia/Australian Institute of Sport) also posted good numbers in just 14
minutes off the bench, ending the night with ten points, five rebounds and two
“Matt definitely surpassed his Youngstown State
game tonight,” said Drew. “Not just in
the number of points he scored, but his aggressiveness on the boards and on the
defensive end and also passing the basketball.
Howard as well really did a great job defensively and on the
boards. Those two stepped up on the
defensive end for us, made our defense more active and aggressive and just
changed the tempo of the game.”
The start of Wednesday’s contest looked a lot like the
beginning of the matchup in Chicago earlier this season, as Loyola came out of
the gates on fire and took a 15-9 advantage just 4:20 into the game. But Valpo answered back with 20 of the next
28 points over a span of just over nine minutes, capped by a Kenney triple that
gave the Crusaders a 29-23 advantage.
Loyola scored the next five points, however, cutting the
Valpo lead down to one point, and the Crusader edge was still just two with
1:19 to play in the opening half after a pair of free throws by Courtney
Stanley. But Valpo made the most of its
final two possessions of the first half, as first Little and then Broekhoff
connected on triples, both off feeds from Brandon
McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North), and the Crusaders went into
the locker room ahead 40-34.
Kenney and Little both earned the start in the second half
with their play in the opening 20 minutes, and helped spark the Crusaders to a
24-10 spurt over the first 7:17 out of the break. Kenney scored ten of his points during that
stretch, while Brandon Wood (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo [Highland C.C./Southern Illinois]) capped the spurt with a
one-handed put-back dunk off a miss on the fast break.
Loyola made a good run back at the Crusaders, however,
outscoring Valpo 16-3 in the middle portion of the second half to close to
within 67-60 with 6:53 to play. Wood got
fouled on a 3-pointer on Valpo’s next offensive trip and knocked down all three
free throws to help keep the Ramblers at bay, though. Loyola eventually cut the lead to six points
at 78-72 with 1:41 remaining, but would score just one point the rest of the
way as Valpo went 6-of-8 at the charity stripe down the stretch to secure the
“I thought the key to the game came on either side of
halftime,” said Drew. “First off, going
in at the end of the first half and extending our lead to six points was
huge. Then to come out of the gate and
outscore them [24-10] obviously was important as well. You have to give Loyola credit, though, they
came right back, hit some shots and got closer than we would have liked, but
our free throw shooters kept us in the lead at the end.”
Five Crusaders in all ended the game in double figures, as Cory Johnson (Duluth,
Minn./Duluth East [Iowa State])
scored 11 and Wood added ten in to join the aforementioned bench trio. McPherson scored just eight points, but
dished out a game-high six assists as well.
Andy Polka put up a double-double for Loyola (14-12, 5-11
Horizon), scoring 19 points and grabbing a game-best 11 rebounds. Geoff McCammon added 18 points, but was held
to 5-of-16 shooting, while Terrance Hill chipped in 15 points and seven
Valparaiso (15-14, 10-7 Horizon) secured at worst a
sixth-place league finish with Wednesday night’s win and also set a new mark
for most league wins since joining the Horizon League. The Crusaders are guaranteed a seed between
three and six, meaning they will host a first-round home game in the Horizon
League Championship on the evening of Tuesday, March 2.
Prior to that, Valpo
has two regular-season games remaining, however, with the first a non-league
matchup Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. CST at Bowling Green. As always, all the action can be heard live
on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan
City; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso;
WLPR, 89.1 FM, Lowell), while Valpo’s athletic website, www.valpoathletics.com, will have
links for live audio and statistics.