Valparaiso led by three at the half in the 2012 Horizon League Championship title game Tuesday evening at the ARC, but Detroit out-scored the Crusaders 46-23 over the final 20 minutes as Valpo fell by a 70-50 final. Despite the loss, Valpo’s season will continue, as the Crusaders earn an automatic berth into the NIT by virtue of being regular season league champions.
“I talked to the team, and told them they have a lot to be proud of,” said Crusader head coach Bryce Drew. “We won a lot of close games and performed at a high level all year. This was probably one of our most subpar performances of the season. Give Detroit credit, I felt like they had strong legs in the second half.”
A sluggish start both ways saw the Titans claim an early three-point lead, but Valpo would score six straight to take a lead it would maintain throughout the first half. The Crusaders got a key 7-0 run to push their lead from 8-7 to 15-7 in a three-minute stretch approaching the halfway point, as junior Matt Kenney (Mooresville, Ind./Mooresville) converted a 3-point play, junior Kevin Van Wijk (Hoofddorp, Netherlands/Katholieke Scholengemeenschap Hoofddorp) hit a pair of free throws and junior Richie Edwards (Lakeland, Fla./Lakeland [Hillsborough C.C.]) got an inside bucket.
Just over three minutes later, back-to-back possessions saw junior Ryan Broekhoff (Frankston, Victoria, Australia/Australian Institute of Sport) hit a diving Van Wijk for wide-open layups, prompting a Detroit timeout with 6:30 to go in the half and the Crusaders enjoying their largest lead at 23-14. Valpo’s lead was still seven after a short jumper by Edwards as the clock ticked inside two minutes, but the Titans scored the final two buckets of the opening stanza to draw within 27-24 at the break.
The Crusaders scored four of the first five points of the second half on inside baskets from Broekhoff and Van Wijk to extend their lead to 31-25, but Detroit went on a key 11-0 run over a five-minute span to turn the tables and take a 36-31 lead. From that point, every Valpo threat was thwarted by the Titans. Broekhoff cut the deficit to three with 11:23 to go on a layup, but Detroit scored the next three points.
Broekhoff then nailed a triple with 10:05 to play to draw the Crusaders within 40-37, and Van Wijk hit a pair of free throws on Valpo’s next possession, but the Titans answered both scores with scores of their own. Redshirt junior Will Bogan (Boise, Idaho/Vallivue [Ole Miss]) knocked down a 3-pointer of his own to make it a two-point game with 8:35 left, but that was as close as Valpo would get, as a 3:40 scoring drought resulted in a 12-0 Detroit run which put the game away.
Van Wijk led the Crusaders on Tuesday with 17 points and eight rebounds, hitting 9-of-10 from the free throw line. Broekhoff added 13 points and six rebounds, while Kenney contributed seven points and a career-best 10 rebounds off the bench. The Crusaders shot just 36.4% (16-of-44) for the game, including just 2-of-18 from beyond the 3-point line, and committed 18 turnovers which the Titans turned into 20 points.
“Some nights, you just have those kind of nights,” said Drew regarding the turnovers. “It seemed like a perfect storm tonight, and sometimes you can’t control those things.”
Detroit (22-13) was paced by a 21-point, six-rebound, four-steal effort by Ray McCallum. The Titans also received 17 points from Jason Calliste and 14 points and 10 rebounds from LaMarcus Lowe.
Valparaiso (22-11) will await the NIT selection show Sunday evening, which will air live on ESPNU at 8 p.m. CST, to find out its next destination and opponent. It will be the Crusaders’ second all-time appearance in the postseason NIT, as Valpo also advanced to the tournament in 2003.
“We have a great group of captains who set the tone in practice,” said Drew. “No one wants to end the season with a loss like this, so I don’t think motivation will be difficult to come out for another game.”
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