Valparaiso led by double figures for the last 28 minutes in cruising to a 79-51 victory over Purdue Calumet Saturday afternoon in its final game prior to Christmas. The win improves the Crusaders to a perfect 7-0 at home this season, with all seven wins coming by double figures.
“We’ve really worked on making sure we’ve improved every day this week,” said Crusader head coach Bryce Drew. “We’ve had a stretch of four games in eight days, where we’ve been trying to blend groups of players together on the floor. I think the last three or four days, we’ve definitely gotten better as a team, and also individually we’ve gotten a lot better as well.”
Purdue Calumet, an NAIA institution playing the game as an exhibition contest, scored the first basket of the game, but Valpo quickly claimed the lead for good with 10 straight points. All five buckets over the stretch of 3:30 came in the paint, including two each by senior Ben Boggs (Roanoke, Va./Hidden Valley [Virginia Tech]) and redshirt junior Bobby Capobianco (Loveland, Ohio/Loveland [Indiana]), the latter making the first start of his Crusader career.
The Crusaders’ lead moved into double figures for the first time off of back-to-back fast-break baskets by junior Jordan Coleman (North Hollywood, Calif./Calabasas [Southwestern Illinois College/Hawai’i]) and senior Matt Kenney (Mooresville, Ind./Mooresville), giving Valpo a 14-4 lead with 14:03 to play in the first half. Purdue Calumet would move within six points multiple times over the next few minutes, but a triple by fifth-year senior Will Bogan (Boise, Idaho/Vallivue [Ole Miss]) with 8:12 remaining in the stanza pushed the lead to 27-15, and the advantage stayed in double figures the rest of the way.
The Crusaders then used a 9-0 spurt over the final 2:21 of the first half to claim a 49-25 lead at the intermission. Junior LaVonte Dority (Chicago, Ill./Foreman [USF]) started the run with a pair of free throws, and two trips later, sophomore Vashil Fernandez (Kingston, Jamaica/Princeton Day [Md.] Academy) converted an inside basket. Redshirt sophomore Alex Rossi (Winnetka, Ill./New Trier [California]) connected on a 3-pointer with 37 seconds remaining in the half, and then following a Capobianco blocked shot on the defensive end, Kenney took the ball coast-to-coast, laying it in at the buzzer.
The lead dipped below 20 points just once in the second half, as the Peregrines’ Drew Ridlen knocked down a 3-pointer with 9:48 to go to bring Purdue Calumet within 62-43. But Bogan and Dority combined for all 12 Crusader points in a 12-3 run over the next four minutes to push the lead back out to its apex at 28 points.
Dority led the Crusaders in the scoring column for the third time in his four games, going 10-of-12 from the foul line en route to 19 points. The junior also handed out a team-high four assists. Bogan was 4-of-6 from downtown and ended the afternoon with 14 points, while Boggs matched his season high of 12 points and senior Kevin Van Wijk (Hoofddorp, Netherlands/Katholieke Scholengemeenschap Hoofddorp) added 10 points and seven rebounds in just 17 minutes.
Capobianco matched Van Wijk on the glass with seven rebounds, while Fernandez chipped in six caroms as well. Coleman came away with four steals, leading the way as Valpo totaled a season-best 16 steals and forced 22 Peregrine turnovers in all. Offensively, the Crusaders shot better than 50% in both halves and hit at a 54.9% (28-of-51) clip for the game.
Purdue Calumet got 16 points from Warren Gordon, but he was the only Peregrine to end the game in double figures. Jamie Burkhard added six points and seven rebounds off the bench, while Noah Allen came away with four steals.
Valparaiso (9-4) returns to action with the last non-league game prior to the start of the Horizon League slate, traveling to take on Murray State next Saturday, Dec. 29 at 2 p.m. As always, the game can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, and it will also be an ESPN3.com exclusive broadcast.