Junior LaVonte Dority (Chicago, Ill./Foreman [USF]) was stellar in his Crusader debut Saturday night, pouring in a game-high 20 points as Valparaiso led nearly the entire second half in a 62-54 victory over Missouri State in Springfield, Mo.
Dority needed just seven field goal attempts to end the night with 20 points, going 4-of-7 from the floor, including 3-of-6 from behind the 3-point line. The junior also stepped up with a 9-of-10 effort at the free throw line. Senior Ryan Broekhoff (Frankston, Victoria, Australia/Australian Institute of Sport) and redshirt junior Bobby Capobianco (Loveland, Ohio/Loveland [Indiana]) joined Dority in double figures with 15 and 10 points, respectively.
“Credit [Missouri State] head coach Paul Lusk and his team, they made things really tough for us on offense in the first half, taking away everything that we wanted to do,” said Crusader head coach Bryce Drew. “The key for our team was the way we came out to start the second half, and continued with that same energy once our second group went in. LaVonte’s presence was huge for us tonight – without him, it’s clearly a different game.”
The Crusaders made a big run to start the second half to claim the lead for good. With Dority and Capobianco inserted into the second-half starting lineup, Valpo quickly scored seven points on its first three possessions of the period, including triples from Broekhoff and Dority, to turn a two-point halftime deficit into a 31-28 advantage. After a Missouri State basket cut it to 31-30, the Crusaders then scored the next six points over a six-minute stretch, featuring a second-chance basket by senior Kevin Van Wijk (Hoofddorp, Netherlands/Katholieke Scholengemeenschap Hoofddorp) and a traditional 3-point play by Capobianco, to lead 37-30 with under 12 minutes to play.
“We finally got some practice time with three bigs [Broekhoff, Capobianco and Van Wijk] playing together this past week and that lineup really was key for us tonight,” said Drew. “That big lineup came out and started the second half and was able to score inside to help get us the lead.”
A steal and basket by the Bears’ Tomie Aromona inside 12 minutes would bring MSU within five, but would also be the Bears’ last basket for nearly six minutes as Valpo continued to extend the lead. A 3-pointer by Broekhoff with 11:03 remaining made it a 42-34 game, and four and a half minutes later, senior Ben Boggs (Roanoke, Va./Hidden Valley [Virginia Tech]) connected on a triple of his own, giving the Crusaders their largest lead at 47-35 with 6:34 to play.
But Missouri State would not go away, as after connecting on just three field goals in the first 14 minutes of the second half, the Bears connected on seven field goals in a nine-possession stretch, culminating with 3-pointers on back-to-back trips by Marcus Marshall and Anthony Downing to cut the lead to 56-52 with 1:03 to play. Dority hit five of six free throw attempts during the stretch to help keep the Bears at bay.
After a pair of misses at the charity stripe, Missouri State had a chance to make it a one-possession game, but missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Broekhoff was fouled and hit two free throws to push the lead back to six points. Downing was fouled while making a basket on the Bears’ next trip, but missed the free throw, and Van Wijk and Broekhoff both hit a pair of free throws and blocked a shot on the defensive end in the waning seconds to secure the win.
Valpo started the game with an early 9-4 lead on the strength of four early points from Capobianco and a 3-pointer by Dority just under six minutes into the game. The Crusaders maintained a small lead most of the first half, until Missouri State went on a 9-2 spurt over the final 4:30 of the first half to go ahead 26-24 at the break. Valpo was held without a field goal for the final seven minutes of the opening stanza.
The trio in double figures received nine points as well from Van Wijk, who went 5-of-6 from the foul line. Valpo shot 40.5% from the floor (15-of-37) and went to the foul line 36 times, converting 25. Broekhoff and Van Wijk tied for game-high honors with nine rebounds, as the Crusaders held a sizable 37-19 advantage on the glass over the Bears. Broekhoff and fifth-year senior Erik Buggs (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell) tied for team-high honors with three assists apiece, with the former also blocking three shots.
Missouri State (2-8) was paced by 14 points from Mitchell, while Downing and Christian Kirk added 13 points each. The Bears ended the night shooting 44% (22-of-50) from the field and hit 4-of-6 from downtown, but went just 6-of-12 at the charity stripe.
Valparaiso (7-3) plays its second road game in a three-day stretch on Monday night at 6 p.m. CT at former Mid-Con rival Oakland. The game can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network and online at ValpoAthletics.com, which will also have a link for live stats.