Valparaiso put together an emphatic all-around showing to earn its first victory at Loyola in 35 seasons Saturday afternoon, going on a 30-8 run over the final 12 minutes of the first half en route to an 86-67 win over the Ramblers. The win moved the Crusaders into a tie for third place halfway through the Horizon League campaign, and extends their winning streak to four games.
“This was a total team victory today,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “We got tremendous effort and contributions from everybody who stepped on the court for us.”
Offensively, the Crusaders shot better than 50% both overall from the floor (31-of-60, 51.7%) and from behind the 3-point line (11-of-21, 52.4%), and connected on 86.7% (13-of-15) of their attempts from the foul line. Meanwhile, Valpo held Loyola to just 42.9% shooting for the game. Most impressively, the Crusaders out-rebounded the Ramblers, who entered Saturday out-rebounding teams by over six boards/game, by an astounding 43-23 margin, including 15 caroms off the offensive glass.
Leading the way for Valpo on the boards was junior guard Howard Little (Chicago, Ill./Stoneridge [Calif.] School), who matched his career high with 14 rebounds, including ten on the defensive end. Little also picked up his first career double-double, going 7-of-11 from the floor for a season-high 15 points while also recording three assists and three steals.
“It was a wonderful breakthrough for us to get to the boards this well today,” said Drew. “To come in and out-rebound the best rebounding team in our league by this much is just a testament to how hard our guys worked underneath the basket.”
Little was Valpo’s second-leading scorer on the afternoon, led only by freshman guard Ryan Broekhoff (Frankston, Victoria, Australia/Australian Institute of Sport), who was on fire from behind the arc Saturday. The freshman knocked down a career-high six 3-pointers on just eight attempts, matching the Crusader season-high for 3-pointers in a game, and set a new career best with a game-high 20 points.
Based on the early going, the game appeared it would be a back-and-forth offensive slugfest, as Loyola gained the upper hand with a 10-4 spurt to take a 20-11 advantage just 7:46 into the contest. But it was from there that the Crusaders dominated the rest of the stanza, going on the aforementioned 30-8 run with contributions from the entire squad.
Broekhoff and Little got the big run started, the former knocking down a pair of triples around a fast-break layup by the latter to cut the deficit to one point. Seven different Crusaders ended up scoring during the stretch, led by seven points by Brandon McPherson (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North), who capped the half with a triple followed a minute later by a long jumper to put Valpo up 41-28 heading into the break.
“Loyola really jumped on us early, dictating the tempo and doing a good job breaking down our defense,” said Drew. “Brandon got us going with his passion and leadership, and I thought Howard and Matt Kenney (Mooresville, Ind./Mooresville) changed the game defensively at the top of our zone when they came in. They started getting deflections up top and taking away Loyola’s outside shooting.”
The Crusaders didn’t let up at the start of the second half, as McPherson and Cory Johnson (Duluth, Minn./Duluth East [Iowa State]) each hit triples on Valpo’s first two possessions to push the lead up to 47-29. But Loyola would not go away, as eventually Courtney Stanley hit a layup, cutting the lead to 57-47 with 11:12 to play, and headed to the foul line with a chance to slice another point off the advantage.
Stanley missed the free throw, however, and Valpo took full advantage, going on a 21-8 streak over the next five minutes to put the game away. Broekhoff got the run going with a second-chance triple and hit four of his 3-pointers during the stretch. The Crusaders got out and ran as well, getting four fast-break baskets during the run, including a 3-point play by Little that capped the spurt with Valpo leading 78-55 with 6:27 to play.
“Ryan did a great job finding areas on the floor to spot up from,” said Drew. “He really stepped up when Loyola got to within ten, started spotting up and looking for his shot, and his teammates did a great job finding him.”
Broekhoff and Little had plenty of help on the offensive end, as five Crusaders in all finished in double figures in scoring. Brandon Wood (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo [Highland C.C./Southern Illinois]) scored 14 points to go with six rebounds and four assists, while Johnson went for 12 points, four boards and a season-best five assists. McPherson added ten points, four rebounds and four assists as well.
Loyola (12-7, 3-6 Horizon) was led by 17 points and five rebounds off the bench by Walt Gibler. Terrance Hill scored 16 points and dished out a team-best five assists, while Geoff McCammon added ten points.
Valparaiso (10-11, 5-4 Horizon) sits at 2-0 halfway through a four-game road trip which continues Friday evening at Milwaukee. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m., and as always, the game can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City; WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso) and can be seen on the Horizon League Network. Valpo’s athletic website, www.valpoathletics.com, will have links for live audio, video and statistics.