Seven players scored in double figures as Valparaiso shot 67.9% from the floor and enjoyed a +38 advantage in the rebound column in a 98-44 victory over Purdue North Central Thursday evening at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
The Crusaders hit 38-of-56 from the field, including a 30-of-35 effort from inside the arc, during Thursday’s victory. On the glass, Valpo grabbed 14 of its 23 live-ball misses, tallying more offensive rebounds than PNC had total rebounds (13). The Crusaders finished the game with 51 total rebounds against the Panthers’ 13.
“I thought in the second half we really played much better, we were much more intense and focused,” said Crusader head coach Homer Drew. “Our theme was solid defense in the second half, to keep guys in front, rebound and then sprint the floor. I thought in the first half we had too many turnovers and just were playing sloppy, but in the second half we were much better.”
Sophomore Ryan Broekhoff (Frankston, Victoria, Australia/Australian Institute of Sport) paced the Crusaders in both the scoring and rebounding columns Thursday, registering game highs of 18 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore Kevin Van Wijk (Hoofddorp, Netherlands/Katholieke Scholengemeenschap Hoofddorp), making his first career start, hit 5-of-7 from the floor and 7-of-9 from the foul line for 17 points while also grabbing seven rebounds.
Redshirt junior Brandon Wood (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo [Highland C.C./Southern Illinois]) filled up the stat sheet Thursday, scoring 16 points, grabbing six rebounds and setting a new career best with a game-high seven assists. Senior Michael Rogers (Kingston, Jamaica/Redemption [N.Y.] Christian) came off the bench to score 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting while also pulling down six boards.
Also off the bench, freshman Jay Harris (Aurora, Ill./Oswego East) and sophomore Matt Kenney (Mooresville, Ind./Mooresville) recorded 11 points and three assists apiece, the latter doing it on a perfect 4-of-4 clip from the field. Senior Howard Little (Chicago, Ill./Stoneridge [Calif.] School) rounded out the group of seven Crusaders in double figures with 10 points to go along with five rebounds.
Purdue North Central, an NAIA squad which was playing Thursday’s game as an exhibition contest, hung around with Valpo in the early going thanks to some hot shooting from behind the arc. The Panthers connected on 5-of-8 3-pointers over the first eight-plus minutes to move within 19-15 with 11:56 to play in the opening half. But the Crusaders scored the next seven points over a span of 2:30 to gain some separation.
Then, leading just 29-21 with 8:02 to go in the first half, Valpo posted a 13-3 run, including seven points from Broekhoff, to push the lead into double figures for good. The Crusaders eventually took a 42-26 advantage into the locker room at halftime.
PNC knocked down a 3-pointer out of the halftime break to cut its deficit down to 13 points, but Valpo quickly put the game away, connecting on its first eight field goal attempts of the second half as part of a 21-5 run. Van Wijk and Broekhoff each had five points apiece during the spurt, with the latter capping the run with a fast-break layup to give Valpo a 63-34 lead with 13:42 remaining. The 21-5 run was part of a second half in which the Crusaders outscored PNC 56-18 to cruise to the victory.
The Crusaders registered assists on 27 of their 38 baskets Thursday, led by Wood’s seven as well as five from sophomore Erik Buggs (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell). Buggs, the only Valpo player who played and did not score a point, also pulled down six rebounds.
“I thought we made some good adjustments on our 3-point shooting in the second half as well,” said Drew. “In the first half, we were 1-of-10 shooting the three, but we adjusted, started making the extra pass and saw the floor well, and ended up hitting 7-of-11 in the second half.”
PNC was led by 12 points from Matt Demler on 5-of-10 shooting. Jordan Delks and Nick Neal each chipped in nine points apiece, with the latter also registering a game-high five steals. Jordan Wiseman handed out four assists as well for the Panthers.
Valparaiso (2-1) returns to play as part of the Las Vegas Invitational with a road game Tuesday at Ohio. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. CST, and all the action can be heard live on the Valpo Sports Radio Network (WAKE, 1500 AM, Valparaiso; WEFM, 95.9 FM, Michigan City) and online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have a link for live stats.