VALPARAISO | Ryan Broekhoff was asked after Thursday night’s 20-point victory against IUPUI if the media and fans make too big of a deal about the starting lineup.
Broekhoff didn’t wait for the question to finish before nodding his head and rolling his eyes.
Valparaiso men’s basketball coach Bryce Drew made his first lineup change of the year against the Jaguars, inserting Lavonte Dority and Matt Kenney for Erik Buggs and Will Bogan.
“It’s not a big difference,” Broekhoff said. “We all have confidence in the first five guys who start, that they’ll bring the energy and intensity to start the game, regardless of who the five are. It doesn’t really matter who starts; I know they’re going to give it their all.”
The lineup change certainly appeared to affect Kenney. The Mooresville native was the only senior who had yet to crack the starting lineup this season and Kenney hadn’t started a game since he was in the opening lineup for the first 14 games of last season.
Ironically, it was a demotion from the starting lineup last season that pushed Kenney to his best game of the year when he came off the bench to score 21 points in a 90-87 victory against Green Bay on New Year’s Eve.
Kenney was aggressive to the basket on Thursday night, something that has been missing in the early part of this season. The senior played a team-high 33 minutes, finished with 15 points and added a team-high six assists.
“I was just playing as hard as I can,” Kenney said. “I was getting out on the break and I had faith in my teammates that if the basket wasn’t there, I could dish it off. Coach wants five guys who are going to go out there and play hard.”
Drew will likely go with the same starting lineup when the Crusaders play a non-conference game against Purdue Calumet. The Peregrines (5-9) have a roster full of local talent, including leading scorer LaTroy Taylor (Lew Wallace) and Daniel McGee (Merrillville). Taylor averaged 19.5 points after the first two games of the season, but has played just twice since for fifth-year coach Dan Voudrie.
While fans might not be excited about a non-conference game against a NAIA school three days before Christmas, Drew is excited at another chance to get the Crusaders back on the floor at the Athletics-Recreation Center after some tough road losses.
“We really improved as a basketball team in a matter of two days (after the Oakland game),” Drew said. “We’ll have a pair of workouts on Friday and we’ll improve and then the next step is to improve on Saturday and keep getting better as we get ready to start the conference season.”