VALPARAISO | Three Valparaiso players watched Thursday night's game against Purdue North Central from the padded seats of the Crusaders' bench.
Valpo really didn't need Cory Johnson, Cameron Witt or Tommy Kurth to beat its NAIA neighbors from Westville, 98-44. Coach Homer Drew will need as much manpower as he can get as the Crusaders (2-1) head into a tough December stretch that includes Horizon League games against UIC and Loyola as well as a Dec. 7 home game against Purdue.
"I thought we were a lot better team that what we showed (against Kansas)," Drew said, referring to Monday's 79-44 loss to the Jayhawks. "Our guys are eager to show that, and I'd love to give these guys another chance at the end of the season to see another ranked team."
Johnson may be the biggest concern right now. He wore a boot on his left foot after seeing a doctor Wednesday night. Drew said Johnson has a touch of plantar fasciitis and is hobbled worse than expected by a sprained ankle.
"The ankle sprain is taking longer than we were hoping, but we'll know more on Monday," Drew said.
Witt, a 6-foot-8 junior, hasn't played yet this season due to a knee injury. Trainer Rod Moore said it's possible Witt could return for Tuesday's game at Ohio.
And Drew announced prior to the game that Kurth would seek a medical redshirt for this season due to lingering pain in both feet following a surgery last spring.
"We're going to miss his toughness," Drew said. "I love Tommy because he's just tough, but this will give him a good year to get healthy."
As for the game itself, the Crusaders took care of business after a sluggish start. PNC made five early 3-pointers to keep it within 19-15 before Valpo established its dominance inside on the way to a 42-26 halftime advantage.
Seven Crusaders scored in double figures. Ryan Broekhoff led the way with 18 points and nine rebounds, Kevin Van Wijk had 17 points and seven rebounds and Brandon Wood scored 16 to go along with a career-high seven assists.
Michael Rogers added 12 points including 6-of-7 shooting inside against the overmatched panthers.
"We weren't intense to start, but the second half we came back out and picked it up a little bit," Rogers said.
Matt Kenney and freshman Jay Harris each scored 11, and Howard Little scored 12. Valpo out-rebounded PNC 51-13 and shot 67.9 percent (38-56) overall.
"We really played much more intense and much more focused in the second half," Drew said. "Our theme was to be solid on defense, keep guys in front of us with high hands and rebound the basketball."
For PNC, junior guard Matt Demler scored a team-high 12 points. The Panthers were held to 16-of-57 shooting (28.1 percent).
Valpo High graduate Seth Clinkenbeard scored five points, including a 3-pointer with 6:20 remaining was the Panthers' final basket of the game. Kouts grad Brad Parks and Kyle Mueller each scored two points for PNC (0-5), which scheduled this game as an exhibition.