VALPARAISO | Bryce Drew knew what he was doing when he put Robert Morris on the exhibition schedule this season.
The Valparaiso men’s basketball coach wanted to test his team against an athletic, talented squad that wasn’t going to back down from the Crusaders.
The Eagles played their role for the first half until Valparaiso started to fire on all cylinders in a 92-64 blowout at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
“I was anxious as a coach because we can’t simulate some of their quickness,” Drew said. “I wanted to see how we were going to react to that and I thought we answered the challenge.”
Bobby Capobianco led the Crusaders in scoring for the second straight game with 21 points and a team-high eight rebounds, while Ryan Broekhoff had 15 points and seven rebounds. Kevin Van Wijk played in his first game of the season and scored 14 points in just 15 minutes.
“It felt real good to be back out there,” Van Wijk said. “My teammates looked for me and it was very helpful to get my confidence back. Every game is a challenge and with the goals that we have set, we’re looking to accomplish a lot in every game.”
Valparaiso jumped out to a quick nine-point lead, but surrendered a 12-0 run to the Eagles as Brian Bradley and Joshua Anderson started to knock down perimeter shots. Robert Morris shot 66 percent (4-of-6) from the 3-point line in the first half and rallied to take an eight-point lead.
The Crusaders went on a 12-0 run of their own and finished the half on a strong note as senior guard Matt Kenney stole the ball at midcourt and hit a buzzer-beating layup to send Valparaiso into the locker room with a 39-37 lead.
Capobianco scored 14 of his team-high 21 points in the second half and he did so against a taller, more athletic front line than what he saw against St. Joseph’s in his Valparaiso debut last week.
“It’s something that we’re going to have to adjust to when we’re playing quicker guys in the post,” Capobianco said. “It’s always fun when teams have players that want to bang around in the post.”
The Crusaders were relatively short-handed on Saturday night as Ben Boggs missed the game after tweaking his ankle in practice Thursday. Alex Rossi was plagued by the flu for most of the week and played just four minutes late in the game.
“On one side we have a lot of experience and on the other side we are inexperienced with playing together,” Drew said. “We only had five guys on the court tonight who played for us last year. We’re trying to see what different combinations we have and who works well together.”