The biggest development regarding the Valparaiso men’s basketball team took place roughly 550 miles away from where the Crusaders tipped against Cleveland State.
Valparaiso got some help in the Horizon League when Green Bay knocked off Detroit on Saturday afternoon and then the Crusaders lengthened their first-place lead with a workman-like effort in an 80-72 victory over the Vikings.
Bryce Drew stayed true to form after the game by dismissing any talk about Detroit’s loss and what it means for Valparaiso’s chances to win the Horizon League.
“We’re worried about ourselves right now,” Drew said. “We’re worried about getting healthy. That’s my first priority.”
Drew knew that beating Cleveland State on the road, a place where Detroit and Youngstown State have fallen, would be a tall order even if his squad was healthy. Broekhoff missed practice on Friday night and seniors Matt Kenney and Kevin Van Wijk have both been battling numerous ailments.
With a walking wounded team on the floor, the Crusaders got exactly the start they needed as they opened up a 12-0 lead and kept the Vikings off the board for the first 5:41 of the game.
“We came out aggressive and it’s no question that the start gave us some confidence,” Drew said. “You have to credit Cleveland State for hitting some shots, being aggressive on defense and staying in the game.”
Bobby Capobianco delivered another strong performance, scoring 11 of his 13 points in the first half. Kevin Van Wijk bounced back from a foul-filled game against UIC with 14 points in 27 minutes.
“Bobby has been putting in the work during and then after practice,” Drew said. “As a transfer it takes some time to find that rhythm, but he has it now and he carries us in the first half.”
The Crusaders (19-6, 9-2) now have a two-game lead in the loss column on both Detroit and Wright State with a key road game coming up against the Raiders on Tuesday night before a nationally-televised home game against the Titans next Saturday. If the Crusaders can win the next two games, they will have clinched at least a share of the Horizon League regular-season title.
“We’re worried about one game at a time,” Drew said. “Every team in the conference has a tough stretch coming up.”