VALPARAISO | Back in the day, or at least early this century, Valparaiso and IUPUI had some epic battles in the old Mid-Continent Conference.
IUPUI started playing Division I basketball in the late 1990s, so beating the Crusaders was always a goal for the Jaguars, coached by the animated Ron Hunter whose sideline antics were classic and once included stomping his foot so hard that it broke.
One of the biggest wins in IUPUI history came in March, 2003, when the Jaguars upset Valpo 66-64 in the Mid-Con Tournament title game in Kansas City. The image of Hunter, wearing a white suit, dancing with his players was a staple of that year's March Madness coverage.
The rivalry ended when Valpo joined the Horizon League in 2007-08, but the series was renewed last season. And on Thursday night, IUPUI made its first visit to the Athletics-Recreation Center since January 2007.
Led now by head coach Todd Howard, a long-time Hunter assistant, the struggling Jaguars (4-10) played well early on before the Crusaders took control and cruised to a 89-69 victory.
It was a much-needed win for the Crusaders (8-4), still reeling from Monday's two-point loss at Oakland, another former Mid-Con foe.
"Obviously we were very disappointed with that last game, and we wanted to come out and make a statement," said Valpo senior Ryan Broekhoff, who had 17 points and nine rebounds. "We had a very spirited practice (Wednesday), and we wanted to be able to transfer that to a game.
"They made some tough shots to start the game, but we knew we could wear them down."
Broekhoff scored only five points in the first half, but led an 18-2 run during the second half when the Crusaders took control.
Kevin Van Wijk added 15 points, going 5-of-5 from the field before fouling out with 6:45 remaining. Matt Kenney had 15 points and six assists; Ben Boggs scored 12, and Bobby Capobianco had 10 points and seven rebounds.
Five players scoring in double figures wasn't the only highlight for head coach Bryce Drew, who was most pleased that his team committed just eight turnovers after having 19 in the Oakland game.
"Our guys took care of the ball probably as good as we have all season," Drew said. "We've had a really good 48 hours with our team. We worked on a lot of things, and we wanted to play extremely hard the whole game.
"I thought our defense was the best defensive pressure and hardest we've played for the whole 40 minutes."
Drew spoke earlier this week about finding the right combination of players and substition patterns.
His first move in that regard was inserting junior transfer LaVonte Dority in the lineup at point guard instead of fifth-year senior Erik Buggs, and Kenney at another guard position in place of Will Bogan. For Buggs, it snapped a streak of 70 consecutive starts going back to the 2010-11 season.
Valpo didn't start well, but overcame an early seven-point deficit by getting into a groove the last 10 minutes of the half. Van Wijk started the rally with a pair of layups, followed by free throws from Broekhoff and Dority.
Will Bogan nailed a 3-pointer to tie it at 23-23 with 7:12 remaining. Later, Kenney hit a 3-pointer from the left corner, and Capobianco had a tip-in on the next possession to put the Crusaders ahead 38-33 with 2:18 remaining in the half.
IUPUI's Jordan Shanklin hit a pair of 3-pointers in the final 3 1/2 minutes, and Valpo led just 40-38 at the break.
The Crusaders seemed to take control with a 18-2 run during a five-minute stretch, increasing their lead from 49-44 to 67-46 with 11 minutes remaining.
IUPUI got within 69-61, but Valpo was able to close it out by breaking the Jaguars' press and hitting some free throws down the stretch. The Crusaders finished with 18 fast-break points, many coming on late drives by Kenney and Broekhoff.
"If you get out on the fast break, it doesn't give the defense a chance to set up," Kenney said. "I have faith in my teammates that if I do have to kick it out, they're going to make the shot. I just like to create for my teammates."
For IUPUI, Purdue transfer John Hart scored 18 points. Greg Rice and Donovan Gibbs each scored 11, and Ian Chiles added 10.