Crusaders have eyes straight ahead

2013-01-16T19:00:00Z Crusaders have eyes straight aheadPaul Oren Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
January 16, 2013 7:00 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | Erik Buggs isn't the kind of player that likes to live in the past.

The senior point guard isn't spending his time lamenting about Valparaiso's Horizon League title game loss to Detroit last season. Buggs isn't caught up remembering his own personal highlight when he sprinted coast-to-coast to beat the Titans at the buzzer in Calihan Hall last season.

Buggs doesn't need any memories from the past to get him excited about Valparaiso's trip to Detroit in a nationally-televised game tonight that is as big as they come in the conference slate.

"It's Valpo-Detroit, I mean, do you need to say anything else?" Buggs said. "It's going to be a great atmosphere and it's going to be two really good teams going after each other."

Both the Crusaders (13-5, 3-1) and the Titans (11-6, 3-1) are in different places now than they were following last season's Horizon League title game. Detroit graduated post players such as Eli Holman and LaMarcus Lowe, but have added the returning Nick Minnerath and Juwan Howard Jr. Valparaiso lost Richie Edwards and Jay Harris, but players such as Lavonte Dority and Bobby Capobianco will be matching up against the Titans for the first time.

Still, the conversation about Detroit begins and ends with Ray McCallum Jr. The junior point guard is living up to all of his preseason hype and will be a force that the Crusaders will have to deal with throughout the night.

"It's always fun for me to go up against a player who has the accolades that he has," Buggs said. "He's a really good player and he always represents a challenge."

Buggs and his teammates have been toeing the company line all week about this game being the same as every other conference game. Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew has continually stressed over the last two years that conference games all count the same in the end. Still, it was hard for Buggs not to stress the importance of beating Detroit on the road.

"Picking up any kind of road win is a gift that you have to take if you can get it," Buggs said. "They'll play a bit tougher (coming off a loss to Cleveland State) and we'll have to be ready for that."

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