VALPARAISO | Lost in the madness of Ryan Broekhoff’s miracle buzzer-beater on Saturday night is that Valparaiso men’s basketball still has one more mountain to climb.
The Crusaders cheered along with the Athletics-Recreation Center crowd following Broekhoff’s shot that gave No. 1 Valparaiso a spot in the Horizon League title game against No. 3 Wright State.
By Sunday morning the Green Bay game had been forgotten and the Crusaders were already deep into preparation for tonight’s title contest that could end Valparaiso’s nine-year NCAA tournament drought.
“We celebrated and we took care of that sort of thing, but our goal is Tuesday,” Broekhoff said. “We’ve been working toward this for what seems like an eternity now.”
Valparaiso came up short in the Horizon League title game against Detroit last season when the Crusaders were unable to match the Titans’ second-half intensity. Bryce Drew’s squad likely won’t see the same kind of high-powered attack on Tuesday, as the Raiders prefer a slower, defensive-minded pace.
“I don’t want to play a high-tempo game,” Wright State coach Billy Donlon said. “I think that feeds to the older, veteran home team. We have to be smart.”
The Crusaders won both regular-season contests against the Raiders, including a spectacular come-from-behind 69-63 game on Jan. 19 which saw Valparaiso score on its final 10 possessions. Wright State held the Crusaders to less than 50 points until there were less than five minutes left in the game.
“The reason why Valpo won the league and Detroit didn’t is because Valpo has won games in the 60s and in the 80s,” Donlon said. “Detroit couldn’t win games they didn’t score 70 points in.”
The Crusaders are aware the Raiders will do their best to set the tempo of the game, and as they’ve done all year, the senior-laden team will adapt to how the game is unfolding throughout the night.
“We have proven that we can win scrappy games,” Broekhoff said. “That’s what we’ll expect tomorrow. We’ll need to make open shots.”
“We’re going to do our regular-game plan and we’ll go how the game is going,” Drew said.
Kevin Van Wijk is expected to be in the starting lineup after spraining his right ankle in the first half of Saturday’s win against Green Bay. The senior big man was moving better throughout the day on Monday and even joked about his status.
“Everybody is healthy,” Van Wijk said. “We’re preparing for this like it’s any other game. Everybody knows what is at stake here. We beat them twice in close games and they want to win just as much. There’s going to be a lot of passion and energy on the floor.”