VALPARAISO | The Valparaiso men’s basketball team hit the snooze button until the second half on Tuesday morning before waking up and blowing out Northern Illinois.
The Crusaders shot 68 percent from the field in the second half and knocked down eight 3-pointers after the break in a 69-46 win over the Huskies that was played in front of an early-rising crowd and a national ESPN audience.
The game tipped at 7 a.m. as part of ESPN’s annual Tip-Off Marathon. Schools around the country held games at all hours of the day, beginning at 11 p.m. on Monday night and going until late Tuesday evening.
“I’d definitely do it again,” Valparaiso senior Ryan Broekhoff said. “I’m not the biggest morning person, but I’ll take any opportunity to play on ESPN. I’ll do that no matter what time of the day we’d play.”
Broekhoff was the only Valparaiso player who looked ready to go from the start on Tuesday morning. The reigning Horizon League Player of the Year had 16 points and seven rebounds in the first half, a double-double after just 22 minutes on the court and finished with 20 points, 13 rebounds and two steals.
“Broekhoff is just a handful for us,” Northern Illinois coach Mark Montgomery said. “He’s a tough guard in transition. If he gets the rebound, he’s their point man. He also moves extremely well without the ball.”
Any fatigue the Crusaders (2-0) had because of the early start evaporated early in the second half when senior Ben Boggs (11 points) jump started the offense with two quick 3-pointers in the first 50 seconds out of the locker room. Matt Kenney then responded with all 16 of his points in the second half, the majority coming after he took a shot to the body and had to be pulled away from Northern Illinois players.
“It was a very physical game,” Kenney said. “They were battling and it’s what we like to do. There was nothing cheap or dirty, it was just a basketball play. Things got heated and that makes you want to play harder.”
The game took its toll on Valparaiso as several players took hard spills on the floor. Erik Buggs (hip) and Kevin Van Wijk (knee) were wrapped in ice by the end of the game and Broekhoff took a wicked shot to his head early in the first half.
“The refs were allowing us to be physical and that took a little time to adjust to,” Broekhoff said. “Once we were able to do that, we were pretty good.”
Aksel Bolin led the Huskies (0-2) with 10 points and nine rebounds while Daveon Balls added nine points and two steals off the bench.