Just when it seemed as if Valparaiso University was on its way to getting blown out at Murray State, Ryan Broekhoff came to the rescue.
The Crusaders battled back from an early 13-2 deficit Saturday at the CFSB Center in Murray, Ky., and hung on down the stretch for a huge 66-64 victory over the Racers.
After tough road losses this season at Nebraska, Saint Louis, New Mexico and Oakland, it was a huge confidence-boosting win for the Crusaders (10-4) heading into Horizon League play Wednesday against Loyola. It was the first non-conference home loss for the Racers (9-3) since January, 2009, and Valpo coach Bryce Drew called it the biggest non-conference win in his 1 1/2 seasons.
"We're coming off three really hard days of practice and I felt like we got better individually and as a team," Drew said. "It was great to see the last five minutes, just the determination in the guys to want to win."
Broekhoff had 18 points and eight rebounds, while Jordan Coleman came off the bench to contribute 10 points. Kevin Van Wijk battled foul trouble most of the game but finished with eight points and a game-high nine rebounds.
Broekhoff, held scoreless for the first 13 1/2 minutes, had a 9-0 run late in the first half to help the Crusaders recover from the slow start.
He scored his first basket after an offensive rebound when Erik Buggs missed a free throw. Broekhoff followed that with an acrobatic layup after chasing down a long pass from Will Bogan.
"They did a good job of guarding Ryan early but it was definitely a relief when he was able to get on the board," Drew said. "He's always going to be guarded by the other teams' best defensive player, so he's going to have to be patient but aggressive because guys aren't going to lose him very often."
Murray State's two best players, All-American guard Isaiah Canaan and power forward Ed Daniel, combined for 38 points. Daniel had three emphatic dunks in the second half when the Racers led, but was relatively quiet down the stretch.
Canaan had 24 points and six assists and Daniel had 14 points, but the Racers finished just 22 of 53 (41.5 percent) from the field. Canaan was guarded primarily by Buggs, LaVonte Dority and Matt Kenney as Drew tried to keep a fresh body on him throughout the game.
"(Canaan) is going to be a first-round pick in the NBA," Drew said. "He scored 24 and I actually thought we did a good job on him. Our guys did a really good job of putting pressure on him the whole game.
"We wanted to keep throwing guys at him. We knew he was going to make shots but we wanted to make sure he didn't score easily or go on streaks where he hit a bunch in a row."