Last night the Valparaiso Crusaders used a record crowd to help fuel them for a large majority of the game. They had a lead on the Boilers into the second half. A great half by Brandon Wood helped spark Valpo early on, but the Boilers were just too much at the end. This is one of those games where the final score really does not tell the story of the game.
I arrived at the ARC over an hour before the game started last night. The lots close to the stadium were full, and a large crowd was already inside. It was great to see the place buzzing. Under any other circumstances I would have been pulling for the upset. The capacity crowd gave a nice ovation for the Crusaders when they took the court, but the ovation for the Boilers seemed just about as loud. The crowd really seemed split with maybe a few more Crusader fans.
The Boilers started off strong taking a quick 8-2 lead. Valpo coach Homer Drew called a timeout to get his troops in order. The court is named for him for a reason, and his coaching showed after the timeout. Valpo went on a 7-1 run after the timeout to tie the game up. Matt Kenney came in the game to help spark the Crusaders. Without that run the crowd may have been out of the game, and the outcome may have been very different. Homer had a great gameplan for the Boilers last night. JaJuan Johnson was held to five points and four rebounds in the first half. He was forced into four turnovers as well in the post. When the double team came JJ had some trouble getting the ball back out.
Speaking of stopping JJ the great analyst that ESPNU had for the game last night had a courtside diagram of how to stop the big man. He showed a nice diagram of how that is done including JJ’s number 33. I am not one of those fans that sits around and nitpicks announcers who have a couple of days to get to know a team that I follow. Their is no way that they can learn everything about a team before a broadcast. I would like them to know the number of our All American though. That would be a plus. It seemed as if he was having trouble telling Smooge and JJ apart last night. I have seen this before, and it boggles my mind. They aren’t that similar to keep mixing up.
Valpo kept the crowd in the game for the entire first half. With two minutes to go in the half they actually had a four point lead. A 6-0 run by the Boilers gave them their two point lead at the half though. Brandon Wood was just amazing in the first half. He hit his first seven shots, and had 18 points at the break. E’Twaun did a good job on him in the second half though only letting him score 2 points. Wood was held without a field goal for the entire second half. After starting off 7-7 he went 0-4 from the floor. You really can’t expect someone to stay as hot as Wood was. He did put on quite a show in the first half though.
Purdue had ten turnovers in the first half, but only four in the second half. The Boilers went back and forth in the second half before slowly pulling away. The key to the team pulling away had to be the emergence of Kelsey Barlow and Lewis Jackson. LewJack did a great job the entire game of taking what was given to him. LewJack had 11 points for the game and Barlow had 13 on the night. They combined to shoot 9-12 from the floor. The quickness of both of these guys will be key to the Boilers success. Barlow had a stretch near the end where he could not be stopped. He made a nice layup, then he threw a dunk down over Kevin Van Wijk that sent the Boiler crowd into a frenzy. As the game started to stretch out it was cool to hear “Let’s Go Boilers” being chanted. I did feel bad for some of the Valpo fans though. Their team played a great game.
He may not have been the high scorer on the night, but I continue to be impressed with the play of sophomore Ryan Broekoff. Last year as a freshman you could see how talented he was. He was just a little raw. He is really starting to blossom into a great basketball player. Last night he seemed to be all over the court. He ended the game with eight points, four rebounds, four blocks, and one steal. Those aren’t fantastic numbers, but his blocks were impressive. The picture above was a great hustle play when Broekoff came from behind to block Terone Johnson. Johnson was on his way to a layup. I never thought anyone would catch him so when Ryan showed up in my viewfinder I was surprised. That is part of the reason that he appears cropped in the picture. It was such a good play though that I included the picture anyway. Ryan is one reason to keep comin back to the ARC.
The Boilers walked away with the win last night, but it took a great effort to do so. The Crusaders came out and took their best shot. Last night was a great game that was definitely worth the $8 admission. The Crusaders took advantage of being on the national stage to show the country that they can play basketball. I saw a lot of predictions that overlooked the Crusaders. This is a good basketball team that will make some noise in the Horizon League this season. The game was an event in Northwest Indiana last night. I really enjoyed seeing the ARC that revved up for a game. I wish that they Valpo game against Butler was not at the same time as the Boilers game against Minnesota. I would love to see the place that excited again. The ARC was in fine form last year for the game against the Bulldogs. For some reason Valpo and the Boiles seem to play a lot of games on the same days. I would like to get to the ARC more, but we will see what happens as the season goes on. It will be weird to watch a game with elbow room. With a record crowd last night that was not easy to come by.
Play of the Game – This has to be the late dunk by Barlow over 6’8″ Kevin Van Wijk of Valpo. Kelsey went up, and brought the thunder. That was an impressive play even if the game was in doubt. Plays like this are the ones that get you excited to see what the future holds for this kid. He has all the talent to be something special.
Player of the Game – This is going to get boring as the season goes on I think. E’Twaun Moore is something special, and he showed everyone why again last night. If he keeps up this pace I will start a section titled player of the game not named E’Twaun. He may have earned this just by keeping Brandon Wood without a field goal in the second half. Of course his scoring, ball handling, and rebounding were impressive as well. Speaking of rebounding, LewJack pulled down a career high six last night.