Last night I had a ticket to the Valpo game against Ball State in my hands so I decided to make the short trip to Valpo. The ticket was part of the package I bought in order to get into the Purdue game. I agree with Valpo trying to get the most out of the game, but I would have liked a choice of the games in the package. This is the only one I think that is on a day that Purdue does not have a game. Most of the time the games are at the same time.
As I was waiting to get in I had to wade through the crowd that was waiting to buy tickets to the game. I kept hearing people talk about the crowd. The phrase ‘big opponent’ was thrown around a lot last night. I was actually kind of disapointed in the Valpo fans. I think that they are better than to need Ball State to draw fans. Once the game started though I realized that quite a few fans made the trip from Muncie to the ARC. I guess they knew what they were talking about. That really is a shame. Why don’t more people come out to see Valpo play? They have a great team. They really don’t have one guy that is a superstar. Brandon Wood may be the closest to that, but for the most part this is a team that is just that. They have four players who are averaging ten points or more a game this season. They really play good basketball and deserve bigger crowds.
The few students who attend the games were not there because they are on break. I was taking pictures behind the Valpo hoop when I realized that I could just hop the rail and have a seat while I took some. I really liked sitting back there, and if the Valpo band wouldn’t mind when they come back I would like to have that seat every game.
Both teams started off slowly. Valpo just couldn’t seem to get things going, and committed six turnovers in the first eight minutes. Once they got it going though they really put it to the Cardinals. They used the three ball to spark a run that gave them the lead for good with about eight minutes left in the first half. They had a huge lead in the second half, and I thought that the route was on. Ball State seemed to be imploding. They were fighting amongst themselves in the huddle. They somehow pulled it together to get within five. Valpo though took control of the game again to make the final score look good.
Brandon Wood, Cory Johnson, Ryan Broekoff, and Howard Little all scored in double digits for the Crusaders. Their contribution was impressive, but the most impressive had to go to Erik Buggs. The shortest guy on the court led all rebounders with eight. He also had seven points and four assists while running the offense. The more I see him play the more impressed I am with him. As I said before this is a team that puts the group ahead of the individual. They are fun to watch.
I have to mention that former Michigan City player Jarrod Jones lead all scorers with 18 on the night. It is nice to see a former Duneland player doing well. Of course as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of the team I am rooting for.
One scary moment during the game involved Matt Kenney and Tyrae Robinson. They both were going hard for a loose ball and hit hard into the stationary seats which are very close to the court. Both players stayed down after the hit, and watching the fans motion to the training staff I was a little leary of what was going on. Kenney got up fairly quickly and was back in the game very shortly. Robinson was favoring his left knee on the floor and looked in great pain just putting his foot down as they were helping him off the floor. On the bench he had both knees checked before going to the locker room. I thought that I had seen another ACL tear, but Robinson was back in, and looked as quick as he had so I would say he was alright
Gameball – This has to go to Brandon Wood. He really couldn’t miss in the first half. He scored 15 of his game high 17 during that first half run that gave Valpo some breathing room. He hit all four of the threes that he took in the first half. It reminded me of his performance against the Boilers. He must really like shooting towards the bleachers where the students normally sit.
Play of the Game – I don’t know that this game hinged on one play, but one series helped the Crusaders pull away. With about eight minutes left in the first half Brandon Wood knocked down one of his four three pointers. The next trip down the floor Ryan Broekoff hit a triple, and Wood added another one the following trip. Ball State and Valpo were tied when this series started. When the dust settled they had a 22-16 lead, and the crowd was probably as into it as they would get. They used this to propel them to a twelve point lead at the break.
This was the first of four straight basketball to end the year for me. I was at Notre Dame tonight to see a battle of top 15 teams. The next two days will see me end the year watching the Purdue men’s and women’s teams. Who knows I may end up at Hinkle Field House on New Year’s Day to see Butler play Valpo to start 2011. When is this going too far?