Valparaiso Dominates Eastern Kentucky With Depth, Defense

Michael Hickey

Shooting, defense, rebounding, depth: there wasn't an aspect of the game that Valparaiso didn't dominate in the win over Eastern Kentucky.

It definitely says something about how well Valparaiso played against Eastern Kentucky when you barely need to mention the best player on the team.

Ryan Broekhoff scored 13 points, one of five players in double-digits for the Crusaders, as Valparaiso easily slid by Eastern Kentucky 82-60.

This was the kind of game that looks like it would be a strong matchup on paper until you really think about it. Eastern Kentucky is one of the worst rebounding teams in the country. And it is was going against the team from the Horizon League with the best inside duo, one of which is its best player, and the other that has the perfect slipstream game.

What did you think was going to happen?

Of course, it helps when you can also score almost 70 percent of the time that you shoot the ball. The Crusaders had no issues scoring, and most of their misses came from 3-point range. Even there they shot 41.2 percent.

That was better than the Colonels managed to shoot period.

They just couldn't get open for shots. They were forced outside thanks to Valpo's length and the matchup zone that kept them from penetrating. That led to this: clang, clang, clang. A grand total of 7-for-26 from behind the arc.

Yeah, it wasn't pretty, and it didn't get any better in the second half, when Eastern Kentucky's leading scorer Corey Walden (20 points) injured his knee on a fluke play. As Mike DiNunno drove to the basket, he lost his balance. Walden was moving in for the rebound and DiNunno's upper back and head banged down right onto the sophomore's planted knee.

He crumpled to the floor, clutching at the injured appendage. According to our resident physical therapist, although the circumstances aren't the same, this is the exact same way that Kentucky's Nerlens Noel tore his ACL -- knee hyperextension on a planted foot. You can only hope that the Colonels sophomore sensation isn't going to have the same injury (perhaps we see now why Bracket Busters busting isn't such a terrible thing for some of the mid-major coaches).

Bryce Drew was able to rotate in 10 players, nine of which earned at least 10 minutes on the floor, and Jordan Coleman might have done the same, had he not cut his chin near the end of the game. Even with the end of the bench in, the lead never wavered. That is the kind of depth, along with the experience of its starters, that makes Valparaiso so dangerous in the Horizon, and possibly in the NCAA Tournament.

Will Bogan added 13 points for the Crusaders, and Ben Boggs had 10 points and seven rebounds in the win.

Dinunno added 19 points for Eastern Kentucky. Eric Stutz (10 points) was the only other Colonel to score more than five in the loss.

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