Valparaiso, IN (Sports Network) - Playing in their first ever title game in the Horizon League Tournament, the Crusaders of Valparaiso have the homecourt advantage tonight as they clash with the Detroit Titans at the Athletics- Recreation Center.
Valpo, which had a record of 8-2 in title games as a member of the Mid- Continent Conference before making the move to the Horizon prior to the 2007-08 season, earned a spot in this title tilt by crushing the Butler Bulldogs on Saturday in a 65-46 final. The win was the second in a span of barely a week against the team that made it to the NCAA Championship game each of the last two years.
The top-seeded Crusaders have a record of 14-2 in their own building this year.
As for the third-seeded Titans, winners of this event two times but not since 1999 have they claimed the crown, they had to begin play in the first round a week ago with an 80-71 victory over Loyola-Chicago. Three days later, Detroit topped Youngstown State (93-76), and then on Saturday it was a 63-58 triumph over Cleveland State in order to advance.
The Crusaders lead the all-time series by a count of 11-7, sweeping this year's season series in order to run their win streak over Detroit to five in a row. Last year, not only did Valpo take both regular-season matchups, it posted an 88-78 win in the conference tournament quarterfinals as well.
Against Cleveland State the Titans trailed by as many as six points in the first half but the tide turned towards the end of the period and it was Detroit that led by six at the break before going on to the five-point win. Ray McCallum had a huge game for Detroit with a game-high 26 points, adding six rebounds and five assists, followed by Jason Calliste with 13 points and seven boards, although the two did combine to turn the ball over seven times as well, the team suffering 17 turnovers total. The fact that Detroit has made it this far without a player like Nick Minnerath who was supposed to be a key figure for the group before going out with a knee injury, is rather surprising. McCallum has picked up the slack however, scoring 15.5 ppg, pulling down 4.5 rpg and handing out about four assists per game. Chase Simon shoots just 37.9 percent from the field, yet the Titans are still confident when he has the ball in his hands as he averages 13.7 ppg. Despite posting just six points and six rebounds in the last game, Eli Holman has been huge off the bench of late, generating 11.1 points and 7.0 rebounds per contest.
A struggle from the field at both ends in the second half, Valpo held the Bulldogs to just seven made field goals and 1-of-6 shooting behind the three- point line as the Crusaders cruised to the win on Saturday. The hosts had almost as many turnovers (16) as made baskets (23), but the Crusaders were quite selective with their shots as they knocked down 53.5 percent from the floor. Ryan Broekhoff had one of his best games of the season as he logged 19 points, 16 rebounds, handed out a couple of assists and made a pair of blocks, while Kevin Van Wijk and Erik Buggs supported with 11 points apiece in the romp. Broekhoff, named the Horizon League Player of the Year, leads the group in both scoring (14.9 ppg) and rebounding (8.7 rpg), the latter a bit surprising given that he is also the most productive three-point shooter for the program with 63 conversions. Against Detroit in the two regular-season matchups, Valpo connected on a combined 20-of-42 out on the perimeter. Van Wijk (14.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg) opts to stay close to the rim where he has made good on 62.4 percent of his field goal attempts, one of the top marks in the country.
03/06 10:43:34 ET