The message all week on Valparaiso's campus had been, "Stay a Day." Thanksgiving break began for students at the completion of classes on Friday, and students were encouraged to stay for Valpo's contest against Akron and begin their week-long break on Saturday.
The students who did choose to stay, the student section was approximately 75-80 percent full, and the rest of the people in attendance at the Athletics-Recreation Center saw a game that was well worth sticking around for one more day. It was a back-and-forth contest that came down to the final possessions and ended with the Crusaders claiming a 62-59 win over the Zips by ending the game on a 8-0 run over the final four minutes of the contest.
As one of the subregional sites for the 2K Sports Classic Benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer, this game allowed the Valparaiso community to donate money and raise awareness for cancer research. Light blue was the color of the day to represent prostate cancer, which longtime coach (now retired) Homer Drew was diagnosed with in September.
Light blue t-shirts and wristbands were available for purchase (with all proceeds going to cancer research), the Valpo players wore light blue shooting shirts, the assistant coaches all wore light blue ties, and head coach Bryce Drew again wore his blue jacket, which was a focus of so much attention during the season-opener at Arizona.
As for the game, the Zips, who by all rights should have been playing at Madison Square Garden this weekend thanks to their RLU over Mississippi State, trailed early and then went on a 23-12 run build a 31-21 lead with just under five minutes to play in the first half.
Over the next nine minutes, Valpo outscored Akron 21-2 to lead 42-33 with 16 minutes left in the game. Not only was the scoring run remarkable in and of itself, for the Crusaders had only made six field goals before the spurt, but it was also remarkable for the way the Crusaders put up points. Not one of the 21 points came via the 3-point shot.
The Crusaders had averaged five 3-point makes per contest in their first three games, and in fact, did not make a single 3-pointer in the entire game. Ryan Broekhoff had six points during the spurt, and Matt Kenney added five points and singlehandedly foiled an Akron three-on-one fast break by blocking Nicola Cvetinovic's layup attempt.
The Zips came right back with a spurt of their own, outscoring the Crusaders 26-12 over the next 12 minutes. A Demetrius Treadwell basket put Akron ahead 59-54 with 4:22 to play. Unfortunately for the Zips, those were the last points they would score.
Valpo chipped away at the lead, and two free throws from Jay Harris gave the Crusaders the lead for good at 60-59 with 1:42 left. In three subsequent possessions, Akron had four attempts to retake the lead, but could not get any to fall. Down three, Alex Abreu had a chance to force overtime, but his 3-point attempt was long, giving the Crusaders the win.
Valpo's quartet of Kevin Van Wijk, Broekhoff, Harris and Kenney combined for 59 of Valpo's 62 points. Van Vijk and Broekhoff both recorded double-doubles (21 points and 10 rebounds for Van Wijk, 13 and 11 for Broekhoff). Harris tallied 14 points, and Kenney was a rebound shy of a double-double himself, finishing with 11 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Treadwell and Quincy Diggs each scored 13 points for the Zips. Nick Harney added 11 points, while Abreu became the first Akron play to record 10 assists in nearly five years.
at VALPARAISO 62, AKRON 59 11/18/2011
AKRON 2-1 (0-0) -- A. Abreu 2-7 0-1 4; B. McClanahan 2-5 0-0 4; Q. Diggs 5-11 2-2 13; N. Harney 5-11 0-0 11; D. Treadwell 6-10 1-4 13; N. Cvetinovic 4-10 0-0 9; C. Gilliam 1-4 0-0 3; Z. Marshall 0-0 0-0 0; B. Walsh 1-1 0-0 2; J. Egner 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 26-60 3-7 59. VALPARAISO 3-1 (0-0) -- R. Broekhoff 5-13 3-6 13; K. Van Wijk 7-10 7-11 21; W. Bogan 0-6 0-0 0; M. Kenney 3-5 5-8 11; J. Harris 3-9 8-8 14; E. Buggs 0-1 1-2 1; H. Vucic 1-2 0-1 2; T. Kurth 0-0 0-2 0. Totals 19-46 24-38 62.
Three-point goals: AKR 4-11 (C. Gilliam 1-2; B. McClanahan 0-1; N. Cvetinovic 1-2; Q. Diggs 1-3; A. Abreu 0-1; N. Harney 1-2), VALP 0-14 (W. Bogan 0-5; M. Kenney 0-1; R. Broekhoff 0-3; J. Harris 0-5); Rebounds: AKR 26 (D. Treadwell 8), VALP 36 (R. Broekhoff 11); Assists: AKR 13 (A. Abreu 10), VALP 11 (M. Kenney 5); Total Fouls -- AKR 31, VALP 14; Fouled Out: AKR-Z. Marshall; VALP-E. Buggs.