By Kevin Sweeney
19 days ago, Green Bay got thumped on the road at Valparaiso. With Oakland’s struggles, it appeared that Valpo would run away with the Horizon League once again.
Today was a different story.
The Phoenix gave Valparaiso a taste of their own medicine with an 86-69 win, and in the process reasserted themselves as the top challenger to the Crusaders in the Horizon League title race.
After a slow start doomed Green Bay from the beginning in first meeting, the Phoenix made it clear that today would be different, getting out to an early 16-9 lead. While Green Bay came out of the gates filled with energy, Valpo seemed to just be going through the motions, lacking the intensity you would expect to see in a battle of conference leaders. That was perhaps no better represented by the rebounding margin. The Crusaders, who had outrebounded their opponent in all but 3 games so far this season, were outrebounded by 21 in the game.
However, Valparaiso did hang around in the first half, staying within single digits for most of the half and even cutting the deficit to 4 at one point. Oakland did recover some of the momentum going into the half, closing on a 7-2 run to lead by 9 at the half.
The second half began in similar fashion to the first, with Green Bay immediately imposing its will. A 13-4 run early in the half gave the Phoenix a commanding 21-point lead with 12 minutes to play.
From there, the outcome was never really in doubt, though Valpo did try to make it interesting by cutting the margin to 10 with just over 2 minutes to go. But the Crusaders didn’t score again in the game, and Green Bay cruised to a 86-69 final tally.
While Alec Peters, arguably the best player in Valparaiso history, wound up with 20 points and 8 rebounds in the game, Green Bay did a good job defending him, with senior Kenneth Lowe drawing the assignment for much of the night.
Kareem Kanter led 5 Phoenix in double figures with 17 points and 9 rebounds, while Charles Cooper poured in 15 off the bench.
The loss probably eliminates Valparaiso from the at-large bubble, should the Crusaders falter in the Horizon League Tournament.