When top contenders from the Horizon League and Ohio Valley Conference meet, there aren’t many TV cameras around, but this one was noteworthy.
Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan has been on the national radar since last season, when he led the Racers into the third round of the NCAA tournament. The preseason All-America choice was his usual magical self tonight, scoring 24 points in front of a home crowd, but it was the visiting Valparaiso Crusaders, coached by legendary mid-major tourney hero Bryce Drew, who went home with the 66-64 road win.
Valpo was led by reigning Horizon League player of the year Ryan Broekhoff, who put up 18 points and hauled down 8 boards in 35 minutes of floor time. The Crusaders were far more active on the boards, coming away with 26 defensive rebounds on the night. They also harassed the home team into 17 turnovers.
Ben Boggs was the crunch-time hero for Valpo. The senior guard nailed two free throws, followed by a three-pointer with a little over five minutes left in the game, putting the Crusaders ahead for good. With the outcome still in doubt, he sank two more free throws to run the score to 66-61 with five seconds remaining. Canaan’s three-point heave to end the game was good, but Boggs’ makes provided the winning margin.
Neither of these teams is likely to be in the running for an at-large bid, but there’s little doubt that Valpo showed some crucial grit in beating mid-major royalty on the road. It’s experience that could come in handy in the postseason.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.