Valparaiso (18-8) at Youngstown State (13-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 11th, 7:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Beeghly Center (6,300) -- Youngstown, Ohio. Television: None. Home Record: Valparaiso 10-2, Youngstown State 7-3. Away Record: Valparaiso 8-6, Youngstown State 6-8. Neutral Record: Valparaiso 0-0, Youngstown State 0-0. Conference Record: Valparaiso 11-3, Youngstown State 8-6. Series Record: Valparaiso leads, 26-7.
GAME NOTES: The Valparaiso Crusaders head to the Beeghly Center to take on conference foe Youngstown State fresh off a huge win to secure sole possession of first place in the Horizon League.
Valparaiso produced a rousing victory on the road Thursday, beating Cleveland State 59-41 to take over the top spot in the conference. The showdown pitted the league's only two 10-win teams but Valpo came out looking like the only real contender. After CSU scored the game's first point, the Crusaders ripped off 17 straight points and never looked back in securing a fourth consecutive win and eighth in nine games. The win was especially huge with only five games remaining in the regular season as Valpo got the better of Cleveland State for a second time this year, now holding the league tie-breaker. Ryan Broekhoff was huge in the victory with 24 points and 10 rebounds, including a 6-of-9 showing from three-point range. Richie Edwards added 20 points off the bench as the Crusaders cruised by holding the Vikings to a mere 25.9 percent shooting from the field.
Youngstown State fell to 8-6 in Horizon League play with its second loss in three games as Butler pulled out a 68-59 road victory Thursday. YSU trailed by as many as 14 early in the second half but was able to rally back to within four behind a tough defensive stretch. However, Butler managed one last surge late in the game with an 8-2 spurt to put the game away for good. Kendrick Perry paced the Penguins' attack with 23 points while Damian Eargle managed 11 points and six boards. YSU was heavily outrebounded, though, to the tune of 42-29. That included just four offensive rebounds and one second-chance point for YSU.
Valparaiso has owned its series with Youngstown State of late, coming into Saturday's game riding a 14-game winning streak. The last time the Penguins logged a victory over Valpo was back on January 15, 2000, though they came close last year in an 86-78 overtime loss at the Beeghly Center. The Crusaders beat YSU earlier this season, 76-62, at home.
The Crusaders' offense is efficient and methodical with juniors Broekhoff and Kevin Van Wijk leading that effort with solid 15.3-point and 14.5-point averages, respectively. Van Wijk also leads the Horizon League in field-goal percentage at 61.7 percent while Broekhoff tops the Horizon charts in rebounding at 8.6 per game. Van Wijk is second on the team in rebounding with 5.2 rpg while Broekhoff has a 50.8 shooting percentage and tops the roster with 51 three-pointers on 39.5 percent shooting. Both are also among the league leaders in scoring. It's not surprising then that Valparaiso leads the league in field-goal percentage (47.8 percent), stands second in scoring (70.8 ppg) and has the Horizon's second-best rebounding margin at plus-2.7 (34.0-31.3). Jay Harris and Edwards are as solid as they come off the bench, averaging 9.8 and 8.6 ppg, respectively. One area of concern is the defense, which allows 66.3 ppg on 42.3 percent shooting, though it has been improving.
The Penguins have the league's top scorer in Perry, who posts 16.0 ppg and contributes across the board. The talented sophomore is also among the league leaders in assists with 4.0 per game, steals (2.4 per game) and assist/turnover ratio at plus-2.0 -- tops in the league. Perry also grabs 3.2 rebounds per contest and shoots a respectable percentage from the floor at 45.2 percent. He has plenty of well-rounded company as well with Blake Allen's 13.0 ppg, 3.0 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 45.7 shooting percentage. Allen also has a league-leading 73 three-pointers on 45.3 percent shooting -- the second- best long distance percentage in the conference. Ashen Ward chips in 10.6 ppg, 4.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists while Eargle stands among the Horizon's best rebounders with 7.2 per contest and adds 10.5 ppg to the mix. DuShawn Brooks adds further depth with his 9.3-point average and 5.3 boards. Overall, YSU nets 66.8 ppg on 42.4 percent shooting while the defense gives up a 43.0- percent shooting clip and 65.4 ppg. Despite the contributions from Eargle and others, the Penguins have the worst rebounding margin in the league at minus-4.2 (36.8-32.5).
Valparaiso is flying high off its big win over CSU and has no reason to come back down with the talent and momentum to possibly win out the rest of the way.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Valparaiso 68, Youngstown State 63
02/11 10:36:55 ET