Youngstown State (16-12) at Valparaiso (22-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, February 26, 8:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) -- Valparaiso, Indiana. Television: None. Home Record: YSU 10-4, Valpo 13-2. Away Record: YSU 6-6, Valpo 9-5. Neutral Record: YSU 0-2, Valpo 0-0. Conference Record: YSU 7-7, Valpo 11-3. Series Record: Valparaiso leads, 26-9.
GAME NOTES: With just two games remaining in the regular season, the Crusaders of Valparaiso try to move closer to capturing the Horizon League title as they entertain the Youngstown State Penguins on Tuesday night.
Valpo, which has a date with Green Bay to close out the regular season this coming weekend, is tops in the conference standings entering the week with a record of 11-3, just ahead of Detroit which is 10-4 and also has two league bouts remaining.
Like many teams around the country, the Crusaders took a break from the ordinary to take on Eastern Kentucky on Saturday afternoon, and posted an 82-60 win. The victory was the second straight and the sixth in the last seven outings for the program.
Similarly, the Penguins battled Central Michigan over the weekend and also logged a win with an 86-75 final at home. The triumph was the second in the last three outings for a squad that enters the week 7-7 in conference play and alone in fifth place in the Horizon.
YSU actually won the first meeting of the season late last month at home by a score of 80-68, which means the all-time series now numbers 26-9 in favor of Valpo.
The Penguins shot a staggering 69.2 percent from the floor in the first half against Central Michigan over the weekend, hitting 5-of-10 beyond the arc over the first 20 minutes of action, en route to a double-digit home win. For the game, YSU knocked down 60 percent from the field and 9-of-18 out on the perimeter, as Kamren Belin and Blake Allen both tallied 20 points for the hosts. DJ Cole responded with a double-double consisting of 12 points and 12 assists, followed by Damian Eargle who dropped in 10 points before fouling out.
YSU was able to produce a very strong offensive effort on Saturday even without the services of Kendrick Perry (16.9 ppg) who is out with a knee injury. With Perry on the sidelines, that means Eargle (11.8 ppg) and Allen (11.5 ppg) will be expected to shoulder more of the burden. The pair combines for 11 rpg, with Eargle being one of the more active paint players in the conference with his 83 blocked shots, but his mere 55.4 percent accuracy at the free-throw line tends to make him a liability late in games that are still up for grabs.
Not only did the Crusaders win the battle on the boards versus EKU, 36-22, the hosts also outscored the visitors in the paint by a 44-24 margin, en route to the 22-point victory. Valpo spread the wealth with five players scoring in double figures, but none having more than the 13 points tallied by Will Bogan and Ryan Broekhoff. LaVonte Dority added 12 points off the bench, Kevin Van Wijk dropped 11 as he made all five of his field goal chances, followed by Ben Boggs with 10 points and seven rebounds in a reserve role for a team that shot in incredible 68.2 percent from the field for the full 40 minutes.
Outscoring the competition by almost 10 ppg this season, the Crusaders lean heavily on Broekhoff (16.0 ppg) and Van Wijk (12.7 ppg), although there are plenty in the supporting cast who are capable of stepping up and being a major scoring contributor on any given night. A bit too physical at times Van Wijk, who is shooting 64.8 percent from the field and is clearing 5.1 rpg, has had his time on the floor limited by foul trouble, as he has fouled out of seven games thus far.
Forget for a moment that YSU will be without Perry again this week, the Crusaders have revenge as a motivating factor in this meeting, not to mention their desire to take a firm grip on first place in the conference standings.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Valparaiso 78, Youngstown State 66
02/26 10:31:35 ET