Valparaiso (16-5) at Youngstown State (12-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, January 30, 7:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Beeghly Center (6,300) -- Youngstown, Ohio. Television: ESPN3. Home Record: Valpo 10-1, YSU 6-2. Away Record: Valpo 6-4, YSU 6-4. Neutral Record: Valpo 0-0, YSU 0-2. Conference Record: Valpo 6-1, YSU 4-3. Series Record: Valparaiso leads, 26-8.
GAME NOTES: The Valparaiso Crusaders put their six-game winning streak on the line as they visit the Beeghly Center for a Horizon League tussle against the Youngstown State Penguins.
This will be the 35th encounter between these schools on the hardwood. The Crusaders own a 26-8 advantage in the all-time series. YSU snapped a 14-game losing streak to Valparaiso with a 71-53 victory last season at the Beeghly Center. It marked the Penguins' first win over the Crusaders since 2000.
Bryce Drew's Crusaders are 16-5 overall and lead the Horizon League with a 6-1 record after their 73-61 victory over Green Bay last Wednesday. Valpo has won six in a row since dropping a 63-54 decision to Loyola-Chicago in its conference opener. The Crusaders are led by Ryan Broekhoff (17.8 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and Kevin Van Wijk (13.5 ppg). Broekhoff is the defending Horizon League Player of the Year, while Van Wijk made an appearance on the First-Team All- Horizon League in 2011-12.
Valpo leads the Horizon League in rebounding margin (+5.8) and is also outscoring its opposition by an average of 9.7 ppg. The team shot just over 40 percent from the field in its last outing and limited the Phoenix to 39.2 percent shooting, but the Crusaders managed to come out with a 12-point victory thanks to a strong, 27-of-33 showing at the charity stripe. Broekhoff went 14- of-15 at the free throw line to net 19 points while also coming up just one board shy of a double-double. Matt Kenny contributed 10 points and nine rebounds while Van Wijk tallied 12 points.
YSU is a decent squad on the offensive end with an average of 71.1 ppg on 42.4 percent shooting from the field, which makes it the second highest scoring team in the conference behind Detroit. The ability to fill it up has helped the Penguins win their last three games at Milwaukee (75-72) and at home, over Wright State (68-61), and Cleveland State (73-59). The three wins improved coach Jerry Slocum's team to 12-8 overall and 4-3 in the Horizon League standings.
The Penguins received a big time performance out of Kamren Belin against Cleveland State as the junior forward guided the team to the victory with his career-high 24 points, which included a spurt where he scored nine consecutive points. Kendrick Perry posted 17 points, four steals, and four assists while Damian Eargle tallied 14 points and four blocks. Perry has had an all- conference caliber season. He ranks third in the Horizon League in scoring (15.7), fourth in assists (4.3) and is in the lead with 1.9 steals per game. Eargle (12.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and Blake Allen (11.4 ppg, 3.2 apg) combine with Perry to create a consistent three-headed attack that is nearly unstoppable when Belin gets added into the fold.
Valpo is the class of the Horizon League this season and it will most likely finish the regular season in first place once again. However, it has showed it is not invincible and going on the road into the Beeghly Center is not going to be easy. YSU has as good a chance of taking down the Crusaders, but it will need all four of its key players to give a collective effort to slow down the reigning MVP.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Youngstown State 74, Valparaiso 70
01/30 10:56:28 ET