Youngstown State (17-14) vs. Wright State (19-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, March 8, 6 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) -- Valparaiso, Indiana. Television: HL Network. Home Record: YSU 11-4, Wright St. 10-4. Away Record: YSU 6-8, Wright St. 8-6. Neutral Record: YSU 0-2, Wright St. 1-1. Conference Record: YSU 7-9, Wright St. 10-6. Series Record: Wright State leads, 37-9.
GAME NOTES: The third-seeded Wright State Raiders begin their postseason on Friday, as they take on the sixth-seeded Youngstown State Penguins in second- round action of the Horizon League Tournament at Valparaiso's Athletics- Recreation Center.
The winner of this matchup will take on second-seed Detroit in Saturday's semifinal round.
Wright State was picked to finish last in the HL preseason polls, but Billy Donlon's Raiders took little stock in those predictions, instead posting a 19-11 overall record, which included a solid 10-6 mark in-conference. As a result of the third-place finish, Donlon was named the Horizon League Coach of the Year in his third season at the helm. Wright State did struggle a bit down the stretch, but was able to end on a strong note, routing Youngstown State in the regular-season finale last weekend, 72-45.
Putting that outing in the rearview mirror was the task at hand for Youngstown coach Jerry Slocum, as his Penguins began tournament play on Tuesday against seventh-seeded Loyola Chicago. DJ Cole's layup with 2.5 seconds remaining in regulation gave the Penguins a 62-60 victory, moving the team to 17-14 on the year and keeping its postseason hopes alive. On the year, YSU finished two games under .500 in league play (7-9).
Despite the lopsided loss to Wright State less than a week ago, YSU actually won the first meeting this season to split the season series with a 68-61 decision at home on Jan. 23. Overall, Wright State still maintains a sizable advantage, with a 37-9 series edge thanks to wins in 10 of the last 12 meetings.
The Penguins got a balanced offensive effort in Tuesday's win, as Kamren Belin and Blake Allen each finished with 15 points, while Cole and Damian Eargle chipped in with 13 and 10 points, respectively. Eargle also was instrumental on the defensive end, setting a HL Tournament record with seven blocked shots. The team shot 50 percent from the floor against Loyola, but the offense has not been as efficient on the season. YSU comes into this matchup averaging 70.5 ppg on a modest .429 shooting, but a good portion of that offense came from Kendrick Perry (16.9 ppg), who has recently been sidelined with a knee injury suffered in practice in late February. Allen (11.7 ppg), Eargle (11.7 ppg) and Belin (10.5 ppg) will need to continue to contribute in a number of areas to give the Penguins a fighting chance the rest of the way.
The Raiders are not an offensive-minded squad either, rather relying on staunch defensive play to get the job done. Wright State is yielding just 58.2 ppg this year, as foes connect on just over 40 percent of their shots from the floor (.411). The team is led at the offensive end by Horizon League Second- Team honoree Cole Darling (11.3 ppg), but the 6-foot-8 junior has also missed time down the stretch due to injury, although he remains optimistic about playing in the postseason. The team does have sophomore Reggie Arceneaux back after getting cleared from lingering effects from a concussion. Arceneaux is netting 9.2 ppg and is the team's top 3-point threat (40 3-pointers on the year).
Both teams could be without their best offensive players. For a team like Wright State, it may not matter as much, as its defensive play can certainly limit Youngstown State, as it did less than a week ago.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wright State 63, Youngstown State 57
03/08 10:35:16 ET