VU gets back to work after break
VALPARAISO — The sore knees, the achy backs, the gimpy ankles, all had a little extra time to heal.
After last playing on Jan. 23, a 73-61 win against Green Bay at the Athletics-Recreation Center, Valparaiso (16-5, 6-1 Horizon League) returns to the court on Wednesday night, at Youngstown State (12-8, 4-3).
The Crusaders had off on Thursday, practiced Friday and Saturday (two sessions), then had off on Sunday, before getting back to work on Monday. They were scheduled to take a charter flight on Tuesday to Youngstown, instead of making the six-hour drive.
“It’s obviously strange not having a game on a weekend,” Ryan Broekhoff said. “I can’t think of too many times during all four years when that’s happened. But hopefully it’s given us a chance to refresh, and get our bodies ready.”
By beating the Phoenix, the Crusaders ran their win streak to six games. Any chance that the mini-break could slow their momentum?
“The schedule, you can either make it a good thing or a bad thing,” Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew said. “For us, it was good timing, because a lot of our guys were banged up and needed some time off. Hopefully, we can pick up where we left off, or even better than where we left off. But there’s always a concern when you go a week between games.”
Still, the first-place Crusaders have no intention of getting off track.
“When you’re on a roll, you want to keep going,” Erik Buggs said. “But it’s been good to get our legs back under us. Other than that, it’s been business as usual.”
The Penguins, too, have been hot, extending their win streak to three by defeating Cleveland State 73-59 on Saturday. They are the Crusaders’ third straight opponent to carry a win streak into a game against Valparaiso, following Wright State (five) and Green Bay (four).
Valparaiso had won its first 10 games against Youngstown State as a member of the Horizon League, before losing 71-53 last Feb. 11 at the Beeghly Center, a game Kevin Van Wijk missed because of a knee injury.
The Crusaders have won four road games in a row.
“I guarantee it’s going to be a tough atmosphere,” Buggs said. “We always have really good games at Youngstown.”
All-league junior guard Kendrick Perry averages 15.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists for the Penguins. Senior forward Damian Eargle averages 12.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots.
Senior guard Blake Allen has added 11.4 points, and junior forward Kamren Belin is coming off a career-high 24 points against Cleveland State.
“Their length and athleticism is something we have to try to not have hurt us,” Drew said.
Note: Ronnye Beamon, 6-foot-4 freshman guard from Bishop Noll, has yet to play this season and was expected to redshirt.