VALPARAISO | The Valparaiso men’s basketball team limped back to Northwest Indiana on Thursday night following a deflating loss to Green Bay.
The loss marked the end of the Valparaiso’s two-year reign as Horizon League champions and was then followed by a harrowing trip back to Porter County Regional Airport as the chartered flight faced strong winds upon descent. Several members of the travel party got sick during the flight and were still affected on Friday afternoon.
With Lavonte Dority hurting from a back injury, the Crusaders may be facing a bit more turbulence with their final three regular-season games coming in the next seven days.
Valparaiso has a chance to wrap up at least the No. 4 seed in next month’s conference tournament with a win over Youngstown State this afternoon at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
“Every team is different and I don’t know how they’ll respond (from the Green Bay loss),” Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew said. “Hopefully being at home will re-energize us a bit, but you really have to go through it at this point of the year to get some experience.”
Drew said on Friday afternoon that while they were still going through the medical evaluation, Dority is expected to play on Saturday. The senior guard was hammered on nearly every drive to the basket against the Phoenix on Thursday, but failed to get to the free throw line. By contrast, Green Bay guard Keifer Sykes attempted 12 free throws.
The Crusaders will go from trying to shutdown Sykes, who was just 4-of-13 from the field, to looking to limit Youngstown State’s Kendrick Perry. The senior averages 21.0 points per game and scored a career-high 35 points in overtime against Milwaukee on Thursday night. If Dority is limited because of his back, Drew will have a decision to make as to how to guard Perry.
“Our defense was not near as good (on Thursday night) as it was when we played Green Bay earlier in the season,” Drew said. “If Lavonte can’t move as well, that could hurt us. We know Perry is going to score. The question is how many.”
Perry was limited to 15 points in Valparaiso’s 74-71 win over the Penguins last month as Dority scored a game-high 27 points. The Crusaders are 3-3 when facing a team for the second time this season, but all three of those losses have come after they were victorious in the first meeting.
“Our prep has been fine, but it does seem we’re better playing teams the first time around,” Drew said. “We’re going to have to be able to defend a bit better than we did last time. They have some experienced players. We’ve got to concentrate on what we do.”