There would be no Valparaiso comeback this time around.
With a chance to pull ahead from the rest of the Horizon League the Crusaders came out flat against Youngstown State on Wednesday night and could never recover in an 80-68 road loss.
The loss snapped Valparaiso’s six-game winning streak and bunched up the standings at the halfway point of the conference season.
“There are ups-and-downs in a season and this one was obviously a down,” Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew said. “The question is how quickly can we jump back from the down and turn things around.”
The Penguins (13-8, 5-3) led from wire-to-wire as All-League performer Kendrick Perry had 28 points and 11 rebounds, while Kamren Belin added 16 points and nine rebounds.
“(Youngstown) is very good and they’ve been on a good streak as of late,” Drew said. “We worked to get hands in their face and contesting jump shooters. They did a good job of stepping up and scoring.”
Valparaiso was short-handed for much of the game on Wednesday night as Matt Kenney played just six minutes in the first half before exiting with a back injury. Kenney hadn’t practiced since a win over Green Bay last week.
Kevin Van Wijk led the Crusaders (16-6, 6-2) with 14 points while Lavonte Dority added 13 points off the bench. Ryan Broekhoff was just 3-of-13 from the field and finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.
“There is a lot of pressure on Ryan and not having Matt definitely hurt us tonight,” Drew said. “It’s a huge concern for us not having Matt out there.”
The Crusaders hold half game lead over second-place Detroit after the Titans knocked off Wright State 83-76 on Wednesday. Valparaiso doesn’t have much time to get hung up on the Youngstown game as the Crusaders host Milwaukee on Friday night.
“We have a very quick turnaround,” Drew said. “Milwaukee always plays us extremely well and we’ll have to be ready because we know they will be.”