End of the road
It is crunch time for the Youngstown State University basketball teams.
The women hit the road for games against Wright State University on Thursday and the University of Detroit Mercy on Saturday.
The men finish their season at home with a pair of games against the same two opponents.
The men are coming off a 71-68 loss to Austin Peay University in the BracketBusters game. Sophomore guard Kendrick Perry said in Monday’s press conference that the team didn’t rebound well enough in that game to win.
“I am going to put the blame on us, the guards,” Perry said. “Those 50-50 balls, we let get away. We grab two or three of those balls, it could be a different ball game.”
Head men’s basketball coach Jerry Slocum said during the press conference that he doesn’t believe fatigue is a factor this late in the season.
“These guys have been going since Oct. 15,” Slocum said. “All that said, I think our guys are fresh. I am not saying last week wasn’t long or hard. I don’t think we played poorly; I think we played pretty well.”
The Penguins will look to rebound at home, something Perry is looking forward to, even though the Penguins have had a few rough games at Beeghly Center.
“It is always easier to play two homes games instead of two road games,” Perry said. “Our crowd gives us energy. But sometimes we haven’t showed up at home. We just have to go out there as a team and do what we know we can do.”
Perry added that the team has struggled sometimes after big wins. Slocum said he wishes he could fix that problem.
“If I knew that, or could have put my finger on that, we wouldn’t have been in those positions,” Slocum said. “I think after a big win, we have gotten a little full of ourselves, maybe forgot about the little things we have to do to win our games.”
A number of scenarios could result from the team finishing high enough in the Horizon League to host a tournament game, but Perry said he doesn’t let himself get caught up in that.
If everything falls into place for the Penguins, they could finish as high as second place in the conference.
“I just see it as we have Wright State on Thursday and Detroit on Saturday,” Perry said. “If we take care of those two games, then everything will work out.”
Slocum agreed with Perry’s sentiments and said he is focused on Wright State and Detroit.
“Our emphasis has been to just get better,” Slocum said. “We have a great test this week. Wright State is the hardest working team in our league. They work hard every possession.”
A few weeks ago, Slocum said to look out for Butler University to make a run, but said that Detroit is more talented.
“Detroit arguably has the best talent in the league,” Slocum said. “They are the most talented group in the league, hands down. Whether they play together is another thing.”
Butler is the defending national runner up for the past two seasons.
Slocum said whatever happens this week, it will be fun to watch.
“This is an important basketball weekend for us,” Slocum said. “We are excited to be home. It is good to finish the season at home.”
The women also have a chance to host a home tournament game. Head women’s basketball coach Bob Boldon said in the press conference that he is excited at that prospect.
“I think it would be great for us — for the community — to play a home conference tournament [game],” Boldon said. “It would be a really exciting atmosphere. Our fans have been spectacular all year.”
In the press conference, junior forward Brandi Brown said the results will show if the team works hard the entire game.
“I think if we come ready to work and ready to play, the chances of us winning and having a great game are that much higher,” Brown said. “If we come in ready for 40 minutes, we can win games.”
Boldon said this final stretch of the season is why they played the tough road games early in the season.
“That was 100 percent the point,” Boldon said. “I guess we are going to find out very soon if that worked out and if it will pay off soon.”
The Penguins are coming off a heartbreaking home loss to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, 77-72, in overtime. YSU led by nine with under a minute left before losing the lead.
However, Boldon said he was happy with his team’s effort.
“It is just so unfortunate situations happened down the stretch that we let it get away,” he said. “Offensively, we are showing more confidence game after game. Defensively, it has been kind of hit or miss. We know we have to clean up our
defense if we want to make an impact down the stretch.”