By Marc Weems
With Youngstown State University men’s basketball team coming off a tough overtime loss at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, YSU will look to rebound quickly.
On Jan. 28, the Penguins (9-13, 3-6 Horizon League) will take on Cleveland State University (6-15, 2-7 HL) for the first time this season.
YSU has lost four out of their last five games, with two games being decided in overtime.
“We had a great week in terms of playing basketball at a high level,” YSU head coach Jerry Slocum said. “We played 80 good minutes of basketball, but we needed 85 minutes. We played with a lot of heart and toughness.”
Slocum also said that they played very scrappy on the glass, and they played good defense regardless of the scores.
“I think we’ve played hard in our last five or six games,” Slocum said. “We’ve played at really high level.”
CSU is currently on a two-game losing streak and has lost the last five out of six games. CSU also has won only one road game out of 12 games.
CSU has the second worst scoring offense in the league at 67 points per game, with Milwaukee being worse at 66.8 points per game. Although, they only give up 72.5 points per game, which ranks fourth in the conference.
On the other side, YSU ranks second-to-last in points allowed with 83 points per game. Only the University of Detroit Mercy ranks below them by giving up 85.9 points per game.
Slocum said that their transition defense is what has fueled their good play of late.
“In our first matchup with Green Bay, everything seemed to be forced,” Slocum said. “Up there [in Green Bay], we played much better as a team. Green Bay didn’t have no transition basket, which they average six of a game.”
Their win against University of Wisconsin-Green Bay was their first win since 2003 in their arena. All five starters for YSU were in double figure with guard Cameron Morse scoring 27 points.
Slocum also said that their assist-to-turnover ratio was much better, which helped win their game at Green Bay and kept them alive at Milwaukee.
Speaking of offense, YSU goes into their next three home games averaging 77.8 points per game. That ranks third in the Horizon League.
After YSU lost three straight games, Slocum said that they had to look at those losses as teaching tools instead of dwelling on their issues.
“Just take care of home court,” Slocum said about their upcoming stretch of games. “This is a big deal for us. On the road, we just have to play well again. I told my staff after the last game [Milwaukee], that we just needed a few breaks here and there to win the game.”
Slocum said no matter what happens on the road, they have to play well at home first, then worry about road games.
“With the landscape of the league, whoever is hot in February can win the whole thing,” Slocum said. “Everyone has proven that they can compete in this conference. Once everyone is on a neutral floor, anything is possible.”
For Slocum, the effort has been here all season, but the results haven’t matched. “Now is a time of the season that those two things need to come together,” he said.
In their other home games, YSU plays Oakland University who has the second scoring offense in the league at 78 points per game and the best scoring defense in the league at 69.5 points per game. Oakland is also 9-1 in their last 10 games.
After YSU’s game against Oakland on Feb. 2, they will finish their home stand with the University of Detroit Mercy on Feb. 4. They give up 85.9 points per game — which is the worst in the league — while they score 75.9 points per game, which is fifth in the league.