By Dan Hiner
After losing to Canisius College 90-84 on Saturday, the Youngstown State University men’s basketball team has an important week upcoming.
The Penguins play on the road against Robert Morris University on Wednesday and come back home to play Oberlin College on Saturday. After the next two games, YSU will go on the road to play Michigan State University.
YSU head coach Jerry Slocum said the next two weeks will be very stressful with the Michigan State game and finals week. He said the players will need to stay focused and win against Robert Morris and Oberlin, if they want a chance against the Spartans.
Slocum said he was disappointed the YSU’s effort in the loss to Canisius. He said the players need to play with more passion if they want to contend for a Horizon League title this season.
“I hope the pain of a long weekend that we just came off of is enough motivation to feel that, to see that or understand that,” Slocum said. “We don’t have the talent level to play without passion, or without passion and emotion. Do I think we could have beaten Canisius? Yes. Can we win all the rest of our games? Obviously, you have great challenges against Michigan State and Ohio State [University].
“But in our league, the common ground isn’t that you’re gonna shoot well every night,” Slocum added. “The common ground is that you play hard, and you play with passion and you play with emotion every night, because that’s stuff you can control. You can’t necessarily control those other things.”
Slocum said he’s going to adjust the Penguins’ pregame schedule before the game against Robert Morris but expects the team to play with more passion and intensity.
“I like our group. I think we’re going in the right direction with them,” Slocum said. “I have not been happy with how hard we have played relative to how hard people are playing against us. We’ve got to match other teams’ intensity, and that’s what Robert Morris really does. That group plays hard all the time, and if we’re not matching that or ready for that, then we will not meet success.”
After starting the season 0-5, the Colonials have won back-to-back games on the road. Robert Morris hasn’t played at home since the season opener against the University of Pennsylvania on Nov. 11, and Slocum said he expects the Colonials to play with more intensity than they have the past few weeks.
Slocum is also concerned with Robert Morris’ style of play. He said the Colonials have four players in the starting rotation who can play score off the dribble.
Slocum said that has been one weakness in the Penguins’ defense this season, and YSU needs to play more team defense and tighten up driving lanes.
Last season, the Penguins beat Robert Morris 65-58 at the Beeghly Center. In that game, Robert Morris guard Isaiah Still scored eight points. This season, Still is averaging 15.9 points per game and is second on the team with 12 steals. Still is shooting 39 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from the 3-point line.
“I wasn’t very happy with our effort. But it’s a new week, [we’re] moving on. Don’t live in the rearview mirror — look ahead,” Slocum said. “[YSU’s playing] a very good Robert Morris team that’s coming off back-to-back wins — very athletic and very, very good guards. Their point guard is a very special player, he’s dominated Townsend.
“That was a really good win for them. It’s really the first home game they’ve had to speak of. They’ve been on the road for three weeks, so I’m expecting a great effort from them. It’s a challenge for us, this game’s a challenge for us.”