YSU plays a very familiar new conference rival

Kendrick Perry drives to the base line against Wright State University on Saturday.

Kendrick Perry drives to the base line against Wright State University on Saturday.

After playing four close games at home, Youngstown State University’s men’s basketball team looks to capitalize against Oakland University on the road.

The Penguins have won three of their last four games during their recent home stretch. Senior guard Kendrick Perry said he can feel the confidence level rise around the locker room after the victories.

He also noted that the defensive performance was pretty firm in the last few wins.

“The two close games we did have at home were won on the defensive end,” Perry said. “That is kind of a turn our team has taken, to put more of an emphasis on the defensive end.”

In YSU’s game on Saturday, they defeated a very defensively stout Wright State University team, 68-67. Oakland is also coming off a close win against University of Illinois at Chicago, nailing a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

Oakland and YSU have two of the best offenses in the Horizon League. The Penguins are averaging 71.9 points per game while Oakland is averaging 73.1. The only other team that is averaging more points than both of these schools is the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay with 76.7 points per contest.

YSU coach Jerry Slocum figures this game will have more of an up-tempo feel to it.

“I think this is two of the best offensive teams in the league going head to head,” he said. “I look it to be a little more scoring rather than a Horizon League slugfest.”

Even though Oakland started out with a subpar record, they faced top 25 teams in the nation. They have losses to North Carolina State University, Michigan State University, Indiana State University, UCLA and Gonzaga University.

“I don’t know if there is anyone in our league that would’ve played their schedule that would’ve only had one or two wins,” Slocum said.

Although Oakland faced tough opponents at the beginning of their schedule, they still have a 3-4 record in the Horizon League. The Grizzlies are currently ranked sixth in the conference.

The matchup of the game will be directed to the guard position with Perry going against Oakland senior Kevin Bader.

“Everyone is kind of focused in on the matchup of Bader and myself,” Perry said. “We both competed [last year], but we were able to come out ahead.”

Bader is a deep 3-point threat. He already has 241 attempts, connecting on 38 percent of them.

“You just have to make every opportunity tough for him,” Perry said. “With a guy like Bader, you know he is going to get his shots, especially with the system that they run.”

Slocum said he feels like  Oakland has been coming into its own lately. He said that they have established more or a balanced offensive attack with junior center Corey Petros.

“Petros is a really good post player,” Slocum said. “He had 19 [points] against Green Bay, which I think is probably the best interior defensive team in the league.”

This is the Grizzlies’ first year in the Horizon League, so YSU doesn’t have too much history against them. Even though these teams haven’t competed against each other in the past, they still seemed to matchup well during last year’s meet in CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament. In the opening round, YSU won 99-87.

YSU will start their three-game road trip on Friday. The game can be seen on ESPN3. YSU will wrap up their road trip at the University of Detroit Mercy on Feb. 9.

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