It’s safe to say that the men’s basketball team’s postseason matchup with Oakland University on Tuesday is anything but ordinary.
At 7:05 p.m., the Penguins will begin play at Beeghly Center for their first Division I postseason tournament game in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. YSU joined the Division I ranks in 1981, and the university’s last tournament win came on March 8, 1977.
In addition, a victory would give YSU its 18th win of the season, the most since the 2000-2001 season.
So, the stakes are high. But senior guard Blake Allen said that doesn’t change a thing.
“We’re just going to approach it the same way [as any other game],” he said. “I’m going to go out there and give it everything that I have, and try to get the team to give it everything they have.”
If the Penguins lose, it would mark the last career game for YSU seniors Allen and Damian Eargle. That being said, Allen said he plans to approach the game with a certain mindset.
“I’m going to have a good time playing the game that I love to play,” he said.
With the Oakland Golden Grizzlies, YSU will meet a familiar foe.
The teams have met eight times before, with Oakland holding a 5-3 series advantage. YSU last beat the Golden Grizzles on Feb. 22, 2001, at Beeghly Center.
This season, Oakland is 16-16. The team is led by junior Travis Bader’s average of 21.9 points per game.
“We like to play fast and want the tempo of this game to be really fast,” said Jerry Slocum, YSU’s men’s head basketball coach. “It was enjoyable as a coach to see our speed back in practice.”
The Penguins last played on March 8, losing to Wright State University, 66-59, in the second round of the Horizon League championship. Slocum said the rest has done wonders for his fully healthy team.
“Very spirited practices, very intense,” he said. “Maybe a little too physical, but we really got after it the last couple of days.” Allen agreed.
“With the week off, we had some really good practices,” he said. “Me, personally, I was able to get a little extra work on my own in, and I think we’re ready to go.”
Allen will be leaving the YSU basketball program in a much different situation than when he entered. During his first year, the 2010-2011 season, the Penguins were 9-21 overall and 2-16 in the conference.
Only a couple of years later, Allen reflected on helping YSU to its first Division I postseason appearance.
“It’s an accomplishment for where we came from,” Allen said. “I definitely thought it was possible. From the first year we got a little better, then last year we made some strides as well. … We were pretty close last year, so it’s good to be able to make it to the postseason this season.” Slocum said he’s “excited and proud of where we’ve come from.”
“It took a little bit slower than I wanted it to, if I’m honest,” he said. “But I’m proud of our guys in terms of how hard we’ve worked and how much we persevered.”