After winning a close game against the University of Illinois at Chicago on Saturday, the Youngstown State University men’s basketball team is looking to keep the ball rolling against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Thursday.
Last time these teams met, the Penguins started out the game slow but picked it up, scoring 47 second-half points. YSU went on to lose the game, 82-76, on Jan. 2. Senior guard Kendrick Perry scored 31 points in the game.
“It was a battle up there in Milwaukee. Unfortunately, we couldn’t pull away when we needed to,” Perry said in Monday’s press conference. “At this point, it comes down to what team wants it more. We know all of their stuff, and they know all of ours.”
Head coach Jerry Slocum said that the team played horrible in its last game in Milwaukee, but one of the reasons was everyone was in foul trouble.
Since Milwaukee is such a low-post physical team, Slocum feels that a key to winning this game will be keeping sophomore center Bobby Hain out of foul trouble.
Even though the Penguins have one of the conference’s highest scoring offenses, they haven’t scored more than 60 points in their last two games. Slocum said it is due to more intensified league play.
“We have to be able to score some more points,” Slocum said in Monday’s press conference. “When February hits, the league play gets really physical. You see it around the country.”
Slocum said he expects this to be a very physical game, but doesn’t want his players to get in foul trouble.
“[Milwaukee] will get us in foul trouble and go to the block. They are a very good low post team,” said Slocum.
With only a handful of games left in the season, the Penguins will be fighting for a home game during conference tournament play. The fourth-, fifth- and sixth-seeded teams are guaranteed a home game in the first round. The third-seeded team has a first round bye. The first-seeded and second-seeded teams do not play until the semifinals.
YSU (14-13, 5-7 Horizon League) ranks seventh heading into Thursday, while the Panthers are in fifth place. If the Penguins can rally to get the fourth seed, they will host UIC (5-22, 0-13) in the first round. Wright State University (15-13, 7-6) is in fourth place.
“It’s really going to be a fight at this point, and we know that,” Slocum said. “For us to be able to get a home game, we are going to have to get to seven or eight [conference] wins.”
Slocum explained that seven wins in the conference will give the Penguins a shot at a home game, while eight wins gives them a much better chance at it.
The clock is counting down on Perry’s career at YSU. This will be his second to last game at Beeghly Center. He has been a main piece for YSU’s basketball team for the past few years and is just trying to enjoy these last few games.
“I try not to think about it, but reality does set in and I have thought about it from time to time,” Perry said. “I am just taking everything one day at a time, and I want to finish off these last couple days strong.”
Slocum said he would greatly miss Perry’s presence around the team.
“It’s going to be hard. I’m really going to miss him. To say you are going to miss a kid of his character is an understatement not only as a basketball player, but just as a person. He’s a good guy,” Slocum said.
Slocum even feels that Perry is one of the greatest all-time players that YSU has ever seen.
“Obviously, there have been some great players here, but what he has done and how good he is defensively, I think that is the thing that separates him he isn’t one-dimensional,” Slocum said. “When God created intercollegiate athletics, there was a picture of [Perry].”