The Penguins' basketball team will be previewed in an exhibition game tonight at Beeghly Center.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Youngstown State men's basketball team will preview its 2001-02 edition tonight, when the Penguins play their only exhibition game at Beeghly Center.
YSU, under the direction of third-year coach John Robic, will play host to the Argentina Select All-Star team at 7.
The public will be admitted free, and the YSU ticket office is using the contest as a "Select-a-Seat" night where fans can pick a seat and purchase a season ticket for the season.
The Penguins, who finished the 2000-01 season with a 19-11 record and were members of the Mid-Continent Conference, enter their first year of play in the new Horizon League -- formerly the Midwestern Collegiate Conference.
Members: The league includes members Butler, Detroit, University of Illinois-Chicago, Loyola (Chicago), Cleveland State, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Wright State. This league was ranked 11th in the country in the RPI at the conclusion of last season.
The Penguins return three regulars from last year's team, led by 5-foot-11 senior point guard Ryan Patton, who earned another year of eligibility during the off-season through his academic efforts.
Also returning are senior 6-2 guard Rafael Cruz and 6-7 senior forward Stephen Flores.
Those three will be in the team's starting lineup on Friday along with 6-10 senior Jeff Ball and 6-3 freshman guard Doug Underwood.
Expectations: Robic, who has a 31-27 record in two seasons, said he expects a lot from his seniors this year.
"Our strength will be in our back-court with Patton and Cruz," he said. "You'll probably see us go with a three guard offense most of the year because of our strength there.
"We're a very young team and this is a new beginning for our program," he added. "It almost feels like we're starting all over again."
Robic said this year's schedule is the toughest the Penguins have ever faced.
"But this is the competition that everybody wanted," he said. "The Horizon League was rated the toughest conference in the country to win in on the road."
Scoring: Patton averaged 10.1 points per game last year and led the team and the Mid-Con in assists. Cruz, who was the sixth man last year, averaged 10 points and 2.8 assists per game, while Flores averaged 7.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.
Ball, who saw limited action a year ago, has been impressive in workouts and has earned a starting nod, according to Robic.
The Argentina Select team, which is making its debut in the U.S. on Friday, features eight players 6-foot-6 or taller.
The Penguins will begin regular season play on Nov. 17 at Evansville, and will play their first home game on Nov. 20 against Slippery Rock.