Spirits not down in cellar
John Robic is certainly not giving up on his Youngstown State University men's basketball team this season.
First of all, his young team wouldn't let him if he even wanted to.
Robic's Penguins are struggling this year. They are 3-18 on the season and more so just 1-10 in their first season of the Horizon League.
"Every day when I go to practice I'm more amazed at the attitude of this team," Robic said. "They're there ready to go at it again and they want to learn how to get better."
Good assumption: Obviously, Robic knows that his Penguins aren't going to win the Horizon League this year; they probably won't even finish in the top seven teams.
By some miracle Robic would like to see his team get out of the league's cellar, and from what's remaining on this year's schedule that doesn't appear too promising.
The Penguins don't play again until Saturday night, but that game is against conference leader UW-Milwaukee in Wisconsin, a team that beat the Penguins by 22 points, 77-55, when they met back in the league opener on Jan. 2 at Beeghly Center.
YSU plays Cleveland State at home on Feb. 14, and with an all-out effort the Penguins can play with the Vikings. They did in the first meeting in Cleveland, before bowing 71-58.
After Cleveland State, the going gets really rough as the Penguins must play at Butler and at Detroit in a span of three days. The Penguins played both teams tough at home, but still lost.
Their one real chance for a conference win will come Feb. 21 at home against UW-Green Bay, the team that is just ahead of them in the standings and a team that the Penguins should have beaten the first time around, losing 53-50 in Green Bay.
Seeing action: The Penguins are a young team. Robic has been starting three freshmen lately, giving them as much experience as they can get.
Senior Ryan Patton is still the catalyst of this team, and when he's playing well the Penguins usually do also, but Patton has had to do much of the scoring himself.
Sophomore TeJay Anderson was expected to be a big addition to the scoring load when he became eligible seven games into this season. But the 6-foot-6 performer hasn't played anywhere near his potential.
He and sophomore Khari McQueen sat out the first seven games because of academics. McQueen fractured an ankle a week after returning and hasn't been back on the roster since.
In fact, Anderson never even got off the bench in Monday's 63-57 loss to Illinois-Chicago. When asked if there was any reason, Robic said, "No, no reason."
But in his very next statement, he kind of cleared up the mystery when he added, "We are going to do things my way around here or not at all."
Last Saturday night, Robic said, "TeJay has a little bit of growing up to do."
Ball gone: The Penguins have also lost senior Jeff Ball, the 6-10 reserve, who hasn't played much this year and finally quit the team.
That leaves the Penguins with nine players -- three seniors, one junior, two sophomores and three freshmen.
Again, Robic said that his team is not that far away, but he also doesn't mean as a Horizon contender.
"We're not thinking about contending right now; it might take us several years just to get to the middle of the pack," Robic said.
"This league is a nice step for our program," he said. "It seems like we're far away, but we're not that far away.
"We need a win badly," he added. "But I still want to do it the right way, and that's my way, not their way."
XPete Mollica covers Youngstown State athletics for The Vindicator. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.