YSU BASKETBALL Penguins open Horizon League
The Panthers own a comfortable 8-1 advantage in the series.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Horizon League basketball officially comes to Youngstown State University Wednesday night at Beeghly Center.
The YSU men's basketball team will play host to Wisconsin-Milwaukee at 7 p.m.
The Penguins will carry a 2-8 record into the contest after losing their last three and seven of their last eight games. YSU is glad to be back at home since seven of its eight losses have been on the road.
UW-Milwaukee carries a 5-7 record into Beeghly, but the Panthers have played a rugged schedule. Among the seven losses were games at Louisville, Iowa State, Valparaiso and Colorado, and at home to Wisconsin.
Name change: This will mark the Penguins' first season in the Horizon League, formerly the Midwestern Collegiate Conference. For the past nine seasons, the Penguins had been members of the Mid-Continent Conference.
YSU is coming off an 84-79 loss at Western Illinois, a former Mid-Con opponent, but the Penguins played well against the Leathernecks, enough so to please third-year head coach John Robic.
"This team is still struggling, but we are moving forward also," Robic said. "I'm happy with where we are going into the Horizon League season."
One of the reasons that Robic is happy is the return of 6-6 sophomore TeJay Anderson, who sat out the team's first seven games because of academic problems.
Anderson has played the last three games and has improved in each one, scoring 18 points and getting nine rebounds Sunday against the Leathernecks.
Rely on freshmen: Robic is also counting heavily upon three freshmen to play big roles this season.
They include 6-3 guard Doug Underwood, 6-5 guard Jimmy Moore and 6-7 forward Brian Radakovich. All three have been starters this year, but need to be more consistent.
"I'm pleased with our young kids, they've worked hard," Robic said.
The Penguins' "money man" is senior point guard Ryan Patton, who is one of the top 3-point shooters in the league and the Penguins leading scorer.
Patton and fellow senior Stephen Flores are the leaders on the floor for Robic, who lost senior Rafael Cruz with a knee injury last month, but the 6-2 guard is expected to return to the team within the next few weeks.
Robic has also been getting steady play out of sophomore guard Marlon "Smoke" Williamson, who had a career-high 11 points Sunday at Western Illinois.
Wisconsin-Milwaukee is playing its first season under head coach Bruce Pearl, who came to the Panthers after nine-straight 20-win seasons at University of Southern Indiana including a NCAA Division II national championship in 1995.
The Panthers are led by 6-3 junior Clay Tucker, a Lima native, who is averaging 17 points a game and six rebounds. While two others, 6-4 junior Jason Frederick and 5-9 junior Ronnie Jones, are also averaging in double figures at 11.2 and 10.3 respectively.
Big men: The Panthers also have 6-11 sophomore Nate Mielke and 6-8 sophomore Dylan Page ready for action.
This will mark the 10th meeting between the two teams, with the Panthers holding a comfortable 8-1 advantage. The teams have not met since 1994 when both were members of the Mid-Continent Conference.