If the Youngstown State men's basketball team has any hope of playing host to a first-round Horizon League tournament game this year, it had better learn how to win on the road -- and quickly.
The Penguins (8-13, 4-6 Horizon) are a half-game behind Loyola for fifth place in the standings. The top six teams in the final standings get to play at home in the first round of the league tournament.
The Penguins are 0-10 on the road this season, including an 0-4 mark in the conference. But it goes back further than that. The Penguins, after Saturday's 65-63 loss at Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne, have lost their last 25 regular season road games. Counting the two post-season tournament losses (one in the Mid-Continent Conference in 2001 and last year in the Horizon League), they have lost 27 consecutive games on the road.
The Penguins have six games remaining this year and four of those are away from Beeghly Center.
The Penguins can probably lock up a top-six finish with three wins in the remaining six games.
The two home games are tough ones with second-place Wisconsin-Milwaukee and first-place Butler. The Penguins played perhaps their best road game in two years at Butler before dropping a 64-60 decision. The Bulldogs won't be underestimating the Penguins the second time around.
The key to the Penguins' six remaining games will be to win at Cleveland State and UW-Green Bay, because those are the two teams that could possibly take that No. 6 position.
The Vikings, who will play host to YSU Thursday night at the Cleveland State Convocation Center, are in eighth place with a 2-8 record. They play four of their last five games at home.
UW-Green Bay is in seventh place at 3-8. The Phoenix play three of their final four games on the road. The lone home contest is against the Penguins on Feb. 19.
YSU also has away games with Detroit (Feb. 27) and Illinois-Chicago (March 1).
Robic doesn't like talking about the team's road streak, but until it ends there isn't much he can do about it.
The fourth-year coach joked about it with the media last week, saying that he has to do all his banking from the drive-through window because he's tired of answering all the questions when he goes inside.
"I seem to be doing everything from the drive-through these days," he quipped.
Saturday, the Penguins came close to ending that streak, but they've been close before.
If it's going to happen this season, it could be Thursday at Cleveland State, a team that has played equally as poor on the road as it has at home.
Women's road blues
It appears that the road problem has been a contagious issue as the YSU women's team has a touch of the same problem.
The two teams have combined to go 0-for-20 on the road this season. The women's team is also 0-10.
Coach Ed DiGregorio's team is 5-15 overall and 2-7 in the Horizon League and at the bottom of the standings. The Penguins seem destined to play in the tournament's play-in game between the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds, probably against Butler, which is battling with the Penguins for the last-place slot.
This has been a difficult season for DiGregorio, who lost three valuable players for the season and has two others who are playing through painful injuries.
"I've never been through anything like this ever before," said DiGregorio, "and I certainly hope that I never have to again."
The Penguins return to action Wednesday night when they play host to Cleveland State in a 7 p.m. tipoff at Beeghly Center.
XPete Mollica covers YSU athletics for The Vindicator. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.