Penguins face road challenge in Dayton
Youngstown State has already matched its best win total in six seasons.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- For the second time in a week, the Youngstown State men's basketball team will take on a top contender in the Horizon League standings.
The Penguins are hoping to do a better job than they did last Wednesday in Butler.
Wednesday at 7 p.m., YSU will take on Wright State at the Nutter Center in Dayton.
The Raiders held a share of the conference top spot until Sunday when they dropped a 73-69 contest to UW-Milwaukee to fall to second place behind Butler.
Last Wednesday, the Penguins ran into a red-hot Butler team and fell 67-39 in Indianapolis.
Youngstown State (9-11, 4-4 Horizon) is coming off a 68-63 victory over Cleveland State on Saturday night at Beeghly Center.
Wright State (12-8, 5-2) trails Butler (17-2, 5-1) by one game in the standings.
UIC (9-11, 4-3) and Loyola (13-7, 4-3) are tied for third place, while the Penguins and UW-Milwaukee (7-14, 4-4) are tied for fifth, although the Penguins have beaten the Panthers twice already this year.
The rest of the standings has Detroit (6-12, 3-4), UW-Green Bay (10-9, 2-4) and Cleveland State (7-14, 1-7).
The Penguins need to finish at least in sixth place to host a first-round postseason tournament contest.
Saturday, the Penguins did not play their best basketball but still found a way to win.
Perhaps it was the play of junior forward John Barber, who had a career-high 18 points, that made the difference.
"You are not going to play your best basketball every night," YSU head coach Jerry Slocum said. "The key is to find a way to win when you are not at your best and we did that Saturday night."
Wednesday, the Penguins will be going up against the league's top scorer in Wright State's DaShaun Wood, who averages 19.4 points a game.
"This conference is very guard oriented this season and Wood is probably playing the best of any of them right now," Slocum said.
Slocum has a trio of pretty good guards himself, led by All-Horizon League standout senior Quin Humphrey, senior Keston Roberts and junior Byron Davis.
Humphrey averages 17.5 points a game, third in the league, while Roberts is right behind him with a 16.4 average and Davis is hitting at a 8.6 clip.
Slocum knows that he needs Barber and sophomore forward Jack Liles to continue to improve their games for the Penguins to finish among the upper teams in the conference.
Dominated by Raiders
The Raiders are 7-1 at the Nutter Center this year, losing only to Bowling Green. They have dominated the Penguins recently, winning the last seven meetings. YSU hasn't beaten the Raiders since 2003. The Penguins are 1-15 at the Nutter Center.
"This is a tough conference facilities wise," Slocum said, "because so many of the teams play in off-campus facilities and it is difficult to get into them early for practice sessions."
"Fundamentally we are a much better team than we were earlier in the season," Slocum said. "The kids have done a much better job and you can see that they want to be a better team. They come to practice early and stay late trying to improve their games."
The Penguins will have Saturday off and will return to action on Monday with a contest at Loyola in an 8 p.m. tip-off.