By Rob Todor
YOUNGSTOWN — The Youngstown State men’s basketball program will go from one extreme to another when the Penguins restart their season Wednesday at Saint Francis (Pa.).
The game will be the first of three in seven days for the Penguins (3-5, 0-2 Horizon League), which includes a league game at Green Bay on Saturday.
“We went from a 10-day break,” said coach Jerry Slocum on Monday, “to a NBA schedule.”
Pretty close. The long break was necessitated by the players taking Fall Semester final exams.
In that time they also managed to get in some practice, which gave Slocum — and his team — the feeling it was fall preseason practice all over again.
“We went back to the extreme basics,” he said. “We did box out drills, defensive drills, you name it. [The players] are dragging right now. They’re excited to see another team finally.”
Who they’ll see Wednesday is a Saint Francis team that is 3-6 overall but has won two Northeast Conference games at home, over Wagner and Mount St. Mary’s.
In their most recent game the Red Flash lost at Drexel, 57-35, in a non-conference game on the road.
“They are very good at home,” said Slocum. “They’re best player [Devin Sweetney] is as good as anybody in our league.”
Sweetney, a 6-foot-6 senior from Washington, D.C., leads Saint Francis in scoring (17.2 ppg) and rebounds (7.1 rpg), and he’s second with 20 assists.
Slocum is also impressed with 6-6 junior Cedric Latimer, a transfer from Santa Clara, who’s averaging 10.6 points per game.
Youngstown State last played on Dec. 5, a 67-54 loss at Wright State. In that game the Penguins shot 46 percent (17 of 37) from the field but were outrebounded 33-27 and committed 27 turnovers.
Sirlester Martin and Vance Cooksey combined for 28 points, but no other Penguin scored more than seven.
Therein lies part of the problem for Slocum.
“The biggest concern for me is our inconsistency,” he said. “We need more out of our two-guard and our [small forward] position.
“Every game this season, with the exception of Xavier, we’ve come to the last media timeout [inside four minutes remaining in the game] with a chance to win.
Why we haven’t won is because of self-inflicted wounds. We’ve got to clean up those mistakes.
“We’ve played a lot of guys a lot of minutes. Now they have to be more productive.”
DeAndre Mays continues to lead the Penguins in scoring at 11.3 points per game, followed by Vytas Sulskis (10.4) and Martin (10.3).
Mays also leads the team with 18 assists, but he’s also committed 17 turnovers.
That’s a team-wide problem — the Penguins have 100 assists and 114 turnovers through their first eight games.
“Green Bay will be our sixth road game in our last seven,” said Slocum. “That’s not an easy way to find yourself and get your confidence back.”