By Joe Scalzo
If you ask Youngstown State basketball coach Jerry Slocum, not all addictions are bad.
After opening the season with road wins over Atlantic 10-member George Washington and SEC-member Georgia, Slocum told his team it needed to be “addicts for winning.”
“He’s like, ‘Keep your high for this game, for tonight, but when it’s over, you need a new one, your next fix, your next game,’ ” said junior Kamren Belin, chuckling. “[Those wins] just prove what we thought we could do, and that was win. And we’re worried about the next two games as much as we were the first two.”
The win over Georgia, YSU’s first over an SEC opponent, came in front of a national TV audience on ESPNU. While Slocum repeatedly talked about how his team has only played two games — “They don’t give you any awards or trophies or bids this time of the year,” he said — he knows the victory gave his team, and the school, a boost.
“Obviously I didn’t see [the telecast] but there’s a lot of people that talked about it with me [that said] they were very complimentary toward our program,” Slocum said. “And our play obviously spoke for itself.
“I’m very, very happy for Youngstown, happy for our university and for our athletic department that we could be a little bit of a positive light there for the 21/2 hours we were on.”
While the usual suspects have played well for YSU — Blake Allen scored 19 against GW, Damian Eargle had a double-double against Georgia and Kendrick Perry rebounded from food poisoning to score 23 against the Bulldogs — the Penguins showed they have more depth than they did during last year’s 16-15 season. Freshman Bobby Hain had 19 points and 11 rebounds against GW and sophomore D.J. Cole had 12, both off the bench.
And after battling foul trouble in the opener, Belin, a junior college transfer from Cowley Junior College in Kansas, scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds against the Bulldogs to show why he’s earned an immediate starting spot.
“Good basketball player,” Slocum said of Belin. “He’s a guy that can play at both ends of the floor and he has a very, very good basketball IQ. He kind of found his way through George Washington game but had a great second half against Georgia.”
YSU will play St. Francis on Friday at Beeghly Center before three straight road games, on three straight days, next week. All three are at Duquesne as part of the Progressive Legends Classic.
When asked about St. Francis, Belin laughed and said, “I have no clue about St. Francis. But we’re going to treat them like they’re Georgia.”
The Penguins beat the Red Flash by one point last season after leading by 10 early in the second half. While St. Francis doesn’t have Georgia’s size, the Red Flash have some talented, quick guards that can create some problems for YSU, Slocum said.
“It’s very much a concern game,” Slocum said. “Obviously when you’re 2-0 and you start on the road against an Atlantic 10 and an SEC school, you’re very excited about what happened, but in the same breath, I’m a realist. I know there’s a lot of basketball to be played.”