Penguins searching for wins

Youngstown State women’s basketball coach Bob Boldon took a seat in front of a group of reporters and, before any could ask a question, said, “You guys want to talk about the Valpo game? I can’t wait.”

A week after one writer (who shall remain nameless) asked his readers if YSU was becoming a basketball school, he’s left asking this question: What just happened?

The women blew a 15-point lead to a 5-8 team (Valparaiso).

The men got blown out, losing to Detroit by 41.

Both programs blew an opportunity to gain new fans, or give long-suffering season ticket-holders a reason to believe that a good non-conference record would lead to league success.

(Cut to football fans nodding.)

“I think last week was disappointing for sure,” Boldon said. “I know the men weren’t thrilled with their effort and we weren’t thrilled with our effort.”

After Saturday’s loss, Boldon admitted his team had no chance against Milwaukee or Green Bay this week if the Penguins played like that. He went further on Monday.

“Quite frankly,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll win another game all year if that’s the way we play.”

The same might be true of the men. Thursday’s loss to Detroit resembled the football team’s loss to North Dakota State. The Penguins were outhustled, outmuscled and outmatched.

The Titans may be the class of the league, but YSU won’t beat any Horizon League team with an effort like Thursday’s.

“You can’t go into a place like UIC and play to the last second and win at Loyola and go to Georgia and do those kind of things [that help you win] and come to your own building and not have any fight,” men’s coach Jerry Slocum said. “I think when the day is done, hopefully, we’ll look back on it and hopefully some positive things will come out of a tough night.”

Maybe, but there’s a bigger problem. YSU’s men’s basketball team is 50-139 (.263) in the Horizon League since joining in 2001. The women are 45-142 (.242). No one else is within 100 points of either team.

Athletic director Ron Strollo has admitted that YSU’s athletic programs weren’t prepared for the jump in competition from the Mid-Continent Conference to the Horizon League and, when it comes to basketball, they still aren’t.

Consider this: Not only does YSU spend less than every other Horizon League school on both programs, it spends less on men’s basketball than all but one Horizon League team (UIC) spends on women’s basketball. (Seriously. Read that again.) And if you don’t think there’s a direct correlation between money and competitiveness, then you probably also think that YSU basketball recruits are impressed by the Beeghly Center scoreboard that looks like a giant Lite Brite.

Author Earnie Larsen is fond of saying, “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” Slocum and Boldon know their programs are more like the Tampa Bay Rays than the New York Yankees. And it’s tough to win that way.

Obviously, poor effort leads to a loss. Last week proved that.

But being poor — period — leads to a lot of losses. Last year proved that. And the year before that. And the year before that ...

Joe Scalzo covers YSU athletics for The Vindicator. Write to him at

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