By Joe Scalzo
Yes, Damian Eargle was still wearing a mask and, yes, Kendrick Perry wasn’t quite at 100 percent, but those are quibbles.
On Tuesday night, YSU men’s basketball coach Jerry Slocum saw the team he thought could have made a run at the Horizon League tournament title.
“We went five weeks without our best team,” Slocum said after the 99-87 win over Oakland in the first round of the CIT tournament. “That’s a good win but you’re seeing what I saw [earlier]. You haven’t seen us together in a long time.”
The Penguins (18-15) had Wednesday off as they awaited their second-round opponent.
“A lot of teams would kill to be in the position that we’re in right now,” Perry said. “We try not to take it for granted and we’ve just got to enjoy the moment.”
The CIT reseeds after each round based on geography. (UPDATE: On Thursday, the CIT announced that YSU will host Canisius at 7 p.m. Saturday at Beeghly Center.)
“Whoever we get is whoever,” Perry said. “All the teams are really good contenders, so I’m just excited to get back to it.”
What about a game in Hawaii?
“That would be nice,” Perry said, grinning. “A little change of scenery.”
Oakland to Horizon?
Oakland, which is located 30 miles outside Detroit, has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Butler in the Horizon League. The Golden Grizzlies compete in the Summit League and, like most Horizon teams, do not play football.
“I’m sure in their mind that’s [the Horizon] an awesome fit,” Slocum said. “Is it a fit for our league? I’ll leave that up to the powers that be.”
After Tuesday’s game, this much is clear — YSU fans would love another chance to boo Oakland forward Travis Bader. The Christian Laettner-lookalike scored 30 points, got called for four fouls and, in the fans’ minds, should have been called for 10 more.
“That kid is a heck of a basketball player and he takes a beating every night,” said Slocum, who then paused and grinned. “And I’ll leave it at that.”
When Allen was asked if Bader would be a villain in the Horizon League, he cracked up and said, “I can definitely see that happening.”