By Joe Scalzo
The last time Youngstown State played Cleveland State, Penguins guard Kendrick Perry stepped up and Vikings coach Gary Waters lashed out.
It’s a safe bet CSU hasn’t forgotten.
After Perry scored 31 points in YSU’s 67-66 victory on Jan. 13, Waters told reporters, “We just gave the game away. We gave it away in two minutes.
“We turned the ball over in the last four possessions, three out of four times. We should have never have done that. It’s uncalled for. We’re better than that. They didn’t create any turnover we made. We did it on our own.”
When told of the comments after the game, Penguins coach Jerry Slocum said, “That’s disappointing. We always give credit to our opponents.
“You’ll never hear that kind of talk out of my mouth.”
The Penguins (15-14, 6-8 Horizon League) play at Cleveland State tonight in the teams’ second-to-last regular season game. It’s YSU’s biggest rivalry game in the Horizon League and last month’s game will only add to tonight’s drama.
“They really didn’t give our kids [credit] for the work ethic it took to win that game,” Slocum said. “But we’ve had some success in that building. We’ve played well there in the past. But none of that stuff’s really relevant unless you win the basketball game.”
Cleveland State (19-10, 10-4) has been one of the league’s hottest teams over the last month, winning eight of nine games to take a one-game lead over Valparaiso for the Horizon League tournament’s second seed. CSU’s lone blemish over that stretch came on Feb. 15 when the Vikings lost to league-champion Green Bay 68-54.
YSU may catch a break tonight. CSU starters Anton Grady (10.4 points, 6.6 rebounds per game) and Charlie Lee (9.7 ppg, 3.5 assists per game) and key reserve Sebastian Douglas (8.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg) are all questionable with the flu, according to Vikings blogger Tom Mieskoski.
While Waters’ teams are typically known for their defense, Slocum said CSU’s biggest strength is on offense. The Vikings rank third in the conference in points per game with 74.2 — YSU is first at 76.5 — and lead the league in field goal percentage (47.6 percent), free throw percentage (74.4) and 3-point percentage (41.5).
YSU counters with Perry, who leads the league in scoring (20.7 per game) and who is sure to get plenty of attention from CSU’s defense tonight.
“We’ve kind of gotten used to it,” Slocum said of Perry drawing double teams. “Anytime we play in this league right now, KP is the focal point, the No. 1 guy on everybody’s scouting report.”
Perry, SCHLEGEL honored
Perry was named the Horizon League men’s basketball player of the week on Monday, while junior Heidi Schlegel was named the women’s basketball player of the week.
Perry has won the honor five times, including twice this season. He scored a career-high 35 points in last week’s win over Milwaukee, breaking YSU’s single season free throw record in the process. Perry also scored 12 points in Sunday’s loss to Valparaiso. He is 91 points from 2,000 for his career.
Schlegel, who won the award for the first time, averaged 24 points and 7.5 rebounds in two games last week as YSU won Milwaukee and Green Bay to force a three-way tie for first place in the conference standings.