By Brian Dzenis
The Youngstown State men’s basketball team will be short-handed on and off the court tonight when it hosts Division III Franciscan in a home-opening doubleheader at Beeghly Center.
Sophomore guard Jeremiah Ferguson is out after breaking his nose on Saturday in a season-opening 111-78 loss to Kent State at Akron’s James A. Rhodes Arena. Ferguson is set to have surgery today and could return for Friday’s road game against Canisius.
“His nose was sideways, he was in a lot of pain and his nose was bleeding,” first-year YSU head coach Jerrod Calhoun said. “He’ll hopefully get fitted for Friday, but I would say he’s questionable.”
The Chicago native hurt himself diving for a loose ball. The injury puts a lot on starting point guard Francisco Santiago, who is recovering from a knee injury.
“What ’Cisco is giving us is awesome, but you can’t sugarcoat it. He’s not a healthy player,” Calhoun said. “He’s playing through pain and trying to rehab it, so you’re playing with no point guards.”
YSU assistant coach Paul Molinari is out, too. He is currently serving a four-game suspension for committing an NCAA violation, the school confirmed Monday afternoon.
Team spokesman Jamie Hall said Molinari had committed a Level III infraction, but provided no specifics. The violation was self-reported and the suspension was self-imposed by YSU.
The NCAA defines Level III infractions as “isolated or minimal” in regard to gaining a recruiting, competitive or some other kind of advantage and they do not include more than a minimal impermissible benefit.
Molinari was not with the team Saturday night in Akron. He is scheduled to return for YSU’s road contest against Northern Colorado on Nov. 24.
Calhoun did not return a call for comment.
The YSU women will begin today’s doubleheader against Kent State (1-0), coached by Canfield native Todd Starkey. Coach John Barnes’ team also will try to bounce back from a season-opening loss. The women fell to Pittsburgh 66-58 on Friday night.
“After a loss you kind of want the shorter break so you can get back on the court and have another chance,” Barnes said.
Calhoun’s debut as the coach of the YSU men was tougher to swallow, as the Kent State men dominated the second half and pulled away. Six YSU players made their collegiate debuts against a team coming off an NCAA tournament appearance.
“The biggest difference is I’m not the biggest guy anymore,” said freshman forward Naz Bohanon, who had nine points and eight rebounds in his first start. “Everybody is fast. Everybody is strong. It’s people with the same physique as me.
“Some people will say I got nine and eight and that’s great for a freshman, but personally I feel like I needed to do more to help the team win.”
Save for a bad second quarter where they had more turnovers (10) than points (6), the YSU women held up pretty well against an ACC side.
“As a team, we need to be calm and mentally smart. Our thing was turnovers and free throws — I missed two free throws too,” forward Mary Dunn said. “I just think if we work as a team and just take our time, I know personally that we can beat a lot of people.”
Starkey’s Flashes went 19-13 last year before falling in the opening round of the women’s NIT. This year’s squad returns four of its starting five. Redshirt-junior forward Sarah Cash is still limited from an knee injury she suffered last year, but the Lordstown native and the rest of the squad will be ready to go tonight.
“It’s definitely a challenge for us. We were picked eighth in the Horizon League and they got picked second in the MAC,” Barnes said. “Obviously, it’s a challenge, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Before YSU got its butt beat, Calhoun’s butt was showing. As the head coach put it during his weekly press conference, the moment his team started falling behind against the Golden Flashes, he ripped his pants.
“It probably started when I split my pants on the sideline. I’ve never seen that or been a part of it before,” Calhoun said. “My butt cheeks were hanging out. I told coach [Jason Slay], ‘You have to follow me. We have a problem.’ I don’t think he knew what I was talking about, but he soon figured it out.
“It was a nice suit. I don’t make that much money, but the suit was nice, so I’m not happy about that.”
Calhoun announced that two guards had signed their letters of intent with the Penguins last week. Hackensack, N.J. native Atiba Taylor Jr. and Huber Heights Wayne’s Darius Quisenberry are expected to fill in next year with Cameron Morse and Santiago graduating.
“We really wanted to address the guard position since we’re losing some pretty good ones,” Calhoun said. “We feel Atiba and Darius are what we’re about. They love basketball. Every time you call them, they’re in the gym. Both kids are used to winning.”
The team is expected to announce a third signing near the end of the week.