Motor City Madness next for Penguins
By Dan Hiner
With the regular season over, the Youngstown State men’s and women’s basketball teams are preparing to travel to Detroit for Motor City Madness.
The women’s team, the fifth seed, earned a first-round bye in the Horizon League Tournament and will play fourth-seeded Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Sunday.
The men did not earn a bye and will play Cleveland State in the first round on Friday.
The YSU women split the season series with the Panthers. The two games were decided by a total of two points, including an 86-85 win in overtime at the Beeghly Center on Feb. 15.
“We obviously know we gotta play really well,” YSU women’s coach John Barnes said Monday. “They’re very well coached and can score the basketball and every game we play with them is down to the wire.
“We’re gonna have to play one of our best games to get the win,” Barnes said. “I think every game we’ve gone into, we’re not a team that’s not gonna come in and beat anyone without playing really hard and really well.”
Barnes welcomes the week off. He said the team will focus on dealing with minor injuries and rest prior to the tournament.
Women’s guard Kelley Wright’s availability is up in the air. She may have a broken bone and has a doctor’s appointment Wednesday.
“I wouldn’t say ‘probably doesn’t look good’ but you don’t know for sure,” Barnes said. “Doctor’s gonna take new X-rays and take a look at it.”
The YSU men split the season series with Cleveland State with the visitor winning both games. The Penguins lost the season finale to the Vikings 99-94 in double overtime on Saturday.
“Very, very strange series. We won up there, they won here. Typically, it’s the other way around,” YSU men’s coach Jerrod Calhoun said. “Usually you defend your home court.”
The men’s team attempted 84 shots in their latest meeting. But Calhoun said Cleveland State shot 56.7 percent and made more “game-winning plays.”
YSU guard Cam Morse also got off to a slow start on Saturday.
The Penguins’ leading scorer was held scoreless on four shot attempts in the first half, but finished with 20 points. Calhoun said he isn’t hitting the “panic button” with Morse and believes he’ll have a better performance in the first round of the tournament.
“One of the things about Came is it’s never too late,” Calhoun said. “He’s a senior, he’s a scorer, he can make shots. So you have to credit Cleveland State for doing a great job in the first half, but it’s gonna be hard for any team to hold Cam down. He’s a scorer.”
Calhoun said the tournament will come down to defense, limiting turnovers and taking advantage of scoring opportunities.
As a result, he had the Penguins practice their free throws after shooting 12 of 27 (44.4 percent) from the line on Saturday.
Calhoun has seen growth from the men’s team during the year. He used Garrett Covington’s game-winning tip in against Oakland and Naz Bohannon’s development as a rebounder as examples.
Now the next step is to succeed on a “big stage.”
“You grow through the struggles. You grow through the process of playing in a season,” Calhoun said. “We’re gonna have to really grow up. If you’re gonna go win a championship, you have to really, really grow up on a big, big stage because that’s what the good teams do.”