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Dollar thrills at YSU

Penguins to play Oakland at home

YOUNGSTOWN — Coach Jerrod Calhoun came to the portable table with a red cloth covering the surface, sat down in the team’s film room and started talking about the Youngstown State University men’s basketball upcoming matchup with Oakland (Mich.) University.

The last four meetings have been decided by four or fewer points.

Calhoun said area fans can see a likely tightly contested, Horizon League matchup with general admission tickets being very inexpensive ($1). The game is Thursday, starting at 7 p.m.

“I think our athletic department did a tremendous job marketing this game for a $1,” said Calhoun, whose team is 9-7, 2-1 Horizon. “You get in and watch college basketball. What other university has offered those types of deals? I really don’t know. It’s a really cheap game to attend and you’re going to see some big basketball, some big players.

“You’re going to see two teams that have had historically great games with one another, not only our era here but coach (Jerry) Slocum. They’ve had some big-time battles.”

This pits two of the best defensive teams in the Horizon League as Oakland (6-10, 1-2) holds teams to less 68 points per game, while YSU is at less than 69.

It won’t be easy for YSU to get past a talented front line led by 6-7 redshirt senior forward Xavier Hill-Mais, who averages almost 16 points and eight rebounds per game. He leads the team with 14 blocked shots. Sophomore Daniel Oladapo, a 6-7 sophomore who played junior-college ball last season, has almost 10 points a game and six rebounds. The big man in the middle, 6-11 senior Brad Brechting, averages more than nine points, almost six rebounds and has 12 blocked shots.

“All we hear about is they’re all-league and things like that,” Bohannon said.

YSU began the Horizon League season with two road wins at IUPUI and UIC. Bohannon said getting that edge during those games at Indianapolis and Chicago are instrumental against playing a defensive-minded team like the Golden Grizzlies.

He saw the intensity before his teammates loaded the bus coming from the hotel. It started in the pre-game preparation that morning.

“You can see it in guys faces,” Bohannon said. “From the first warm-up to coming back out for the second one, you can see the mentality in those guys eyes. You can see in that first 4 minutes set the tone for the entire game. If we come out and get four stops in a row, get a couple of baskets, we can tell we’re locked in. We can dictate how the game goes.”

These Golden Grizzlies lost some graduate transfers, but Oakland coach Greg Kampe, who is in his 36th season, put a game plan together for this campaign.

“We all know if those kids were still there he’d probably have the best teams, if not one of the best teams in the league,” Calhoun said. “As a coach, you’ve got to move on. He’s done a nice job with this group.”

The Golden Grizzlies size is the third tallest YSU has faces this season aside from Louisville and West Virginia, a tall task for these Penguins.

There’s another preparation for Thursday’s game today. Calhoun admits this is a very big, talented Oakland group. His team must play harder than it did Saturday when it lost at Cleveland State.

“Every basket is going to be precious,” Calhoun said. “You’ve got to get easy baskets. It’s hard to do that on a team like Oakland. I think both teams have done a nice job, early in the year, defending.”

Somehow, YSU has to find the edge it had to win at IUPUI and UIC.

“Confidence comes from preparation,” Calhoun said. “You’ve got to prepare the way you’re going to play. I thought we did a tremendous job leading into that road trip going to IUPUI and UIC.”

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