Penguin men at home tonight
YOUNGSTOWN — The Youngstown State University men’s basketball team is coming off two losses, both on the road against the top two teams in the Horizon League — Northern Kentucky and Wright State.
Wright State, one of the best mid-major teams in the country at 17-4, leads the league with a 7-1 record. Northern Kentucky is 14-6 with a 6-2 league mark.
The two have won the last three Horizon tournaments, earning the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
Currently, Youngstown State (11-9) is in a three-way tie for third place in the league at 4-3 with Milwaukee and Green Bay.
The Penguins host Milwaukee (9-10) tonight at 7, while Green Bay (9-11) comes to the Beeghly Center at 2 p.m. Saturday. The two games begin a five-game homestand for YSU.
Milwaukee is a guard-oriented team like Northern Kentucky, a team that gave YSU fits last Thursday at the BB&T Arena. YSU had the same problems with Mid-American Conference teams Akron and Central Michigan, also reliant on guard play. YSU gave up more than 80 points in each of those three losses.
YSU coach Jerrod Calhoun said the Panthers have two top-notch guards in 6-foot-1, 180-pound redshirt junior Te’Jon Lucas and 6-2, 185-pound senior Darius Roy. Roy averages 16.2 points per game, while Lucas puts in 15.6. Both rank in the top six in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio.
“Milwaukee is a very hard match because of their guards. They’ve got two elite guards,” Calhoun said.
YSU is 8-0 at the Beeghly Center this season.
“We’ve been really good in this building,” Calhoun said. “We’re looking forward to it.”
The Penguins played in front of crowds at Northern Kentucky and Wright State that averaged more than 4,300 per game. YSU has averaged 1,891 in its eight games at the Beeghly Center, not including the 3,614 for the Dec. 21 game at the Covelli Centre against West Virginia. There were more than 2,500 in attendance in YSU’s last two home games against Oakland and Detroit Mercy.
YSU junior guard Christian Bentley said the team thrives with a bigger crowd inside the Beeghly Center.
“We’ve been playing well at home,” he said. “The bigger crowd, it’s just better for us. I think we’ll play well.”
The Penguins want to turn the corner from the losses at Northern Kentucky and Wright State.
“We’re going to try learn from them, move forward and be better the rest of the season,” Bentley said.
Calhoun emphasized this is the time of the year you want your team healthy and playing its best basketball.
Second semester at YSU started last week. It’s about getting this team back in a routine with school, practice and preparation. The Penguins have seven of their last 11 regular-season games inside the Beeghly Center.
Consistency is a word Calhoun has emphasized to his players, something this Penguins team has to produce going forward.
“Be consistent in our approach,” Calhoun said. “It gives ourselves a good chance here the next five games.”