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YSU men try to snap skid in home return

After playing eight of its first 10 Horizon League games on the road, the Youngstown State men’s basketball team returns to Beeghly Center to host Illinois-Chicago today and Saturday.

Both games start at 5 p.m. and are broadcast on WKBN 570-AM and ESPN3.

The men’s team is 7-7 overall and 3-7 in the Horizon League, having lost three games in a row. YSU will play eight of its last 10 at home, with the two road games at Robert Morris in suburban Pittsburgh. UIC is 7-4 and 4-2 in the league.

“We’ve had great conversations with the players, I think their spirits are very, very high,” said YSU coach Jerrod Calhoun at his news conference this week. “I think we’re two, three, four possessions away from being 6-4.

“We’ve had a couple really good days of practice, the spirits have been up. Any time you’ve got that many home games, you’ve got a lot to play for.”

YSU is still without junior guard Darius Quisenberry, a preseason first-team, all-league choice. Quisenberry, who reached the 1,000-point mark for his career early this season, has played in just six games and is at home in Dayton receiving therapy on his injured ankle. Calhoun expects him to return before the season is over.

“We talk about every day, either through text message or conversation, I talk to him or his father,” Calhoun said.

“He is in week three of therapy. We have nothing to do with it, he’s got to be cleared by his doctor that he’s seeing in Dayton.

“I had a real good conversation with him the other day, and I think he’s excited about getting back.”

Last week the Penguins lost both games at Oakland, but got 18-point performances in both games from freshman guard Myles Hunter, who was named Freshman of the Week in the league. Hunter is averaging 8.7 points per game and is combining with fellow freshman Shemar Rathan-Mayes (11.1 ppg) to make up for Quisenberry’s absence.

The two are supporting three seniors in the lineup, Naz Bohannon (16.5 ppg, 8.4 rebounds per game), Garrett Covington (10.8 ppg) and Michael Akuchie (8.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg). Bohannon also reached 1,000 points for his career this season and is nearing 1,000 career rebounds. Covington also is close to the 1,000-point mark.

UIC is led by Tayvion Kirk (14.7 ppg) and Rob Howard (12.3 ppg).

Calhoun considers consistency one of the key factors for the Penguins to be successful.

“We’ve got to be consistent, that’s the word we’ve said all year. If we are just a little bit more consistent with our play, we have a shot to beat anybody,” he said. “We beat a team that’s top two in the league, and went toe-to-toe with a top team and had a 14-point lead in one of the games without a first-team all-league guy.

“I think the league is wild this year. There’s really no rhyme or reason, quarantines, injuries, scheduling, who you’re going to play. It’s going to be a wild finish. I’ve just tried to be very positive with the kids.

The Penguins hope playing in familiar circumstances will help them make a push down the stretch run.

“You’ve just got to play better,” Calhoun said. “We’ve got to play better than they do, we’ve got to play harder than they do, we’ve got to play more together than they do, and find a way to win. We’re not happy where we’re at right now.”

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