YSU men set to challenge IUPUI
Riding a five-game winning streak, the Youngstown State men’s basketball team closes its regular season this weekend with two home games against IUPUI. The games today and Saturday at the Beeghly Center both begin at 5 p.m. and both are the second game of a doubleheader that also includes the YSU women facing Cleveland State. Both men’s games will be broadcast on WKBN 570-AM and on ESPN3.
The Penguins (13-10, 8-10 Horizon) are fifth in the Horizon League standings, which are based on a formula — not just win-loss record — devised by the league to account for problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The top four teams earn a first-round bye and a home game in the quarterfinal round on March 2. The first round is scheduled on Feb. 25 at campus sites. The semifinals and final are March 8-9 at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis. All 12 league teams are eligible to participate in the postseason tournament.
Cleveland State and Wright State are almost assured of placing in the top four and there is a wild scramble in pursuit of the 3 and 4 seeds, currently held by Oakland and Northern Kentucky.
“There are at least five teams going for the final two spots,” YSU coach Jerrod Calhoun said at his weekly news conference. “Not just Oakland and Northern Kentucky and ourselves and Detroit, but Green Bay and IUPUI are still in the mix.
“But we have to worry about ourselves, have a good week of practice, lock in on the game plan and take care of our part. We’ve played good basketball down the stretch and have to continue to build on that. The way you get confidence is in your preparation.”
Calhoun said he is good with how the league handled the tournament setup, considering schedule disruptions caused by the pandemic.
“I think the league did a good job with the format. I like it, it rewards those top four teams and I think the regular season means a lot,” he said. “It rewards team for their body of work in the regular season.”
Coinciding with the recent run of good play is the return of junior guard Darius Quisenberry. He is averaging 16.3 points per game over the last four Horizon League games after missing all of January with an ankle injury.
Senior Naz Bohannon has averaged 17.3 points per game over the same stretch.
IUPUI (7-8, 6-8 Horizon) swept Illinois-Chicago (89-69 and 88-81) last weekend led by its seniors Marcus Burk, Jaylen Minnett and Elyjah Goss. Burk and Minnett combined to average 57.5 points in both games, while Goss posted his fifth and sixth consecutive double-doubles. Goss is also No. 9 nationally and tops in the Horizon in rebounds with 10.9 per contest
“They are playing as well as anybody in the league,” Calhoun said about the Jaguars. “They are coming off two good wins at home, sweeping UIC.”
YSU also swept last week’s opponent, Purdue Fort Wayne. The Penguins won 84-70 on Friday and 72-70 on Saturday.
In Calhoun’s eyes, the defensive end has been important to YSU’s recent stretch of good play.
“We are giving ourselves a chance in every game because we are playing much, much better defense than we have all year,” he said. “Why is that? I think the guys have raised their level of concentration on that end of the floor, but we also have some bodies back.
“We’ve had some good competitive practices. I think the guys understand that in order to make a run at this thing we have to play high-level defense and that’s going to lead to our offense.”