YSU to host Green Bay, Milwaukee
Penguins will play next two games at home and finish season with 7 of their last 11 games at the Beeghly Center
YOUNGSTOWN — Through the toughest portion of its schedule, Youngstown State can now look forward to seven home games out of the 11 left in the regular season.
That stretch begins this weekend with a pair of conference teams YSU (10-10, 4-6 Horizon League) has already taken care of, as Green Bay visits tonight and Milwaukee visits Saturday.
As such, YSU coach Jerrod Calhoun is hopeful that his team can seize some momentum after a tough month of January that so far has seen the Penguins go 2-6.
If the Penguins are to reverse their fortunes, though, they’ll need to start closing games. In all but one of those defeats, YSU had opportunities in the game’s final minutes to seize control, only to suffer a loss for one reason or another.
“It takes one to get it going,” Calhoun said, later adding, “All the games we lost, we were right there. The bottom line is we’re a play or sometimes a rebound away, or whatever the play may be. We’re right there; we’ve got to stay the course.”
In its initial encounter with Green Bay (4-14, 3-6) on Dec. 4, YSU put together its most decisive league win of the season, an 82-58 shellacking. The Penguins led 40-31 at halftime before outpacing the Phoenix by 15 the rest of the way.
Four Penguins scored in double figures that night — Tevin Olison (20), Michael Akuchie (17), Dwayne Cohill (15) and Shemar Rathan-Mayes (15).
“I thought we did a really good job of taking some things away. They missed a lot of shots,” Calhoun noted, before cautiously adding, “They play a lot of young guys, so they’ve gotten better. They’re playing pretty good basketball right now. I think some of these kids are some of the better young players in the league, so their team is capable of playing at a high level.”
Indeed, the Phoenix shot just 19-of-46 from the field and 5-of-20 from 3-point range.
However, three Green Bay players are averaging in double figures: Emmanuel Ansong (12.2), Donovan Ivory (11.4) and Kamari McGee (10.9).
“The tricky thing about our league is everybody can play on any given night,” Calhoun added.
Milwaukee, meanwhile, was a much tougher out for the Penguins during that December trip to Wisconsin. In what Calhoun described as “one of the crazier games” this season, YSU escaped with a 70-68 victory.
Olison led that effort with 18 points, while Owen Long scored 17 off the bench for the Penguins.
After entering the game’s final two minutes tied at 64, YSU outpaced the Panthers the rest of the way to secure the win.
DeAndre Gholston led UWM (7-13, 5-6) and all scorers that night with 24 points. He’s Milwaukee’s leading scorer at 15.6 points per game, while Josh Thomas scores 10.7 and highly touted 5-star recruit Patrick Baldwin Jr. scores 13.4.
Baldwin hasn’t played since Jan. 5, though, and has only appeared in eight games all year.
“They’re a physical team, and they play a lot of guys,” Calhoun said of Milwaukee. “They’re very, very capable of playing at a high level.”
As for his team, Calhoun says his staff is driving home the importance of each possession in the hopes of getting more assists, moving the ball better and cutting down on turnovers.
The keys to that, he says, are slowing down and making correct reads, as well as the roster being fully adjusted to its set of roles.
Expect forward Will Dunn to get some more run this weekend, too, following his impressive performance at Purdue Fort Wayne.
The sophomore scored a season-high 20 points on an 8-for-8 performance from the field, and Calhoun said he’s going to see an increase in playing time as a result.
Of the final weeks of the regular season and making those improvements, Calhoun concluded, “Hopefully down the stretch, everybody’s ready to finish some of those games, and I feel like our guys understand how close we are. They’re going to keep fighting, and that’s the good thing about this group.”