Brooks, Penguins begin conference play in hostile environments

The Youngstown State University men’s basketball team ranks third in the Horizon League but has not faced a conference opponent yet.

The Penguins will do so at the University of Detroit Mercy (3-4) on Thursday. Head coach Jerry Slocum said the Titans have not found their identity thus far.

“Everybody wants to look at their record, but they haven’t been home probably as much as we have,” Slocum said. “Yes, they lost some firepower, but they’re still very capable.”

On Saturday, the Penguins play another Horizon League opponent: Wright State University (2-4).

“We have our work cut out with a really good Detroit team that was picked to win the league or second in the league, and then Wright State is probably as tough of a place to play,” Slocum said. “I think we’re ready for it. I think we’re ready for the challenge.”

Junior guard Blake Allen said the Penguins have to bring it to them.

“We have to give it 110 percent,” Allen said. “Both of the teams are very good, very talented, and we’re gonna have to be ready to go.”

Allen added that he believes the Penguins are up for the challenge.

“Playing on the road in this league is tough anyway, but to have to open up with the conference on the road is going to be a challenge, but I think we’re up for it,” Allen said.

The Penguins are coming off a close win over Saint Francis University on Saturday, 60-59. Senior forward DuShawn Brooks hit a decisive 3-point field goal and blocked the final shot to give his team the win.

Slocum said Brooks was why the Penguins won.

“He did a great job defensively,” Slocum said.  “He did a great job rebounding the basketball. The two things I’m very happy with his game is how well he’s rebounding the ball at the offensive and defensive end with great energy.”

Brooks recorded a season high of 9 points and three blocks against the Red Flash.

Brooks is the only starter averaging fewer than 10 points per game (5.8), but ranks second on the team in rebounds and blocks per game (6.4 and 1.4, respectively). He said he keeps working on his shot and hoping it will fall eventually.

“I come every day ready to practice, and coach just keeps telling me my shot’s going to come,” Brooks said. “I’ve been in the gym lately working on that, and coach just keeps telling me to play defense like I’ve been playing.”

Brooks added that he’d shoot whatever the opposing defense gives him, whether it is a 3-point field goal or a layup.

“I just need to start knocking them down and getting some confidence,” Brooks said. “Hopefully I get lucky some times.”

Although the Penguins defeated the Red Flash, Slocum said they must execute better.  

 “I felt like we did a good job defensively in the last five minutes of that game,” Slocum said. “We didn’t score in the last six possessions, and we also didn’t let them score in their last eight possessions.”