Finishing Strong: YSU Looking to End Regular Season Well

By Marc Weems

With the Youngstown State University men’s basketball team (11-19, 5-12 Horizon League) coming off a 101-72 loss to Oakland University, it would look to bounce back. YSU ends the year on the road at Cleveland State University (8-21, 4-13 HL). YSU defeated CSU at home back on Jan. 28 67-64 behind Cameron Morse’s 23 points.

Matt Donlan (0) shoots a 3 as Lavone Holland II (30) looks to try and get to him to defend the shot. YSU won that game against Northern Kentucky University 81-77 on Feb. 18.

YSU will look to take some momentum heading into the Horizon League Men’s Basketball Tournament. CSU is currently on a three-game losing streak and has lost five out of its last six games.

“I thought that we played well for the first 25 minutes,” YSU head coach Jerry Slocum said about the game against Oakland. “Their size wore us down in the second half. Plus, we missed four straight free throws at some point. We also had what I call ‘shot turnovers’ with four straight bad shots.”

Slocum said that he thought they competed hard for a good while, but couldn’t finish the game strong.

In their first matchup with CSU, YSU was paced by Morse’s 23 points and by Brett Frantz’s 17 points in one of his best starts of the year.

CSU’s big problem is that the team gets outrebounded by nearly five per game. YSU’s problem also seems to be rebounding as their margin is around five rebounds per game. In the matchup on Jan. 28, YSU outrebounded CSU by just one rebound.

YSU allows teams to shoot just 34 percent from the 3-point line, which is its best defensive strength. Other than that, it gives up 85.1 points per game, which is league-worst in the Horizon League.

Slocum said that regardless of the result of the game, he was really proud of his guys. The team, along with the Northern Kentucky University women’s basketball team, did community service in the Detroit/Oakland area.

“When Latin [Davis] gave that kid his shoes,” Slocum said, “I told my group that I’ve never been more proud of this group. Something like that goes past any win we’ve had this year.”

Slocum explained that Davis gave a kid his shoes after he couldn’t find shoes that fit him.

On CSU’s side of the ball, the defensive side has been kind. It gives up 69.2 points per game which is second-best in the conference behind Valparaiso University.

“Cleveland State’s really played everyone really tough,” Slocum said. “They are an incredibly tough defensive team. They want the games down in the 50- to 60-point range. I believe that almost all of the last five games they’ve played in have been low-scoring.”

YSU will have to outrebound CSU just the way it did the first time. YSU has the worst rebound margin in the league at -5.2. The Penguins do have an advantage with passing the ball as they average nearly 15 assists per game, while the Vikings average almost 11 assists.

YSU guard Francisco Santiago is averaging 4.6 assists per game which is second in the league. CSU guard Rob Edwards is fifth in the league at 16 points per game.

“We have to put our frustration behind us,” Slocum said. “We did do a good job at home against CSU defensively. We just have to play our hardest no matter what the situation and how the season has been.”

In the first matchup, YSU held Edwards to just seven points and held CSU to just 39 percent shooting.

Slocum said that one of the main issues has been the way that the team controls the ball.

“We turn the ball over far too often,” Slocum said. “Those are the things that can’t happen. When you go into someone’s building, you have to take better care of the basketball. Mistakes must be limited.”

YSU concludes the regular season on the road at Cleveland State University on Feb. 25 at 3:30 p.m.