By Chris McBride
The novelty of playing at home has seemingly worn off for the Youngstown State University men’s basketball team. Since ending its road trip, YSU has dropped its last two games played at the Beeghly Center.
YSU (6-19, 4-8 Horizon League) started the first of its two-game homestand against Northern Kentucky University and Wright State University.
The Penguins best effort of the two games came against the Norse, keeping pace with them in a 95-85 loss.
Youngstown State had four in double figures being led by Braun Hartfield with 23, a career-high 19 for Tyree Robinson, and Cameron Morse and Devin Haygood with 13 and 11, respectively.
Both teams traded scoring runs in the second half but eventually the 59.6 percent shooting Northern Kentucky overcame.
“I thought we battled, I thought we played hard,” YSU Head Coach Jerrod Calhoun said. “If you play in a half-court against that team everyone loses. You have to press, you have to fly around to beat them, I thought we did that, we just gave up so many easy ones.”
Next came the Raiders last Saturday.
The Horizon League-leading Wright State showed exactly why it has earned its place among the rest of the league. Regrouping from a loss to Cleveland State University, the Raiders pummeled YSU 83-57.
What promise the Penguins showed in the first half faded fast as a 9-2 lead quickly evaporated over the next 15 minutes of the first. From there on, a flurry of scoring runs including 14 unanswered points stiffened the Youngstown State defense.
The Penguins jabbed back to begin the second half getting the lead to 17 at one point. From there, the Raiders, led by Ursuline graduate Mark Hughes, closed out the game shooting 57 percent.
Hughes contributed 15 points on the game in total with three others making it into double figures. Meanwhile, only Hartfield reached that threshold for YSU, scoring 2o points.
After the game, Calhoun pointed the finger at himself in the post-game despite players saying the same about themselves.
“You can’t blame kids anymore, you’re not allowed to do that, I take full blame,” Calhoun said, visually upset after facing a bad loss in front of a crowd of over 5,000.
Calhoun’s passion echoed that of Naz Bohannon who tried his best from the bench to fire up teammates.
His outspokenness carried over into the press conference this week as Bohannon also voiced his frustrations with how the season is playing out.
“We shouldn’t be 25 games into the season and asking when do we get to the point where we stop it,” Bohannon said. “It’s just about pride and heart within yourself. We have to figure out when are we going to punch back.”
Stepping into a leadership role as a freshman is a tough order with a several upperclassmen that have been here before. A freshman finding his voice among the vets is challenging but that doesn’t deter Bohannon from assuming his place on a team struggling.
“People tell me all the time, you’re just a freshman, it’s all right, we put you in shoes a little too big for you,” Bohannon said. “When they gave the shoes to me, I chose them, they had to fit so it’s my job to get the team to go.”
Time is running out. With six games remaining on the regular season and a chance to salvage the season before the tournament, this young Penguins team is still finding themselves.
Building a winner for Youngstown remains to be a priority for Calhoun, citing a high demand for it around the area.
“This place they want to fill it up. They want a winner. So we have to give them that,” Bohannon said.
A road trip to Chicago is next for Youngstown State as they face University of Illinois at Chicago this Thursday at 8 p.m. in UIC Pavilion.