‘It’s been a grind’

The Youngstown State University men’s basketball team has “been in a grind” for the first eight games of the season, said head coach Jerry Slocum at Monday’s press conference.

“We’ve played eight good teams. Every game has been nip and tuck. Two games of overtime, one-point games and all that kind of stuff. It’s been a grind for a start,” he said.

Along with a few bumps and bruises, YSU carries a 4-4 record. Although they’d like to hold a better mark, the Penguins faced numerous tough tests.

After quality wins against George Washington University and the University of Georgia to start the season, the Penguins stumbled a bit.

They lost three games in three days in an early season tournament at Duquesne University. The three-day swing included an overtime loss to North Dakota State University and a one-point loss to James Madison University.

YSU concluded its rough opening schedule last week with an overtime loss to Kent State University and a hard-fought win at Bowling Green State University.

Safe to say, the Penguins learned some valuable lessons in the process.

“That was obviously a devastating four-game slide we took, but we got a big win over Bowling Green,” said Kendrick Perry, junior guard. “We know that it’s not going to take just that one game to dictate our whole season. We know we have to come in and get better every day, no matter who’s on the opposite side of us.”

In what should serve as a welcome change, YSU will play a couple of struggling Division III opponents this week. Geneva College (0-6) will visit Beeghly Center at 7:05 p.m. Thursday, while the Penguins will host Hiram College (1-2) on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at the Covelli Centre.

“This week is a week where, obviously, you need to respect your opponent and take care of business,” said Slocum, who compiled 202 victories at Geneva from 1987 to 1996.

With all due respect, the Penguins should have no trouble disposing of Geneva and Hiram. Last season against Division III Fredonia State University, YSU defeated the Blue Devils, 69-35.

So, while Slocum wants to get the wins first and foremost, he also realizes other positives in the matchups.

“The other aspect of it is we’re hoping that we get to develop some of our younger guys and get some good playing time for everybody,” he said. “It’s desperately needed.”

Although the level of competition may not be equal to the Penguins’ first eight opponents, Perry said YSU won’t approach the next two games any differently.

“It’s still competitive basketball; you either get a win or a loss,” he said. “We’re going to have to stay focused and stay hungry. We have to treat these games like we treated the Georgia and Bowling Green game.”