Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tough It Out on Hall of Fame Day

Youngstown State women's basketball vs. Northern Kentucky on Feb. 8, 2020, at Beeghly Center. Photo by Rob Hayes.

By Christina Sainovich

The men’s basketball team showed out Saturday night in the Beeghly Center on Hall of Fame Day. The Penguins hosted Cleveland State University and completed a come-from-behind win at 67-55.

Sophomore Jelani Simmons stole the show with a career-high 23 points. Simmons came off the bench and went 4-8 from 3-point range and 7-8 from the free-throw line. 

Penguins coach Jerrod Calhoun attributed Simmons’ success to his effort over the last few weeks. 

“Jelani [Simmons] has worked really hard the last couple weeks. … I think he’s really picked it up with extra workouts, getting in the gym, putting the time in,” Calhoun said. “I think when you do that and you see the player have those results, there’s nothing more rewarding,” Calhoun said. 

Junior Michael Akuchie had a double-double in Saturday’s game. He said Calhoun has been pushing the team to go all out at each practice.

Youngstown State women’s basketball vs. Northern Kentucky on Feb. 8, 2020, at Beeghly Center. Photo by Rob Hayes

“Coach [Calhoun] has been really big on finishing in practice. Making sure we finish drill to drill. Make sure we’re not jogging or walking to the next drill,” Akuchie said. 

Youngstown State University sits in third place in the Horizon League, with a 7-5 conference record. Calhoun said each game they play is as important as the last and the next.

“I always tell our guys there’s three seasons,” Calhoun said. “There’s the preseason, where you get 13 opportunities. There’s the season, where you get 18 opportunities to play your league games. Then there’s the postseason. You can’t have one without the other.”

The team will be on the road Thursday and Saturday at the University of Detroit Mercy and Oakland University, respectively. 

The YSU women’s basketball team is still fighting a long battle with injuries. On Saturday, it hosted Northern Kentucky University and fell 59-55.

Junior Chelsea Olson and redshirt junior Ny’Dajah Jackson continue to be team leaders. Olson led the Penguins in Saturday’s loss with 20 points, and Jackson added 11. 

Jackson said one of the team’s main focuses over the last few weeks and moving forward is the mental aspect of the game.

“We have some mental lapses in the games. We just want to harp on that if we do these mental things right, then we win the game,” Jackson said. 

Penguins coach John Barnes said in order to move forward from recent losses, the team needs to fight through each game. 

Michael Akuchie leaps over a defender to put a shot up. Photo courtesy of YSU Sports Information

“We’re playing the top teams in the league. We’ve got to get through this stretch,” Barnes said. 

YSU is currently eighth in the Horizon League with a 4-9 conference record. Over the last few weeks, the Penguins have faced off against the tougher opponents in the conference and have played seven of 13 games on the road. 

Barnes said along with injuries, this has been part of the team’s struggle. 

“We’re trying to tell the team that in this stretch we’ve played the No. 1, 2, 3, 4, maybe even 5 teams in this stretch,” Barnes said. “We had one game that we played a lower-level team, and we didn’t play great, and they played really well.”

The team will only play one game this week, which will be on Saturday against Cleveland State at home. There will be two more home games the following week before the Penguins will be on the road again.