By John Ostapowicz
The Youngstown State University men’s basketball team returned to the court to start the 2023-24 season over a three-game span.
With only three returnees from last year’s Horizon League regular season conference title team, head coach Jerrod Calhoun has relied heavily on the transfer portal and recruitment, with eight transfers and four freshmen.
The Penguins hit the road to play the University of Louisiana at Lafayette on Nov. 2, which resulted in a 72-62 loss.
In an effort to jump start the Penguin offense, senior Brandon Rush and graduate student DJ Burns combined for 27 points and 18 rebounds. For Burns, it marked his first double-double as a Penguin.
Despite a 20-8 first period lead, Louisiana went on two double-digit scoring runs, 11-0 in the first half and 10-0 in the second to win the game.
The team continued its two-game road stretch Nov. 10 against the University of Michigan inside the Crisler Center.
In 2015, the Wolverines bested the Penguins 105-46 while former Youngstown State player Cameron Morse led the team with 10 points. Youngstown State looked to defeat Michigan for the first time in its sixth all-time meeting but fell short, 92-62.
Senior Bryson Langdon led the way for the Penguins with 15 points on 7-for-11 shooting while senior Ziggy Reid posted 12 points.
With several new players on the roster this season, size and mobility is the Youngstown State upside, according to Calhoun.
“We’re bringing a lot of size off the bench, we do have some things off the bench we’ve never had,” Calhoun said. “What we look to do is execute to create advantages.”
With the addition of Reid from Merrimack College, the defense flourished as he had four steals and five defensive rebounds.
Another transfer impacting the team is sophomore Imanuel Zorgvol. He is one of two active true-centers on the team since the 2018-19 season.
After a 0-2 start, Youngstown State returned home to the Beeghly Center as it took on Ohio Christian University on Nov. 13.
The game featured a historic milestone for Rush as he eclipsed 200 career 3-pointers, en route to a 99-71 win against the Trailblazers. He also led the way with 32 points to go along with 10 made 3-pointers on 18 attempts.
For Rush, he credited his teammates who have trusted him to take those shots off of screens.
“It’s a good accomplishment. I give all the credit to my teammates in the past years,” Rush said. “Two hundred of those 3-pointers are 200 of my teammates giving me the ball.”
Rush made ten 3-pointers, which moved him into second place in the record book for most 3-pointers in a game.
The current record of 11 was set Feb. 24, 1992 by Mike Alcorn against the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford.
Youngstown State is back in action over a two-game span inside the Beeghly Center for the Lake Erie Classic against Utah Tech University on Nov. 17 and Lake Erie College on Nov. 19.
Both games will be streamed live on ESPN+ or listened to on 570 WKBN.