By Kyle Wills
The Youngstown State University men’s basketball team swept the road trip to Wisconsin, defeating the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the University of Wisconsin Green-Bay to start 2-0 in Horizon League play.
The men started conference play against Milwaukee Dec. 2, claiming victory over the Panthers with a score of 70-68. The team struggled offensively, shooting 31.3% from the field; however, it was also tremendous at the line, putting 23-of-27 free throws through the nylon.
Senior guard Tevin Olison was stellar on both sides of the ball, scoring 18 points and recording seven rebounds, three steals and a block. Senior forward Michael Akuchie and sophomore guard Shemar Rathan-Mayes were also in double-digits, both scoring 10.
Off the bench, junior guard Owen Long was phenomenal as he lit up the statistical column, recording 17 points, two assists, four rebounds and four steals in 23 minutes.
Two days later, the men would face off against Green Bay as they shot over 20% greater than their previous game at 53.6%. They defeated the Phoenixes 82-58.
Out of the five starters, four were able to score in double figures. Olison finished with 20 points, Akuchie had 17, and Rathan-Mayes and junior Dwayne Cohill both had 15.
Offensively, the team struggled prior to the road trip with the loss of senior guard Garrett Covington. However, they were able to find success following a 10-day break with Olison leading the way
“After Garrett [Covington] got hurt I feel like I have been more aggressive on offense and not trying to force the issue, but just play off my teammates. They know I can score. They know when to give me the ball, so I just play out there,” Olison said.
Defensively, Youngstown State played tighter, holding Green Bay to 41.3% shooting. The Phoenixes made just 19 shots in the contest.
Head coach Jerrod Calhoun said the loss of Covington required a big adjustment for the team, but numerous players have been stepping up to fill the void.
“Garrett guards the other team’s best player. We ran a lot of our offense for him, so we’re really trying to spread it out a little bit. Tevin Olison and Owen Long were tremendous. Dwayne Cohill was tremendous. Akuchie is going to be tremendous all year. We’re just trying to find our niche with some of these other guys,” Calhoun said.
Despite having an impressive showing to sweep the road trip, Calhoun believes there’s still more to be solved as the season progresses.
“We’re still a work-in-progress, and that’s why you have to keep guys in the moment. You have to keep getting better,” he said. “You went from losing two heartbreakers to now jump-starting your season with two road victories inside the conference. Those are hard to come by, so we feel good where we’re at but we’re not overconfident.”
The Penguins will look to continue their winning streak when they take on Canisius College. Tipoff at Beeghly Center is set for 2 p.m Saturday, Dec. 11.