By Brian Yauger
After taking on one of its toughest challenges of the season, the Youngstown State University men’s basketball team is hitting the road for another tough test.
The Penguins travel down to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette on Friday for a showdown with the Ragin’ Cajuns.
“[Louisiana] is a team that I think has a lot of really talented guys, so we’ll have to be ready to go,” Penguins coach Jerrod Calhoun said.
Heading into the game down in the bayou, YSU has a 1-1 record. The Penguins opened with Thiel College and are coming off a trip to the University of Louisville.
YSU kicked off the season in a big way, taking down Thiel 101-53.
The Penguins had six players reach double figures, with guard Darius Quisenberry leading the way with 16 points. Donel Cathcart III and Jamir Thomas each had 13. Garrett Covington, Naz Bohannon and Michael Akuchie all tallied 11.
Calhoun wanted his team to enjoy the win because it’s only one of 31 games.
“I told the guys, ‘You need to have a starting point,’ and tonight is our starting point,” Calhoun said. “I told them to enjoy the journey and we only have 31 games. The great part of tonight is everyone had a chance to play.”
Sunday was arguably YSU’s biggest challenge of the season. The Penguins took on Louisville and, despite falling 78-55, gave the Cardinals a run for their money for large portions of the game.
Thomas was an important player in the post for YSU against the large Louisville team, using his size to bring down 11 rebounds.
Bohannon was a significant factor against the Cardinals as well, finishing with 14 points and eight rebounds.
“He’s a relentless guy,” Calhoun said about Bohannon. “He was a big-time football player in high school. … He’s tough, and I think we really emphasize it. You are what you emphasize, and we’ve done a good job of that over the years, just trying to come into these high major games and not back down. We didn’t back down.”
After a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Quisenberry, the Penguins went into halftime trailing by only seven points, but the Cardinals broke out in the second half and began to pull away.
“In the second half, I think you saw the talent,” Calhoun said. “The talent usually takes over. When you’re going to beat a team like this, you’ve got to make probably 12 to 15 3s, because they get easy baskets. Every possession is hard for us.”
That experience against the current fourth-ranked team in the country is only going to help the team going forward, according to Calhoun. The larger and more talented the teams YSU faces, the better.
“We probably won’t face a team like that until West Virginia,” Calhoun said. “I think it can only help us, with the atmosphere, the length and the size. They make it tough on you.”
The Penguins leave for Louisiana on Thursday with tipoff against the Ragin’ Cajuns scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday.