By Brian Yauger
The Youngstown State University men’s basketball team came out victorious in their home opener, beating Heidelberg University, 106-83, to capture their first win of the season.
“I think in games like this our players want to get up 20 to nothing in the first minute,” Penguins head coach Jerrod Calhoun said. “You can’t do that, especially with a young group. Now they’ll have a better appreciation because the same thing happened last year with Westminster. I respect all levels, Division I, II, III, NAIA. There’s great players, great teams at all levels.”
Calhoun continued to talk about how the game was a learning experience in a sense, and sees the improvement in his team from playing it.
“We got a lot out of the game,” Calhoun said. “Obviously we made some mistakes. We were playing fast, they were playing fast, I thought both teams had a lot of breakdowns, but I think we got better today from it.”
Sophomore Garrett Covington led the Penguins in points, scoring 21, which set a career high. Including Covington, six Penguins scored in double digits. Olamide Pedersen (14), Darius Quisenberry (16), Devin Morgan (13), Jelani Simmons (14) and Donel Cathcart III (12) all scored in the double digits.
“It was important for us to come out tonight and play our hardest,” Covington said. “We really needed this win to pick up our spirits from our start. We were kind of careless with the ball. We just need to do better. It was sloppy. I mean we just have a lot to work on. Technique, positioning, helping the helper, just a lot.”
Getting experience is the key for Calhoun, and with a young team, that’s the largest hurdle to face.
“Three freshman tonight played a lot of minutes,” Calhoun said. “Ola, Darius and Jelani. Those guys are all really good players. They just need experience. They need reps, and they need game reps so I thought tonight was really good. I thought Garrett got himself back on track, and Devin’s working through being out a year, so we got a lot of things going on, we’re battling some sickness. It’s that time of year, we need to get some rest and get ready for this tournament on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.”
Heidelberg was an easy team to look past, competing in the NCAA Division III, but the Student Princes of Heidelberg proved to be a tough competitor. Cleveland native Myron Prewitt came out and put up a fight, scoring 24 points and shot 50 percent from behind the arc.
The Student Princes kept in the game, until midway through the second half, when YSU went on an 18-2 tear that set the tone for the rest of the game. There was a crucial timeout called right before the run that changed the way the Penguins played, and proved to be a key factor in the win.
“He just told us to sit down and play D, or it’s going to be tough at practice tomorrow,” Simmons said. “As a team we just came together, decided we have to sit down, play D, attack, play aggressive and get this game over with.”
YSU got some key victories on the stat sheet, including winning the rebound battle 52 to 34 and controlling the pace by scoring 41 points off of fast breaks compared to Heidelberg’s eight.
The Penguins improve to 1-2 on the year, and gear up to take on Columbia University in the Johnny Bach Classic hosted by Fordham University on Friday at 8:30 p.m.