By Dan Hiner
The Youngstown State University men’s basketball team finished out the regular season by snapping a three-game losing streak on Saturday night after beating Northern Kentucky University 94-75.
Now the Penguins are focusing on the Horizon League tournament, which begins this Saturday. YSU is the seventh seed in the tournament and will travel to Joe Louis Arena, the neutral site for the tournament, to play the #6 seed University of Detroit Mercy.
YSU lost its first two games to Detroit (96-87 and 94-92), but head coach Jerry Slocum said the team is looking forward to going to Detroit and is excited about playing the Titans for a third time this season.
“We’ve really had two great games with them, and the difference in the games have been a four-minute stretch,” Slocum said. “At home, we had a five out of six possession turnover stretch at the five-minute mark to three-minute mark. That was the difference.
“At their place, it was almost identical spots. Had two good looks to go ahead, guys that we want shooting to go ahead and didn’t make them. Obviously it’s going to be on a neutral floor. Should be exciting to be a part of that in Detroit. We’re excited about that.”
YSU guard Cameron Morse said the team is getting ready to make a run at the Horizon League championship.
“After beating NKU how we did, we feel like we could make a big run in the tournament,” Morse said. “We play Detroit, and the last time we played Detroit, we almost won that game. We feel real confident going into this game.”
Morse said the team “got nothing to lose” as they head into the first round of the tournament. He said the players are going to have to listen to their coaches and play fundamentally sound basketball on Saturday.
“Against Detroit, we have to control their pressure — don’t turn the ball over,” Morse said. “They’re gonna play a four-guard lineup — so hand off the dribble, get rebounds and get out in transition — if we do that, we should come out with a victory.”
The Penguins will have to find a way to deal with Detroit guards Paris Bass, who’s coming into the game as the fourth-highest scorer in the Horizon League (18.7 points per game), and Anton Wilson who scored 34 points in the first meeting between the two teams.
“Both teams like to play up-tempo, both teams want to push it and go, both teams will take quick shots,” Slocum said.
Tip off against Detroit is scheduled for 7:30 on Saturday. The game can be seen on ESPN3.