By Rick Henneman
The Youngstown State University men’s basketball team (8-12, 2-5 Horizon League) will face University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (11-7, 5-1 HL) for the second time this season on Jan. 20 at 7 p.m. The first game ended in disappointment for the Penguins when they fell to the Phoenix 90-77 on New Year’s Eve.
The game against Green Bay will be the second of three away games within a six-day stretch. YSU head coach Jerry Slocum said that he has been looking at this week on the schedule since the summer.
“In the middle of the summer, I knew this would be our hardest stretch,” Slocum said. “I thought we played very tired last night, then you’re up Thursday morning at six o’clock to fly to Green Bay. I knew this would be our hardest stretch.”
Slocum said he believes that turnovers have been a big problem for the team lately.
“We’ve turned the ball over too much in big situations,” he said. “Even though we only had 10 against UIC, I thought that we had opportunities to stretch it in overtime. We had three turnovers in four possessions, which ended it. Then last night we had 21.”
Freshman Braun Hartfield started Monday night’s game against Detroit Mercy and has scored 19 points in each of the last two games.
“In a lot of ways he has been our most consistent guy over the last two weeks,” Slocum said of Hartfield. “He’s been posting numbers, getting rebounds and guarding the best guys. It has been very bright — he has done a good job.”
Green Bay is now tied for first in the Horizon League standings with their first league loss coming at the hands of Valparaiso University on Monday night, who they are tied with. They also boast the most impressive offense in the league, leading in both scoring offense (80.8 points per game) and scoring margin (+9.2 points).
Green Bay senior Charles Cooper leads the team in scoring, coming off the bench with 15.5 points per game in league play.
Slocum said that the game against Green Bay will be a good test for the Penguins.
“They are very good in their building, undefeated in league play there,” Slocum said. “We had a very poor performance here. Getting back in transition has got to be an emphasis. They are a team that runs it and pushes it. We just got to do a better job against these kinds of teams.”
Slocum also said that you have to do two things that are very simple, but not easy: get back on defense and take care of the ball.
YSU is ranked last in the league in scoring defense, allowing 84.2 points per game. However, Slocum said that offensive production is the biggest concern.
“We’ve really battled at times defensively,” he said. “I think it is more offense than defense. When you turn the ball over 20 times, and you give up mid 70s against Valpo, and last night you give up whatever you gave up with 21 turnovers, it’s not a defensive issue; it’s an offensive issue.”
The men’s basketball team will end their three-game road stretch with a game against University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee University on Sunday. The game was originally scheduled for 3 p.m., but the game has officially been moved to 1 p.m.