By Nathanael Hawthorne
The Youngstown State University men’s basketball team continues its five-game homestand after a 98-94 overtime win against the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
Heading into the middle of the homestand, YSU will play the University of Illinois at Chicago on Jan. 30, and Penguins coach Jerrod Calhoun said this time around, it’s going to be different.
In their previous matchup, YSU beat UIC 70-64 on the road.
“Any time you’re getting ready to play a team for the second time, a lot of things have changed,” Calhoun said. “We played them really early in the season, but you look at what worked against them, what things you may try to adjust. We’ve tried to identify three things we’ve done really well and three things that we need to do a better job at.”
According to Calhoun, defensive rebounding needs to improve. YSU gave up 34 offensive rebounds in its last two games. While Calhoun acknowledges the team is getting better, he is erring on the side of caution when it comes to UIC.
“UIC’s coming in [and] they’re really hot,” Calhoun said. “They’re a very, very dangerous team that has been battle tested.”
Calhoun also believes both teams are better offensively than they were when they previously met in December.
Another aspect Calhoun would like to see improve is the defense. He believes there is a solid foundation, but overall the team isn’t completely happy with the defense.
“One of the things we’ve done a much better job of is fouling. We’re a year older. We’re playing a lot smarter,” Calhoun said. “We’ve really put an emphasis on taking care of the basketball and not fouling. Those are the two biggest keys going into every game.”
Heading into the UIC game, senior guard Donel Cathcart III knows UIC has talented guards, but if YSU is able to shut them down, it will help the team in the long run.
According to Cathcart, the key is to not let UIC’s good players get started early. Cathcart wants to keep the ball out of their hands and to make other players make plays.
While wins at any point in the season are essential, to win during the thick of the season helps teams push for the playoffs, which is exactly what YSU wants to do.
“This is a time where you need to win in February so you can play a postseason. It’s big for us to be consistent every day,” Cathcart said.
Following the UIC game, YSU will have two more home games before taking a road trip. The team squares off against Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis on Feb. 1 and Cleveland State University on Feb. 8.
Tipoff against UIC is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m.