Offense has powered this Youngstown State University men's basketball team prior to its Horizon League slate.
Defense must carry them the rest of the way.
UIC had the perfect storm on Saturday at the Beeghly Center as they faced a decimated Penguins team coming off a 31-point drubbing (71-40) at the hands of the league's best team - Green Bay.
There were plenty of residual effects from Thursday's loss, when YSU (14-13, 5-7 Horizon League) shot 31 percent and was held to a season-low 40 points. This is a Penguins team that thrives in transition and averages more than 76 points per game.
With 6:23 remaining in Saturday's 59-56 victory over UIC, YSU senior guard Kendrick Perry was on the receiving end of a half-court pass from his backcourt mate, DJ Cole. The airborne Perry barely grazed the rim as he laid in the picture perfect two.
"I think that's when we play our best basketball, when we're able to get stops and get out and run," Perry said.
However, that was a rarity in Saturday's game where the Penguins scored 19 points and shot 21 percent from the floor in the first half. The hangover from Thursday's game definitely lingered.
Did the Penguins have any answer? Yes. Defense.
Considering some of the team's setbacks, defense has to be the key for the Penguins.
YSU's top 3-point threat, Ryan Weber, is out with a broken nose suffered in last Monday's practice. He averages more than 11 points per game. He's questionable for Thursday's home game against Milwaukee.
In addition to losing Weber, freshman Marcus Keene, who has struggled in league play with 2.1 points in seven games off the bench, was indefinitely suspended last week. YSU coach Jerry Slocum stated that at last week's news conference.
Kamren Belin hasn't produced all that much offensively lately, but his defense has kept the Penguins in most games, especially Saturday against the Flames.
But its that man in the middle who kept the Penguins going when the offense was stagnant.
Bobby Hain, a 6-foot-10 sophomore, has honed his skills this season and was even challenged by Slocum prior to Saturday. Hain had 14 points and a career-high 17 rebounds against UIC.
"I told Bobby going into the game, 'We need a double-double tonight from you,' " Slocum said. "I joked around with him and told him 15 rebounds would be great, so he exceeded that by two.
"He's getting better every game. When he gets to be his junior and senior season, you're going to see a guy that's going to be a dominant inside force. He's still learning how to play. I'm really proud of him."
To keep that proud feeling, YSU must rely on consistent play from Hain and the rest of the defensive-minded Penguins.
The ability for the fast break will always be there for YSU, but it's the defense that will carry the Penguins far into March.