Penguins ready for up-tempo Detroit

YOUNGSTOWN – Conventional thinking would say Detroit being 1-5 on the road this year would be an easy game for the Youngstown State men’s basketball team.

Even the Glantz-Culver line has the Penguins as a 1-point favorite.

However, there is more than the lone Titans’ win away from Detroit on Dec. 19 at Alcorn State.

Detroit (10-5, 2-0 Horizon League) has road losses at St. John’s, Miami (Fla.), Pittsburgh, Bowling Green and at Syracuse, where the Titans almost spoiled Jim Boeheim’s 900th career victory – losing 72-68.

The Titans are led by Ray McCallum’s 18.9 points and 4.9 assists per game.

The Detroit 6-foot-3, 190-pound junior guard leads the league in points scored and faces the second best scorer in the league in Youngstown State’s 6-0, 180 junior guard Kendrick Perry, who averages 16.5 and 4.5 assists per contest. Perry was named this week’s Horizon League Player of the Week.

The two leading candidates for Horizon League Player of the Year meet tonight at the Beeghly Center, starting at 7:05 p.m.

The Penguins (9-6, 1-1) enter tonight’s game with a four-game home losing streak to the Titans – last beating them in the 2007-08 season, a 55-48 victory on Feb. 7, 2008.

It won’t be an easy task for YSU tonight combining the fact that Detroit has five players averaging in double figures – including McCallum. The other four Titans are: 6-2 junior guard Jason Calliste (13.5 ppg.), 6-9 senior forward Nick Minnerath (11.9 ppg.), 6-6 junior forward Doug Anderson (11.7 ppg.) and 6-6 sophomore forward Juwan Howard Jr. (10.9 ppg).

“Very, very good offensively,” YSU coach Jerry Slocum said. “Might be the best offensive team in the league, five guys on the floor that can all shoot the 3 and can all play very well at the offensive end of the floor.

“It’s a very talented basketball team. If their karma is right, they’re very difficult to beat. They’ve played a very good schedule.”

YSU sophomore guard D.J. Cole, who has come off the bench in all of the Penguins’ games, said taking advantage of the Titans around the basket is key. Detroit has been outrebounded 497 to 513 this season.

“They like to run,” Cole said. “If we win the rebounding war, we have a chance to win the game. That’s what coach Slocum tells us all the time.”

But, ball possession is key for the Penguins – especially against a Titans’ team that thrives in pressure defense. Detroit forces 17.1 turnovers per game, while YSU averages 11.9 miscues per contest.

“First, if we don’t turn the ball over,” Cole said. “That’s how they get a lot of their points. They get transition points off our turnovers. If we can put the ball in the hole, that will make them bring the ball up the court and slow it down.

“If we don’t turn the ball over, that won’t let them get out on transition buckets that they’re used to getting and slow them down.”

DOUBLE THREAT: YSU senior Damian Eargle (6-7, 225) and Blake Allen (6-1, 180) also score in double figures, along with Perry.

Eargle, a Warren G. Harding High School graduate, averages 12.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game, while Allen averages 11.5 points and 3.3 assists.

NEXT TIME AROUND: The Feb. 1 YSU at Detroit game is slated to be televised on ESPU. Tipoff is at 9 p.m.