Youngstown State ready for third matchup with Wright State

There’s a vast different between the late January victory against Wright State at the Beeghly Center and last Saturday’s 27-point blowout at the Nutter Center.

First and foremost, Youngstown State’s leading scorer Kendrick Perry is sitting out his fifth straight game with a left knee injury.

“Kendrick Perry will not play,” YSU men’s basketball coach Jerry Slocum said en route to Valparaiso University. “It’s a day-to-day thing. It’s not going as quickly as we hoped.”

Sixth-seeded YSU (17-14) faces third-seeded Wright State for the third time in tonight’s Horizon League Tournament quarterfinal. Tipoff is at 6 p.m. Valparaiso, the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament, hosts tonight’s quarterfinals and Saturday’s semifinals. The highest remaining seed hosts Tuesday’s final.

Even though YSU is 0-3 in league quarterfinals, playing at a familiar court like Valpo’s will help. The Penguins shot 59 percent and took a 40-33 first-half lead against Valpo on Feb. 26.

“I thought we played our best half of basketball all year in that first half,” Slocum said. “We have a familiarity with the facility. I think that can’t do anything but help.”

With Perry out, shot selection is a must. The Penguins shot 50 percent from the floor in the first meeting, but only accounted for 36 percent in Saturday’s loss.

After being tied at 2, the Raiders (20-11) went on a 17-4 run to put the game out of reach.

Slocum said his team can’t afford those lulls tonight.

“We have to make sure we do a good job in terms of shot selection, very important issue without KP,” Slocum said. “We have to take good shots and our scoring balance is good. We have to make sure we don’t beat ourselves by giving up turnovers or offensive rebounds.”

Eleven of the 13 Raiders scored Saturday and shot 56 percent from the floor, but shot 40 percent from the floor in the game at Youngstown. YSU averaged 17.5 rebounds in both games.

“For us to be successful in this game, we have to make sure we take care of the basketball,” Slocum said. “We have to guard them a little bit better. We did a terrible job defensively. Half-court we did a pretty good job. We have to cut back on the turnovers.”

YSU needs the defensive prowess of Warren G. Harding product Damian Eargle, who is the league’s all-time shot blocker.

Eargle had his nose broken during a triple-overtime loss against UIC, sat out two games, but came back with a protective mask like nothing happened.

“I think he came back from that well, a lot of respect for him. I think he’s playing hard and aggressively,” Slocum said.

And, sophomore guard DJ Cole, who had the game-winning runner in Tuesday’s win against Loyola, has solidified YSU’s backcourt in Perry’s absence. Cole had 18 points to start the year at George Washington.

“DJ has had a great year,” Slocum said. “He’s probably been our most consistent player all year.

“He’s having a tremendous sophomore year. He’s have a great, consistent year from the beginning to the end.”

Tonight, Slocum said he wants his team to take care of the basketball for 40 minutes.

“We have to make sure we take care of the basketball. That’s the primary issue for us,” he said.