Perry leads YSU to 3-0 start

YOUNGSTOWN – It wasn’t anything like last season.

For that, Kendrick Perry and his Youngstown State University men’s basketball teammates couldn’t be happier.

Last season, the Penguins went 0-3 at the Duquesne Tournament. This weekend, YSU beat Kennesaw State (73-57), Florida International in overtime (74-72) and Eastern Kentucky (75-67) at the Kennesaw State Tournament.

“It was great,” Perry said. “If you think about it, we had a three games in a three-day tournament last year and we dropped all three of them. I was very proud of my team and the way they responded all three games (this year).”

The YSU senior guard averaged 22 points, 5.7 assists, 2.3 steals and shot 51.1 percent from the field as the Penguins went 3-0. It earned him Horizon League Player of the Week honors.

“I want to get off to a good start to the season, not just me, but for my team. I think with the Player of the Week recognition, it not only sets the standard for me, but for the team as well,” he said.

YSU coach Jerry Slocum wanted to stress it wasn’t all about offense for Perry. The prolific senior guard held EKU senior guard Glenn Cosey to 2 of 11 from the floor and 1 of 7 from 3-point range. Cosey, named to the Lou Henson Preseason All-American Team (honoring the nation’s best mid-major players), made 7 of 8 from the line – his only saving grace in a 12-point performance. Perry was named to the Lou Henson team as well.

“We won three games and he played really, really well,” Slocum said of Perry. “What would lost in his effort this week, which does not show up on a stat sheet is (the defense on) a first-team player in the (Ohio Valley Conference), a kid that averaged nearly 15 points a game last year. He not only had a great game at the offensive end, but he was really, really special defensively, too.”

Slocum said his team responded well, playing three games in less than 72 hours.

“The adjustments we made, the Xs and Os, little things we wanted to take away from those games – give the kids all the credit. Their basketball IQ was really sharp in this tournament. They played really well,” he said.

Slocum added YSU forward Ryan Weber, who had 46 points in three games, was a big part of the Penguins success.

“Ryan Weber played really well all three games. He was a significant factor,” Slocum said.

Slocum was happy with his bench, where the Penguins played no fewer than 10 players in each of their three games. Freshman guard Marcus Keene averaged close to double figures coming off the bench.

“I feel very confident with this group,” Slocum said. “You’re coming off the bench with a good offensive player like Marcus. Then, you’re coming off the bench with two upperclassmen with Mike (Podolsky), Josh (Chojnacki) or Fletch (Fletcher Larson). Those guys really battled. I was really proud of our bench play down there. When we put those guys in, we didn’t lose anything. We got great lifts from those guys. You gain confidence when those guys play hard. They don’t have to hit home runs. All they have to do is to be solid. Those guys were really solid.”

YSU returns home Thursday against Warren Wilson, which lost to host Kennesaw State, 92-48, on Monday – part of the Owls’ tournament.

The Penguins (3-0) are happy to be at home against Warren Wilson, which will have to play three straight games at Kennesaw State prior to coming to Youngstown.

“We weren’t staying down there for five to six days,” said Slocum, whose team gets to conclude the tournament at home. “They obviously worked it out that we could be here for a much-needed home game.”

It’s a place where Perry is glad to be.

“It’ll be really exciting, no matter who we play,” he said. “I know we’re going to be very energetic. I’m sure we’re going to have a great crowd there – a lot of support.

“We can’t be too excited, play out of control, play with too much emotion. We have to still go out there, stick with our fundamentals and keep getting better every step of the way.”

Sunday, YSU is at Massachusetts. The Minutemen (1-0) beat Boston College by 13 on Sunday and host LSU this morning prior to facing the Penguins.

“They’re a very tough team, very physical team – always a contender in the A-10 (Atlantic 10),” Perry said. “It’s going to be a great test for us, especially early in the season. Our motto is, ‘No toughness. No championship.’

“I think this game this weekend, we’ll see how tough we really are.”

So there won’t be much time to reflect on the success of this past weekend.

“You always want to get going on a good note,” Perry said. “We know our season isn’t going to be made or broken in three games. We have to cherish the moment, but at the same time we have to keep getting better every day.”