Improvement needed for YSU’s defense

Youngstown State’s first two Horizon League games have been as harsh as the plummeting temperatures northeast Ohio will endure this week.

The league’s Wisconsin-based schools are known for their chilly receptions. Milwaukee’s U.S. Cellular Arena and Green Bay’s Resch Center haven’t been too kind to the Penguins. These past two meetings were no exception in Thursday’s 82-76 loss at Milwaukee and Saturday’s 85-69 setback at Green Bay.

Milwaukee’s forwards Kyle Kelm and Matt Tiby were held to around their averages, but guard Jordan Aaron went ballistic as he was 9 of 15 from the floor, 4 of 6 from 3-point range for 27 points.

YSU’s Kendrick Perry had one of his stellar games with 31 points. The Penguins senior point guard has had, by far, the best season of his career. He was complimented by three double-figure scorers – Bobby Hain, Ryan Weber and Kamren Belin.

Offense hasn’t been a problem for the Penguins (9-8, 0-2 Horizon League). They came into their current three-game road trip, averaging more than 82 points per outing – best in the Horizon League.

Saturday, the Penguins tied their lowest point total of the season since a Nov. 17, 2013, a 85-69 loss at Massachusetts.

At UMass and Green Bay, the Penguins’ defense surrendered more than 55 percent from the floor.

It is not as much of an eyesore as the abomination of a defense the Ohio State’s football team has put forth the past couple of games, but you can bet it won’t earn the Penguins basketball team any style points.

It’s only two games and two games won’t make or break a 30-plus game season, but this defensive lapse is like a slight cough. It will fester and may eventually grow into flu-like symptoms, knocking you out for quite a while.

The defense needs to improve going forward, so does the offense. The Penguins need high-percentage transition shots to be successful in a high-scoring offense.

If YSU could only harness what it had in the Dec. 29 home game against South Dakota. The Penguins distributed the ball around the perimeter quite well, seemingly finding the open man each and every time.

The defense was near perfection with a couple of blocks. Driving lanes closed quickly, more than an onslaught of rush-hour traffic.

It’s easy to rush to judgment against YSU after starting the Horizon League 0-2, but the Penguins faced two of the best teams in the league and went to, historically, two places YSU hasn’t performed well.

Tuesday, the Penguins wrap up their three-game trip at UIC. YSU hasn’t won in Chicago for quite a while. To be exact, it was the 2008-09 season.

Slocum said after the South Dakota game Horizon League teams defend their home court quite well. As a road team, you hope to steal a few games. Tuesday, against the team with the worst overall record in the league, YSU better get a five-finger discount in Chicago.