It’s not about 88-point margin

YOUNGSTOWN — Jerrod Calhoun said it three times, three times too many in my book.

You should never have to defend hard play, no matter how much the grumblings of some whiners would like you to do so.

So Calhoun’s Youngstown State basketball team scored a school-record 134 points. You should’ve have to apologize for a 134-46 victory? Ridiculous.

I heard someone in the crowd Tuesday night ask why YSU was still pressing? Read on and I’ll tell you why.

So the YSU men’s basketball team played a Division III team … like it was their preference.

If this Youngstown State team had its druthers, it would have played a Division I mid-major team at home. They also would have more than three home games this season, two of which are Division III teams (Franciscan and Westminster). It was the hand this team was dealt. If you’ve been following what I’ve been writing about the Penguins since early April, you’d know that already.

Calhoun cleared the bench Tuesday. He rotated in all of his 15 available players. What do you want these bench players do to do, let Franciscan score, let them be competitive?

Let me tell my son, who played all of 14 minutes as goalkeeper his freshman season, to let his inferior opponent have a goal or two so his team doesn’t run up the score? That’s plain idiotic. He’s out there to do his best, just like the YSU players who were on the floor Tuesday.

Did Kent State have a problem pasting 111 points on YSU on Saturday? No.

Bench players can’t stand idle because their team is up by 60 or 70 points. They need quality playing time, not just show up and keep the game competitive.

This isn’t recreational league. This is NCAA athletics. Get it?

This is why I was upset and woke up at 6:30 in the morning to write this column.

People pay to see YSU play. Frankly, I wouldn’t pay my hard-earned money to see a slow, lethargic half-court offense. I’ve made it clear, I’m excited to see an up-tempo style Calhoun brings to YSU and I know some of you out there agree with me.

It is a work in progress. Tuesday’s game wasn’t meant to dismantle Franciscan. It was a product of getting this team more in tune with Calhoun’s conditioning, which isn’t where it needs to be. A true test will come Saturday at Canisius. Let’s see if this defense travels.

Freshman Naz Bohannon guaranteed on Monday his team wouldn’t wilt like it did against KSU in the second half. On Tuesday, YSU was an angry team. The Penguins had every right to be mad and did something about it in their home opener.

Calhoun takes the blame for not having this team in shape. He even admits he’ll have to throw in some zone because his team is not ready for a constant full-court press. The Franciscan game was a training ground and his team and coaching staff played angry after playing a halfhearted second half against KSU Saturday. Conditioning. This team still has a way to go, but eventually this Penguins team will figure it out.

The Penguins had plenty to sort out when they took on this year’s schedule. YSU went from the disarray of IUPUI joining the Horizon League and being bumped from being the Penguins’ home-opener opponent to the 2018 portion of the schedule.

To replace IUPUI, Calhoun used his West Virginia connections and called Wheeling native Joe Wallace. It was Franciscan, a Division III team. To the Barons, playing YSU is the equivalent of the Penguins playing Indiana, or some other Big Ten team. It is Franciscan’s showcase game.

The Penguins start a three-game series with West Virginia, playing in Morgantown in 2018 and 2020, while hosting the Mountaineers at the Covelli Centre in 2019.

YSU is busy trying to schedule other name teams for 2018-19. Calhoun mentioned Ohio, Bowling Green and one of the Michigan MAC teams (Eastern, Central or Western) as possibilities to fill the schedule for next season and beyond. He said the Penguins are close to signing one of those teams for 2018-19.

It’s not in Calhoun’s DNA to schedule Division I and II teams. Those were his words. No more charity games. This is the last year you’ll see this.

Heck, Oberlin, another Division III team, was competitive last year with YSU until the Penguins pulled away late. I’d rather see the Penguins blow out a D-III team than be competitive.

This YSU team wasn’t about humiliating an opponent Tuesday. The Penguins played a horrific 22 minutes of basketball Saturday against the best the Mid-American Conference has to offer.

Jaylin Walker and Jalen Avery are the best backcourt tandem in the MAC. Adonis De La Rosa is not your typical 7-footer. He revamped his game in the offseason, hitting the weight room (the key to any good season), and drastically improved his game. I went on my Twitter account (@jvargoTrib) and said with KSU’s experienced backcourt, and if De La Rosa gets close to a double-double a game, they’ll be hard to beat. Really. This Golden Flashes team is that good.

Eventually this YSU team could be that good. Maybe not this year, but in the years to come. It takes time and hard work because this team wants to be a reflection of Youngstown — a blue-collar city.

If hard work leads to an 88-point point differential, so be it.

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