New faces in new places

Kent thumps Penguins?in opener

New YSU men’s coach Jerrod Calhoun paces the sideline during his debut Saturday night at Akron against Kent State.

AKRON — Jerrod Calhoun walked briskly off the floor toward the locker room following the game.

All the first-year coach could do Saturday was watch as the inevitable happened.

Francisco Santiago headed to the end of the bench and slammed his fist on one of the chairs inside James A. Rhodes Arena.

It was Kent State trapping, going on fast breaks and running up the score — shooting 68.4 from the floor in the second half.

The Youngstown State team walked off the floor with their heads down as frustration set in during Saturday’s 111-78 loss to the Golden Flashes in the nightcap of the Northeast Ohio Coaches vs. Cancer doubleheader — the opener for both teams.

Freshman Naz Bohannon (33) defends against Kent State’s Jalen Avery.

“I haven’t lost like that, ever,” Calhoun said. “We’ve got to regroup. It certainly shows where you’re at. It’s disappointing. We’ve worked really hard to try to get our community engaged in this team. I don’t think we gave the effort that reflects our city.”

It was the Golden Flashes, the defending Mid-American Conference tournament champions with their starting backcourt intact, looking like the run-and-gun team during the second half — taking this young YSU team out of its rhythm for a team striving to be that up-tempo force.

KSU held a 57-41 rebounding advantage and had a 70-42 lead in points in the paint.

“We just got punked in the paint,” YSU senior guard Cameron Morse said. “They kept driving by us, getting layups. We just didn’t have enough heart. We couldn’t score on the other end.

“I had one of my worst games ever. We just have to learn from it, pick it up next game and go from there.”

Morse led YSU with 19 points, but it was the ebb and flow of the second half that helped Kent State dominate what was once a close contest. Braun Hartfield had 14 points, while Tyree Robinson put in 10.

Fouls. Free throws. Rebounding. All things that need attention from this YSU team, which had only a half-dozen players with Division I experience coming into the game.

YSU shot 12 of 30 from the foul line.

“I can’t recall anybody making any,” Calhoun said.

The Penguins shot 30 of 79 from the floor and 6 of 20 from 3-point range.

KSU was 41 of 75 from the floor, 2 of 14 from 3 and 27 of 34 from the foul line.

KSU had six players in double figures — Jaylin Walker (20), Adonis De La Rosa (20), Jalen Avery (14), Danny Piper (13), Desmond Ridenour (12) and Akiean Frederick (11).

YSU came out with a 2-0 lead on the tip with Robinson’s two-handed slam. The Penguins held fast for most of the first half, trailing 46-41 at intermission.

Calhoun sees plenty of layover from his team’s scrimmage when it was manhandled against Niagara in a scrimmage.

“We played 18 really good minutes of basketball,” he said of Saturday’s game. “It was the same exact thing that happened at Niagara. When it goes bad for this team, it goes really bad. We’ve got a lot to work on, that’s for sure.”

The Penguins return to practice Monday in preparation for their home opener Tuesday against Franciscan University starting at 7:35, following the Penguin women’s game against Kent State which start at 5:15.

“Second half we ran out of gas. We’ve got do a better job of conditioning,” Calhoun said.

He knows there’s a ways to go before YSU can make improvements and learn this up-tempo system with a trapping defense which was rarely seen on Saturday.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” Calhoun said. “The system is very hard to play.

“You have to find seven, eight guys that want to play this style and stop people. You can’t give up (111) points. You just don’t do that.”

The effort wasn’t there for YSU, especially in the second half.

Calhoun said with repetition, muscle memory is built and a knowledge of this system to showcase to a Penguin fan base yearning for a winner.

“You have to ingrain a toughness about them,” Calhoun said. “Obviously our toughness level is nowhere near where it needs to be. It’s good for me to know.

“I’ve got to coach better. I’ve got to motivate better. Obviously, we’ve got to recruit better.”