Penguins shoot for first victory tonight at home

YOUNGSTOWN — Jerrod Calhoun liked the way he looked in his black suit and was ecstatic to wear it for his team’s opener against Kent State on Saturday.

The first-year coach appreciated how his team implemented their traps, forcing nine KSU turnovers in the first half.

But something was amiss on the sidelines, more importantly with his new suit, as Calhoun split his pants.

“The entire butt cheeks were hanging out,” he said. “I told (assistant) coach (Jason) Slay, ‘You’ve got to follow me, buddy. We’ve got a problem.’ I don’t know what he thought I was talking about. He soon figured it out.

“It was a nice suit. I don’t make that much money. The suit was nice. I wasn’t happy about that.”

Calhoun wore his red YSU, long-sleeved pullover and sweat pants in the second half, an outfit he usually dons in practices.

There’s a change going forward for this Penguin team that was dominated by the Golden Flashes, as the NCAA Tournament team and Mid-American Conference favorite convincingly won.

Calhoun saw how his team responded to the KSU surge. It was similar to what he saw during the scrimmages, lack of toughness.

“We’re a family now. It’s about us,” Calhoun said. “It’s about the guys in this room representing the city of Youngstown. We’ve got to represent a little bit better for a longer period of time.

“You played a team that’s going to win 20-plus games, a team that’s going to contend for an NCAA bid, a team that had success.”

Tonight, the Penguins have a chance to put their loss to KSU away with their home opener against Franciscan, starting at 7:35 p.m. It is the nightcap of a doubleheader preceeded by KSU women vs. YSU at 5:15 p.m.

“What you have to worry about is getting better today,” Calhoun said. “You’ll probably get tired of me saying that all year.

Calhoun added how befuddled he is of how college football teams prepare, especially coach Bo Pelini’s YSU team. They have 11 games each Saturday during the fall.

“With a young group in your first year, I’m sure coach Pelini can attest to this, you have to set the foundation for your culture. You’re trying to get your players to understand what you stand for, what you’re trying to accomplish day in and day out and have some success.”

Freshman Naz Bohannon had nine points and eight rebounds in Saturday’s game, but it wasn’t enough for him even though he was told it was a great start for an underclassmen.

The Penguins played even and led KSU in the first 18 minutes. The Golden Flashes pulled away in the final two minutes before halftime and in the second half.

“We have to come out with the same tenacity we had in the first half,” Bohannon said. “After that first couple of minutes in the second half, we kind of laid it down and got outworked.

“I don’t know about anybody else, but we won’t get outworked no more for the rest of the year.”

You can bet Calhoun wore that YSU pullover with pride.

“I don’t think there’s another guy that wants this city to win more than I do,” he said. “I take great pride in the community I represent. I think it’s an honor to wear the jersey. Our players (tonight) will come out with a great deal of pride, and hopefully a nastiness about them to play better.”

UPDATE ON FERGUSON: YSU starting sophomore guard Jeremiah Ferguson had his nose broken during the first half of the KSU game.

Calhoun said he’ll have surgery on it today and is out for tonight’s game. Ferguson is questionable for Saturday’s game at Canisius and should be fitted for a protective mask on Friday.

Senior Francisco Santiago came off the bench for Ferguson, despite being hampered by a hyper-extended knee suffered this summer.

“What Cisco is giving us is awesome, but he’s not healthy,” Calhoun said. “You can’t sugarcoat it anyway than what it is. He’s not a healthy player, but he’s playing through pain. He’s doing everything he can to get on the court.”