Order’s up for YSU

Tourney poses familiar tests

YOUNGSTOWN — Jerrod Calhoun waited for his order.

Large coffee with cream.

As the Youngstown State University men’s basketball coach waited, he answered questions, still reeling from a quick recruiting trip to Florida.

That coffee couldn’t come soon enough, neither could tonight’s game against Cleveland State — the third meeting between Horizon League teams with disappointing seasons.

Sip on this as Youngstown State (8-23) and Cleveland State (9-22) face each other for a third time. Seems like deja vu at this year’s Horizon League Tournament.

YSU is the ninth seed, while CSU is once again the eighth. Tipoff is at 8 p.m., tonight. The winner moves on to Saturday’s game against top-seeded Northern Kentucky.

Last season, the Penguins lost seven of their last eight games coming into the tournament played at the former Joe Louis Arena. This year, YSU lost eight of its last 10.

Been here before.

Penguin senior guard Cameron Morse found a wide-open Jorden Kaufman in the post to upset then-top-seeded Oakland a season ago.

That buzzer-beater filled up ESPN and social media that night and into the following day.

The Penguins have seen, way too many times this season, shots go in and out on free throws.

Calhoun said he broke down film the other day to show his players not standing on the line or falling back, which explains why the charity tosses are coming up short or going long.

Not much time was spent on this facet because it’s about muscle memory and confidence — something Calhoun would rather keep intact.

“They become like the flu,” he said of the missed free throws. “They become contagious within your team.”

Calhoun would rather see his healthy team relish the time in downtown Detroit, inside the new Little Caesars Arena — home of the Detroit Pistons and Red Wings. This trip is likely the last time this YSU team is together.

The first-year Penguins staff tried to make this group of newcomers and a handful or returning players succeed. It’s been a trying experience. Calhoun said he’s read a few books this year to keep him mind off a losing season — one that his physically took his toll on him.

He watches plenty of film, not only on YSU’s opponents but potential recruits. That takes a bulk of his time as sleep is at a premium.

“I’ve done a really good job of balancing with my wife and kids,” Calhoun said. “I think it’s so important for coaches to stay in shape. That’s something I’m guilty of this year more than ever. Some years are better than others.

“This year with the amount of losing, I didn’t do a real good job of that. That’s something I have to pick up here in the offseason quick.”

That comes about later this month. For now, it is Detroit and the Horizon League Tournament.

YSU traveled a couple of hours to the enlarged venu and watched a couple of movies on the way there.

Dinner and practice time followed in preparation for tonight’s game.

Calhoun doesn’t want to change the routine.

“I like to keep things pretty simple, so I don’t want to change it up,” he said. “I think our players will know that this is the last time our team is together.”

Calhoun’s coffee was ready. End of interview.