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Tuesday another step for YSU men

Jerrod Calhoun sat in the second-floor film room inside the Beeghly Center surrounded by his assistant coaches. They discussed how to approach last week’s trip to Green Bay and Milwaukee.

Eight, 12 and 17 wins. That’s the first three years for the Penguins under this coaching staff.

Calhoun told me this YSU team isn’t done, not by a long shot — referring to the team’s progress and culture change.

Tuesday, YSU (17-14) is the fifth seed in the Horizon League Tournament — hosting eighth-seeded Milwaukee (12-18), starting at 7 p.m.

YSU ended the regular season Saturday with a four-point win at Milwaukee, but lost to the Panthers more than a month ago in overtime inside the Beeghly Center.

This isn’t the first time the Penguins have been in a first-round Horizon League home game.

On Feb. 27, 2007, Keston Roberts and Quin Humphrey combined for 50 of Youngstown State University’s points. John Barber’s block, rebound and subsequent free throws with less than 5 seconds left gave the Penguins an 82-80 lead over Detroit Mercy, a constant thorn for this YSU men’s basketball team.

The Titans launched a half-court shot, just missing the mark in the Horizon League Tournament first-round game.

March 5, 2013: DJ Cole banked in a basket with 2.5 seconds remaining near the left block. It was another two-point win for the Penguins, 62-60, over Loyola (Chicago).

The previous two meetings with the Ramblers were decided in the final 10 seconds and a total of three points. It seemed fitting this contest came down to a last-second shot.

YSU was a sixth-seeded team in 2013, ending with an 18-16 record in the second round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament against Canisius.

Cole finished with 13 points and four assists, and Blake Allen and Kamren Belin both had 15. Warren G. Harding graduate Damian Eargle posted 10 points, eight rebounds and a Horizon League Tournament record seven blocks. Shawn Amiker had nine points and nine rebounds.

Joe Crisman’s desperation 3-pointer from beyond half-court was wide. Sounded like 2007.

Close calls. There’s a reason they call this March Madness.

Kendrick Perry was out due to a knee injury he suffered in practice a couple of games before the Loyola win. Perry came back with a vengeance in the CIT win over Oakland with 31 points.

Tuesday, it’s time for this year’s YSU team to wreak havoc on Milwaukee. Garrett Covington, the Penguins’ top defender, was out last time against the Panthers at home. He plays in this first-round Horizon League Tournament game.

YSU experienced the euphoria of a tournament atmospher the last time the Penguins played at the Beeghly Center. Though down to Northern Kentucky by 16 early in the second half, the Penguins weren’t going to succumb to a slow start. They fought, part of the culture change implemented and honed as this third season has progressed. They rallied.

A last-second 3-point shot was off the mark, which would’ve been the game winner.

The more than 4,000 fans were on their feet. I could see YSU women’s basketball player McKenah Peters out of the corner of my eye cheering in that last couple of minutes. Kind of felt the Penguins faithful would’ve erupted as it hasn’t done in some time — drawing others back to when basketball was king in the 1970s and ’80s. Kind of felt some would’ve rushed the floor if that 3-pointer had been on target against Northern Kentucky.

Tuesday, YSU can get that tournament-like atmosphere against Milwaukee, especially with a win. It’s only one of many steps this programs has to take to be one of the Horizon League’s best. As Calhoun has said, they cannot skip any steps to achieve ultimate goals like winning a league title and an NCAA Tournament berth. Tuesday is one of those steps.

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