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YSU visits SEMO

Following Youngstown State’s season-opening loss to Penn State, head coach Jerrod Calhoun pointed out the season will be a “long journey,” and that there are plenty of games ahead.

The Penguins will have their first opportunity to right the ship tonight, as they travel to the Show Me State for a contest with Southeast Missouri (ESPN+, 570 WKBN AM).

The Redhawks (1-0) are fresh off a 99-94 overtime upset of Missouri State in a “buy game” and are “sky high, and they’re a good team,” according to Calhoun.

The teams last met Dec. 15, 2019, a game that resulted in a 65-50 Youngstown State win at the Beeghly Center.

If the Penguins, who dropped their opener to the Nittany Lions 75-59, are to get on track, there are a few areas in which they’ll need to improve, perhaps the largest of which is rebounding. At PSU on Wednesday night, YSU was outrebounded 43-25.

“We have to improve on the glass. We got outrebounded, so an emphasis on boxing out and getting the ball before we take off (in transition),” senior guard Garrett Covington said following the defeat.

Penn State’s performance on the offensive glass was particularly costly for YSU, as the Nittany Lions scored 12 points off of 12 offensive rebounds.

SEMO, meanwhile, had a slight 33-30 advantage on the boards against MSU.

YSU also needs to improve down low, as the Penguins were outscored in the paint 44-18.

But part of that may have been a matter of shot selection. Calhoun noted the Penguins were settling for a lot of mid-range jumpers in the loss, and wants to see more aggression and drives moving forward.

“I did think we settled a lot from the mid-range area. We have to drive the ball all the way to the basket,” he said Wednesday night. “I don’t know if it was (Penn State’s) size, their length, but we have to get more attacking at the rim.”

That, along with some time for the YSU roster to gel, may help an offense that was inconsistent Wednesday night. YSU played well in spurts, jumping out to a 21-17 lead in the first half and rallying from 14-down in the second to cut the PSU lead to six. But the Penguins couldn’t sustain those hot stretches, ultimately finishing 22-for-56 from the field.

Fifth-year seniors Michael Akuchie and Garrett Covington were bright spots, as Akuchie heated up in the second half to finish with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while Covington scored 11 points. Shemar Rathan-Mayes added 10 for YSU.

“We’re playing in spurts. I think it shows you we haven’t played with one another,” Calhoun said.

The Redhawks, on the other hand, had a hot night from the field in their opener, sinking 32 of 56 attempts. They also did a lot of damage at the charity stripe, sinking 27 of 34 free throws in a game with a combined 48 fouls called.

SEMO also played with a lot of balance, as five different players scored in double figures. Eric Reed Jr. led with 21, while Chris Harris had 19. The Redhawks also picked up 38 points from their bench.

Tipoff is slated for 6:30 p.m.

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