Men’s basketball will look to end its eight-game losing streak Saturday when it travels to Youngstown, Ohio, to take on Youngstown State as part of ESPN’s BracketBuster weekend.
The Penguins come in on a cold streak of their own, losing four of their last six games, including a 71-54 loss to Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Sunday.
Despite the struggles, head coach Keno Davis doesn’t see many weaknesses to Youngstown State.
“You’re looking at a really talented team,” Davis said. “Very athletic, play extremely hard and can beat you inside and outside. They do a lot of the same things that we do defensively, but it’s more about improving our team.”
The Penguins are one of the top-scoring teams in the Horizon League, coming into the game at No. 3 they are also strong offensive rebounders, leading the league at 36.4 per game.
They also take care of the basketball, leading the league in assists (14.7 per game) and assist/turnover ratio (1.2 per game). Translation: Freshman guard Chris Fowler will have his hands full as he will have to take care of the ball.
The Chippewas have an eight-game losing streak, so perhaps a taste of non-conference play can help its woes.
All eight losses have come against Mid-American Conference opponents, but they are 7-6 in non-conference play.
That, combined with a week off to prepare, could help bring an end to the streak, just before the end of MAC play and the conference tournament.
“It couldn’t have come at a better time for us,” Davis said. “We’ve been going a long time when you think about this summer, our August trip and through November and not having a Christmas break.”
The break allowed the team to catch up mentally and physically and also allowed Davis to implement some new things to his scheme.
“It was good physically and mentally, and it also gave us a chance to put in a couple of things in these last five or six games,” Davis said. “We haven’t been able to add much offensively and defensively, so it will give us a push.”
This is the final year of ESPN’s BracketBuster, a weekend dedicated to pairing up mid-major teams across the nation, giving them the spotlight. This is the 11th and final year of the BracketBuster games.
That is something many mid-major coaches are excited about as many coaches don’t like the weekend.
“I have mixed feelings about the BracketBuster,” Davis said. “I think the idea is good to gain exposure and propel teams that are on the bubble, but I don’t think, statistically, it has helped those teams.”
This will be a special game for one player in particular.
Senior guard Kyle Randall has led the Chippewas all season, and, on Saturday, he’ll be leading them into his hometown.
Randall, a Youngstown native, will be playing where he grew up for the first time in his college career.
A situation that Davis is familiar with, the first regular-season game of the season was at Iowa, where Davis went to college.
“It’s always special when you get to play in front of family and friends,” Davis said. “It’s why we stress our recruiting to be as local as possible, because it’s just a better experience.”