On Tuesday evening, the No. 6-seed Youngstown State Penguins will host the No. 7-seed UW-Green Bay Phoenix at Beeghly Center in the first round of the Horizon League Men's Basketball Championship. This is just the third time Youngstown State will host a first-round tournament game since joining the league 11 years ago.
Five weeks ago, Youngstown State delivered a 30-point thumping of the Phoenix at Beeghly Center, 77-47. Since that point, UWGB has won eight of 10 contests, including a 71-65 win over Youngstown State just two weeks ago.
The reason for Green Bay's turnaround has to be do-it-all freshman Keifer Sykes. The Chicago native is shooting an outstanding 46 percent from the floor and is averaging 11.2 points per game. Since their loss in Youngstown, the Phoenix have relied heavily on Sykes and he will look to carry the visitors, winners of five in a row, on Tuesday evening.
On the other end of the court, Youngstown State will likely be carried by the Horizon League's No. 1 scorer Kendrick Perry. The sophomore finished the regular season first in scoring (16.8 ppg), second in steals (2.4 spg) and third in assists (3.9 apg) in the Horizon League. Perry has scored at least 20 points per game in six of the past seven contests for the Penguins.
This is a game that features some outstanding guards and two of the top-ten shot blockers in the entire country in Youngstown State's Damian Eargle (3.9 bpg) and Green Bay's Alec Brown (3.1 bpg). In my eyes, the dark horse in this game will be whether or not Green Bay's No. 4 man Brennan Cougill can get going. The 6'9", 265-pound forward has given teams fits in recent weeks, including Youngstown State.
A man of his size and stature would be expected to hurt teams in the paint. In his case, that is only partially true. Cougill has connected on 27 three-pointers on the season and is a legitimate threat to drain the three-ball for the Phoenix.
If Cougill and the Phoenix have success shooting the three ball, then they will cause fits for Youngstown State all night. If they struggle to connect from beyond the arc, look for Youngstown State to have a great opportunity to advance to the second round of the Horizon League Men's Basketball Championship versus the winner of the Detroit v. Loyola (Chicago) game.
As I conclude, my message to the fans is to make Beeghly Center a true, hostile college basketball environment on Tuesday Night. The beauty of Beeghly Center is the fact that all of the seats sit right on top of the court, making the noise that much louder to the players on the court. Fans can ill-afford to sit on their hands all night and make little-to-no noise.
Just like Youngstown State is known for its playoff environments in football at Stambaugh Stadium, it is time for YSU to build a reputation of having one of the toughest home courts in the Horizon League. On Tuesday, all fans need to be loud from start until finish. Two words can best sum up what I am trying to say: BE RELENTLESS!
Go YSU! Beat Green Bay!