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Scouting Youngstown State

Up next for Gary Williams's bunch are the Youngstown State Penguins, who traveled to the College Park vacinity this morning and will take on the Terrapins at 8 p.m. tomorrow night at Comcast Center. Youngstown State hails from the Horizon League and went 9-21 last season. The Penguins dropped their season opener at home Saturday night, 70-62, to Buffalo.

I had a chance earlier today to talk over the phone with fourth-year coach Jerry Slocum, who expects his team's youth to be somewhat of an obstacle in the season's early going.

"We’re really a new team; seven new guys," Slocum said. "Out of our top 10 guys, we have five or six that are playing major minutes that are new, and that showed up on Saturday in terms of us really not having the experience that I would like to have. I think we’re better than what we have been in terms of being a little bit more athletic, a little bit better at the defensive end, but we’ve got a long way to go with the amount of new guys that we have."

Junior Kelvin Bright, one of the Penguins' newcomers, is from Silver Spring. Bright played last season for Hagerstown Community College after spending two years at Robert Morris. Bright, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, was named an honorable mention Division I junior college all-american last year after averaging 24.2 points per game. He scored 11 points on 5 of 19 shooting Saturday night against Buffalo.

But Bright is not the only local player on Youngstown State's roster. Senior Jack Liles, a 6-foot-8, 240-lb. center, is a native of Odenton. Liles is the team's leading returning scorer (9.7 ppg in 2007-08). He recorded 10 points, four blocks and three rebounds in the season opener.

Slocum said rebounding is a central concern for his team, especially after allowing Buffalo to pull down 19 offensive boards on Saturday. The Penguins were outrebounded, 51-39.

One bright spot for Slocum's team Saturday was the play of junior forward Sirlester Martin, who recorded a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds. Martin (6-foot-7, 210 lbs.) also recorded three blocks.

"Sirlester’s a player that we have high expectations for, a guy that I think can play at the offensive end and the defensive end," Slocum said. "He can be a defensive stopper in terms of our forward position and just score the basketball, too."

Scoring the basketball will be a problem for the Penguins if they shoot like they did in the first half against Buffalo. Youngstown State managed to make just 22.9 percent of its shots before the intermission. The Penguins recovered to shoot 50 percent from the field in the second half and ended the night at 35.4 percent. From three-point range, Youngstown State made just 2 of 18 attempts.

"You know, I think some of it was opening night jitters, but like I said, with seven new guys playing in their first home game and playing against a good opponent, I think some of it had to do with that," Slocum said. "Other parts of it, obviously, they did a pretty good job defensively on us. In the second half, I thought we kind of found our rhythm a little bit and did a much better job."

As for his thoughts on tomorrow night's match-up against Maryland, Slocum said the Terrapins' preference to run and press stood out the most on film.

"They love transition; they love full-court-pressure defense," Slocum said. "We just have to play our style of basketball to have a chance to be competitive. He have to take care of the ball and we have to rebound the ball. Anytime you play a team of that caliber … the whole key is to have some patience offensively, take good shots and not turn the ball over when you don’t get great opportunities."

By Steve Yanda  |  November 17, 2008; 1:08 PM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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