Youngstown State (0-0) at Kennesaw State (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 8, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: KSU Convocation Center (4,792) -- Kennesaw, Georgia. Television: None. Home Record: YSU 0-0, KSU 0-0. Away Record: YSU 0-0, KSU 0-0. Neutral Record: YSU 0-0, KSU 0-0. Conference Record: YSU 0-0, KSU 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The opening round of the Kennesaw State Men's Basketball Tournament takes place on Friday night, as the host Kennesaw State Owls welcome the Youngstown State Penguins to the KSU Convocation Center.
The tournament will be played round-robin style, with Youngstown State, Kennesaw State, Eastern Kentucky and FIU all playing one another over the course of the opening weekend.
Youngstown State enjoyed its best season in more than a decade in 2012-13, which resulted in its first-ever trip to the postseason. After making it to the second round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament, the Penguins finished 18-16 in Jerry Slocum's eighth year as head coach, giving them back- to-back winning campaigns for the first time since the mid-1980s.
Kennesaw State was once again the punching bag of the Atlantic Sun Conference a season ago, going a mere 2-16 in the league with just three victories overall. In Lewis Preston's first two seasons as the Owls' head coach, the team has gone a woeful 6-55.
This bout marks the first-ever meeting between these two schools in men's basketball.
The Penguins scored more points per game (71.4) than they allowed to their opponents (69.3) last season, and while they lost two key components in Blake Allen (12.4 ppg, 94 3-pointers) and Damian Eargle (11.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg), that trend is likely to continue with the return of three starters. Kendrick Perry (17.3 ppg) is back after ranking second in the Horizon League in scoring, shooting 44 percent from the floor, 35.7 percent from 3-point range and 84.5 percent from the free-throw line. Kamren Belin (11.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg) will try to pick up the slack in the paint for the departed Eargle. DJ Cole (6.9 ppg) brings leadership to the backcourt and logged more than a steal per game while boasting a strong assist-to-turnover (115-68) ratio.
Kennesaw State managed to net just 61.0 ppg a year ago, and this season it will be without leading scorer Markeith Cummings (16.5 ppg). A few key pieces still remain in place to give the squad hope for improvement, however. Delbert Love scored 12.2 points per game, but he shot just 35 percent from the field and had nearly as many turnovers (80) as assists (84). Myles Hamilton (5.8 ppg, 1.3 spg) and Nigel Pruitt (5.1 ppg) also bring starting experience. Among the newcomers, junior college transfers Tanner Wozniak and Charlie Byers are expected to play right away in the backcourt, while 6-foot-11 Drew McGhee has transferred in from Miami-Ohio and will be eligible this season.
Although Kennesaw State has the homecourt advantage, it won't mean much considering its lack of talent and success over the past several seasons. Youngstown State will lean heavily on Perry's scoring prowess on its way to a 1-0 start.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Youngstown State 76, Kennesaw State 63
11/08 10:44:39 ET