YOUNGSTOWN - You can guarantee John Denver's music won't keep the Youngstown State men's basketball team entertained on the upcoming three-game road trip to begin the Horizon League season.
Yet, the Penguins (9-6) know full well they are on the road again - at Milwaukee, Green Bay and UIC.
"We've got our work cut out being on the road for seven straight days," Youngstown State coach Jerry Slocum said.
It starts with Thursday's jaunt to Milwaukee (10-4). The Panthers haven't played since a Dec. 22, 13-point victory over Alabama State.
YSU has won the last four contests against Milwaukee, but the past two seasons have been quite lean for the once-powerful Panthers, who have a couple of Horizon League titles and NCAA appearances in their recent history. YSU is 9-24 all-time against Milwaukee.
The Penguins must face the massive middle of Milwaukee in 6-foot-8 sophomore forward Matt Tiby (14 points, seven rebounds per game) and 6-9 senior forward Kyle Kelm (14 points, five rebounds).
Saturday, YSU heads to the house of horrors called the Resch Center.
The Penguins have won once in Green Bay - a March, 4, 2003 first-round Horizon League tournament victory. YSU has lost its last two games against the Phoenix (9-3).
The Penguins last win against Green Bay was Feb. 28, 2012, in Youngstown.
The matchup features two of the league's best players, YSU's Kendrick Perry and Green Bay's Keifer Sykes - both point guards. The two average around 20 points per outing.
Just like Milwaukee, the Penguins have to face tall timber in the post. This time, it's NBA prospect and Phoenix center Alec Brown. The 7-1, 235-pound man in the middle pops in 15 points and seven rebounds a game.
Considering YSU is coming off of its best outing of the season, holding South Dakota to 18 points at halftime en route to the 85-59 victory, Slocum feels good as his team prepares to face the top two teams in the Horizon League.
"That's one of the best defensive halves since I've been here," Slocum said. "... I think we're playing really well going into conference play."
Offensivley, Perry has been getting help from Kamren Belin's 13 points a game, and 10.1 points a game each from Ryan Weber and Bobby Hain.
Then, there's Shawn Amiker, whose averaged 15 points in the past two games - including a career-high 20-point performance Sunday. With that performance, the 6-5 junior guard was named the league's Player of the Week on Monday. He is the second Penguins player to capture the honor this season. Perry won it in early November.
"My teammates put me in good position of where I could score the ball. I did a good job of doing that," he said after the South Dakota game.
One player who has been electric on the road for YSU is freshman guard Marcus Keene with nine points an outing. He's averaged almost 11 points per game in eight road games.
The Penguins will need that effort heading into their final leg of this three-game trip as they face UIC (5-9), on Jan. 7. The record might be deceptive, but the way the Flames face YSU inside the UIC Pavilion isn't. YSU has dropped its last three against UIC, with the last victory coming Jan. 7, 2012, in Youngstown. The last win in Chicago was Feb. 7, 2009.
The Flames are more guard-oriented, like YSU. Senior guard Kelsey Barlow (6-5) and junior Marc Brown (6-4) lead the team with 17 and 12 points, respectively.
After this road trip, YSU only has five more road games, compared to eight at the Beeghly Center.
"This is a tough way to start your year, but it's not a bad way to start your year in terms of you coming out with your confidence still intact, still in one piece if you will," Slocum said.
How much can YSU get from this dominating win against South Dakota, a team it led 53-18 at halftime?
"Our confidence is sky high going into conference play. We're going to keep building from that," Amiker said.