Split of recent games keeps Penguins afloat

The Penguins split its last two games against PFW and CSU. It now has a chance to take full control of the conference against Milwaukee on Feb. 16.

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Dwayne Cohill (#5) brings the ball up floor as head coach Jerrod Calhoun calls out a play. Photo via YSU Athletics SmugMug Website.

Almost only matters in horseshoes and hand grenades. That’s a phrase that has stood the test of time. It means being close to things happening but not close enough. In very few worlds does getting close to something but not getting it even matter.

That’s the spot that the Youngstown State men’s basketball team is in.

This team has done things that no other team in school history has done but the journey has only truly begun.

With two games in the last week, the Penguins (20-7, 12-4 Horizon League) still have many things to prove.

Feb. 10 at Purdue-Fort Wayne

In a game that the Penguins needed to win to keep pace with the top of the league, the offense was nowhere to be seen in the first half.

PFW (15-12, 7-9 HL) is still battling to stay in the upper half of the conference. In this game, the Mastodons couldn’t get enough offense going when it was needed.

YSU’s first half saw it hit just one three-pointer by Dwayne Cohill late in the first half. Early in the first half, PFW built its biggest lead at 13-6 about five minutes in. The usual suspect, Jarred Godfrey, scored seven of the Mastodons’ first 13 points and looked to be cruising in this game.

Suddenly, YSU’s defense tightened and the Penguins went on a 10-0 run to take a 16-13 lead. The Mastodons took back the lead for a few minutes before YSU took the 22-21 lead with over four minutes left in the first half. It never relinquished the lead from there.

In the second half, the Penguins never allowed the Mastodons to get any closer than a seven-point game. YSU took advantage of certain areas despite a bad three-point shooting game as it shot just 4-of-15 from beyond the arc. The Penguins took advantage in the paint outscoring PFW, 44-30.

YSU also took advantage of turnovers while PFW couldn’t. The Penguins scored 14 points off of just eight turnovers while the Mastodons scored only four points off six turnovers. YSU also had eight fast break points to PFW’s zero which contributed to the win.

YSU’s 81-72 win was on the back of Cohill yet again. He dropped 33 points on 12-of-17 shooting while grabbing five rebounds. Adrian Nelson was a rebound short of a double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds. Nelson was also the only guy hitting threes as he was 3-for-5 while the rest of the team shot 1-for-10.

Feb. 12 at Cleveland State

Two days later, YSU was back on the road at Cleveland State. Some of the same issues arose in this game but the Vikings weren’t as forgiving as the Mastodons.

Ten lead changes and eight ties puts this game together quickly for anyone reading.

In the first half, the Penguins struggled from the field. It hit just 33.3 percent of its shots and only shot 28.6 percent from three. Three-point shooting has been rough for the past few games and it is starting to catch up to the Penguins.

Defensively, both teams were much more locked in during the first half as neither shot much better as CSU hit 40 percent from the field while YSU was at 33.3 percent.

The free throw line is where the Vikings took advantage of the Penguins as it hit 11 more in this game showing CSU’s aggressiveness throughout the game. YSU committed seven more fouls than CSU.

In the second half, YSU could never get more than a few points away from CSU when it did take the lead. The Vikings ballooned its lead to as much as eight late in the second half. 

Neither team shot free throws exceptionally well but it seemed that every time YSU did something well, CSU had an answer.

Brandon Rush played quite well as he finished with a team-high 20 points while Cohill had 17 points and five rebounds. Despite 19 rebounds from Nelson, the Penguins were outrebounded, 42-39.

Both teams played better second half basketball which is where YSU couldn’t keep CSU from scoring.

Tae Williams was the high man for the Vikings with 20 points and his teammate, Tristan Enaruna finished with 18 points. They combined to shoot 16-for-27 to win the game.

The Vikings (16-11, 11-5 HL) kept itself within striking distance of the top seed which is something nearly no one expected after losing Dennis Gates. Daniyal Robinson has continued that tough mentality that Gates had and kept the momentum. CSU will be one of those teams that could keep YSU from getting to the NCAA tournament for the first time.

LOOKING AHEAD

With four games left on the schedule, the Penguins have two home games on Feb. 16 against Milwaukee and Feb. 18 against Green Bay. After that, it finishes with road games at Robert Morris on Feb. 21 and at IUPUI on Feb. 25.

Realistically, the Penguins have one truly tough remaining which is its game against Milwaukee. Back on Jan. 21 in Milwaukee, the Penguins dropped the game, 88-75. The Penguins got worked in many different directions but shared a similar experience to the last two games it has played. This team couldn’t hit threes in that Jan. 21 contest and will need to do so in order to take control of this conference.

In that game, BJ Freeman went off for 30 points on 12-of-20 shooting. He hit five three-pointers as his Panthers shot 12-of-25 from three.

The Panthers (18-8, 12-4 HL) are currently the leaders of the conference, by head-to-head victory. The Penguins can not only split the season series but can take full control of the conference with a 13th win followed by what should be three easy wins over Green Bay, Robert Morris and IUPUI.

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