After what can only be considered two completely different games over the last week, Youngstown State University men’s basketball looks ahead to a continually tough road to the No. 1 seed.
With the No. 1 seed and Horizon League regular season still well within reach, the Penguins fell short of a perfect week in the state of Michigan.
Coming up short against Oakland
The game on Jan. 17 at the Athletics Center O’rena in Rochester, Mich. against Oakland University was the game YSU needed the most on this short road trip.
Coming into this game, YSU stood at 5-2 in Horizon League play with losses to Oakland at home on Dec. 31, 88-81, and on the road at Northern Kentucky University, 79-76. It was imperative that the Penguins (14-6, 6-3 HL) get a win, and split the season series with the Golden Grizzlies (12-8, 7-2 HL).
It started out as good as you could imagine in that quest to split the regular season series. YSU jumped out to a 13-0 lead before Oakland mustered a point. The O’rena is as tough a place to win for the Penguins as any in the many years past. A big lead would seem to be a huge deal but unfortunately it didn’t last.
A 6-0 run settled the down for the Golden Grizzlies and got it within seven with 11 minutes remaining in the first half. An 8-0 ending with four minutes left kept the game close as the Penguins took a slim lead into halftime, 31-28.
It stayed a close game all the way through but the lead changed hands at the 12:27 mark on a three-pointer by DQ Cole that gave Oakland the lead. It was never given back as the Penguins were not able to string enough buckets together to regain the lead.
It was three-point shooting that let the Penguins down shooting 8-for-31 (25.8%) while only hitting seven of 13 free throws including two with under three minutes in the game.
Ziggy Reid’s 17 points along with DJ Burns’ double-double of 12 points & 15 rebounds weren’t enough in the 70-67 loss. That has now put the Penguins behind the eight-ball for winning the regular season title.
Fortunately, the second leg of the Michigan trip comes with a game at Calihan Hall in Detroit.
It seemed that the Penguins had a bit of a hangover from its loss to Oakland as it came out very flat against the University of Detroit Mercy.
The Titans (0-20, 0-9 HL) got out to a 5-0 lead. The lead would change hands a few times with YSU not getting up by more than seven with just 5:36 left in the first half. Unfortunately for UDM, there isn’t nearly as much to speak of as the Penguins finished the half on a 23-13 run that gave it a 55-38 lead.
YSU shot the ball very well from three all game but especially in that first half hitting nine on just 15 attempts.
A 12-4 run to start the second half took whatever wind was left out of the Titans’ sails as YSU cruised to a 105-64 win. It became the worst loss in UDM history at Calihan Hall.
Reid had 22 while Burns had another double 11 points and 13 rebounds. Marcus Tankersley 23 points for Detroit weren’t nearly enough in the loss. YSU outdid UDM in nearly every statistical way in the win.
First up this upcoming week, the Penguins finish its road trip with a game at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis on Jan. 25. In the first matchup at the Beeghly Center, the Penguins took care of business with a 75-65 win. It was a 20-point performance from Brett Thompson that led the way while Bryson Langdon’s eight assists kept the Penguins offense moving. John Lovelace Jr. had 13 points off the bench for YSU.
Vincent Brady II had 18 in the loss for IUPUI.
Youngstown State will need to use the same strategy to keep the Jaguars from beating them. YSU forced 28 turnovers and scored 33 points off of them. IUPUI had a 45-33 advantage in rebounds but the Penguins scored 20 points in transition to IUPUI’s 10 effectively negating the rebounding advantage.
One of YSU’s three HL losses came at the hands of the Norsemen (11-9, 6-3 HL) on the road, 79-76.
Besides the fact that Marques Warrick was nearly unstoppable with 29 points on 9-of-16 shooting, the Penguins made many small mistakes that added up to a loss.
YSU had 15 turnovers that turned into 11 NKU points while the Norse only turned over the ball seven times for five YSU points. Beyond that, NKU scored 14 second chance points to YSU’s seven.
YSU will see NKU at home on Jan. 28.
Unfortunately, the same theme has been true in every loss the Penguins have had in HL play. It gets a lead and eventually something happens that has YSU giving up the lead and never being able to keep a lead that it had earlier had. If Youngstown State can avoid that moving forward, it still has a big chance to win the regular season title.