Butler comes to town once a year, like Santa Clause. Youngstown State fans may like Christmas, but this whole Butler thing was turning into a major headache. The Penguins were not intimidated by history or record and found a way to claw back from an eight-point deficit to put up a dramatic 62-60 win over Butler.
In the first half, Youngstown State did all they could to keep the Bulldog offense to a minimum. In fact, the Penguins held a first half lead behind a ten-point effort from Damian Eargle. Butler got nine points in the opening half from Andrew Smith and six from Shelvin Mack, but Youngstown State went into the locker room with a 25-22 lead.
In the second half, YSU came out and immediately hit a pair of three-point shots to open the lead to 31-22, their biggest lead. Butler nipped away at the margin, but YSU again built the lead to nine with just over 17 minutes remaining. At that point, Hahn and Mack started making just about anything they were throwing up from long distance. An alternation of the two Bulldog shooters produced a 57-52 lead with 4:04 left in the game.
YSU showed life and heart clawing their way back from eight down, capped off when Kendrick Perry hit a big three with 20.9 seconds to go in the game giving YSU a 62-60 lead and driving the crowd of about 3,000 into a mad frenzy. Eargle was fouled on an inbound with 6.1 seconds left but neither team was in the bonus. Youngstown State inbounded again and fouled Blake Allen with 2.2 seconds left, allowing the Penguins to have a chance to win this game from the free throw line. Allen missed the front end of the one-and-one, but Butler threw the rebound away. Ashen Ward was fouled with 1.6 seconds left in the game and Ward had the chance to ice the game for the upset. Ward could not connect, but Butler could not get off a quality shot.
Butler lost their third in a row and fell to 14-9 and 6-5 in the Horizon League. The Bulldogs got 18 points from Mack and 12 from Matt Howard (above). The Bulldogs lost valuable ground to Cleveland State in the chase for the Horizon League title.
Youngstown State got a big game from Eargle who finished with 16 points and nine rebounds. K Perry ended up with 14, and Allen had 11. Also to be noted, Ashen Ward’s nine points were clutch. The Penguins improved to 8-14 and 2-10 in the league.
Coach Jerry Slocum commented on Eargle’s performance. ”All of the guys played great and really showed heart. Damian [Eargle] had a tremendous game. He guarded both of their big guys and really showed progress from the beginning of the year when he was getting thrown around.”
“I am so proud and happy for our kids. We have been in close games all year and in this one we showed some toughness and didn’t buckle. Butler is the prominent team in this league and they have great talent and a great coach. It’s one of our biggest wins since I have been here and I really couldn’t be prouder”, remarked Slocum after the upset win.
YSU hosts Valparaiso on Saturday at 7:05.