Fresh off the heels of a huge victory over Butler, the Youngstown State Penguins welcomed Valparaiso to town for their second monstrous challenge in three days. Having lost 11 in a row to the Crusaders and Valpo’s Homer Drew breathing down Jerry Slocum’s neck on the active coaches wins list, the Penguins pushed the Crusaders to overtime, but fell 86-78.
“”I am disappointed with 16 turnovers, 12 of them in the second half. There was a four minute stretch that we didn’t even take a shot and when you are playing the best teams in the league, we can’t afford things like that”, remarked Coach Slocum after the loss.
In the first half, Youngstown State jumped out to as large as a 12 point lead and was ahead 38-33 at intermission. Damian Eargle picked up a couple of quick fouls and only logged five minutes on the floor, but the Penguins were not needing many offensive rebounds in the half as they shot 53.8% from the floor and even shot over 85% from the free throw line, a recent sore spot. Kendrick Perry and Ashen Ward had eight points each in the half. Valpo got 11 from Brandon Wood and struggled from the charity stripe shooting 7-18 (38.9%) but stayed in the game thanks in part to an 18-10 rebounding edge.
In the second half, Valpo tied the game for the first time all night at 43 apiece with 15:06 left in the game. Eargle was fouled with 14:17 remaining and hit a pair of free throws to give YSU a 47-46 lead. Perry (above) hit a short runner in the paint with 12:49 left in the game to extend the Penguins lead to 52-47. YSU pushed the lead to 56-49 on a 20-foot Perry jumper on the baseline with 10:45 left. Vytas Sulskis nailed a three from the corner to push the Penguins lead to eight, and the home team smelled another upset brewing.
Valpo took a timeout with 9:01 remaining when DuShawn Brooks received a nice feed from Perry to push the lead back up into double digits at 63-53. However, Wood picked Perry’s pocket and went the length of the court for a layup to pull the Crusaders to 63-59 with 8:18 left. Eargle picked up a couple of cheap fouls in the span of a minute giving him four with 7:43 left in the game forcing Coach Slocum to sit the shot-blocking specialist.
With YSU ahead 66-65, Wood hit a three to give the Crusaders a two-point lead. Another Valpo bucket with 4:52 left in the game gave the Crusader their biggest lead of the night at 70-66. Sulskis hit one of two free throws with 2:54 left in the game to bring YSU to within two at 70-68. Dan Boudler was fouled with 1:30 left but could only hit one of two. Valpo had a 70-69 lead with 1:01 left in the game and the ball when Boudler blocked a shot and got YSU the ball back with 38.4 seconds left in the game.
YSU had chances in the last 38 seconds. Perry lost his dribble and fell, but the Penguins managed to tie the ball up to keep possession thanks to the arrow pointing toward the Youngstown State bench. With 11.3 seconds left in the game YSU got Sulskis a 1o-foot baseline jumper that spun around the rim but wouldn’t fall. Ryan Broekhoff was fouled and hit one of two to push the lead to 71-69 with 6 seconds left. Kendrick Perry got the inbound, dribbled the length of the floor and hit a 15-footer thanks to a friendly roll to force overtime.
In the extra five minute period, Youngstown State drew first blood when Ward connected on a clutch three to put YSU ahead 74-71 with 3:41 left. Cory Johnson hit a reverse layup to cut the YSU lead to 74-73. Sulskis (above) then drew a blocking foul to go to the line where he hit both charity tosses to increase the Penguin lead to three. Wood was fouled on a drive and got to the line for Valpo where he nailed one of two. Wit YSU ahead 76-74 with half of the overtime gone, Sulskis threw an errant pass and then fouled out trying to draw a charge.
Broekhoff hit a three to give Valpo a brief 78-76 lead and YSU responded with an Eargle basket to tie the game with 1:27 left in the contest. Johnson hit a short range shot off of the glass to put Valpo ahead 80-78. With 50.4 seconds left Broekhoff was fouled but missed both shots. YSU trailed 82-78 with 18 seconds left. Perry fired a three that missed the mark and Eargle picked up a quick foul to stop the clock, his fifth. Wood hit a pair of free throws to put Valpo up six to ice the game.
Youngstown State got 17 points and ten rebounds from Sulskis and 15 points from each Brooks and Perry. With the loss, Youngstown State dipped to 8-15 and 2-10 in the Horizon League.
A disappointed Vytas Sulskis commented on the crushing loss. ”They didn’t beat us tonight, we beat ourselves with turnovers. We played hard, but we have to get better and not give games away.”
Valpo got a great effort from Wood, who finished with 31 big points for the Crusaders who improved to 17-7, and 9-4 in the Horizon League. Broekhoff hit for 11 points and gathered 14 rebounds for the visiting team.