Youngstown State University Coach, Jerry Slocum, has said more than once that his Penguins needed to learn to be a better team at home. Against a quality team like Wright State, the Penguins delivered their best effort, which was plenty. The Penguins used a complete arsenal on the Raiders to claim a very satisfying 68-61 win on their home floor.
“This was a classic Horizon League game”, said Slocum. “I am happy that everyone who was here finally got to see what I have gotten to see on the road. It was not a perfect game and we did turn the ball over 18 times, but we played very tough.”
In the first half, YSU did a good job with fundamentals. The ‘Guins shot 75% from the line, saw balanced scoring, and did a really good job rotating on defense. In the entertaining first half, YSU had a lead as big as six at the 5:10 mark. Wright State kept bouncing back, however. When the smoke cleared, it was YSU that headed to the locker room with a 28-25 lead.
The thing to keep in mind about this Wright State team was that it shows tremendous balance. No starter for the Raiders averaged more than 11.4 points per game. This was a true “team” and a tough opponent who only lost once in six league games. Credit Slocum and staff for doing a good job keeping the defensive assignments straight.
With the Penguins ahead, 38-33, D.J. Cole hit a three from the left wing to give the Penguins their largest lead of the game at 41-33. After a Raider timeout, the Penguins went back to work and used a full shot clock as Cole found Blake Allen for an easy layup.
Cole Darling connected on a pair of free throws for Wright State with 11:49 left in the game to make it a 43-37 lead. The suddenly combustible Penguins then turned the ball over. Jerran Young hit one of the free throws to make it a five point game. Kamren Belin hit a big bucket to give the Penguins a more comfortable lead at 45-38.
Wright State had cut the lead to 46-42 with 6:40 left to go. Allen drilled a three from the top of the key to snuff out the Raider rally and put the Penguins up 49-42. Belin then connected on a pair of charity tosses to push the lead back to nine. Allen then drilled another three to extend the lead to 12, the largest of the game, with 4:39 left to play.
The Penguins got another solid effort from Damian Eargle. The all-time Horizon League leader for blocked shots added to his total with 5 stuffs. He also scored 18 points and gathered 6 rebounds.
“It was a tough game”, said Eargle. “They have no one player to stop and have a very good team, so you never now who could beat you. It was definitely hard to prepare.”
The Penguins (11-8, 3-3) got another good game out of Allen, who finished with 17 points, 15 coming in the second half. His buddy from Florida, Kendrick Perry, added 14 points. Belin had a nice game off of the bench and chipped in with ten.
Wright State got 18 points from Young. The Raiders fell to 5-2 in the conference and 14-6 overall.
The Penguins are at home for two more games against Cleveland State on Saturday and Valparaiso next Wednesday.
Slocum commented on the upcoming matchup against Cleveland State. “Obviously, that game has meaning. They will come in and play tough, and you know it may not be pretty, but it will be a fight.”