Youngstown State University, in the midst of a five game homestand, needed to make a statement. Perhaps their biggest exclamation point, Damian Eargle, would not be a part of it. Coach Jerry Slocum got big nights out just about everybody and his Penguins rolled over Milwaukee, 94-80, to improve to 15-11, and 7-6 in Horizon League play.
This was not a typical YSU basketball game. With no Eargle, there was plenty of Fletcher Larson, Josh Chojnacki, and Bobby Hain – and they all contributed. Perhaps the brightest star of the night for YSU was D. J. Cole. Slocum has referred to Cole as the ‘silent leader‘ of his team this season. Cole had his best games of the season pouring in 18 points
YSU took steps throughout the first half in their life after Eargle adaptation. The Penguins got 15 first half points from Blake Allen who connected on three long-range bombs, but more impressively, showed he can take the ball to the hole a few times. Kendrick Perry chipped in 14 first half points for the home team. Milwaukee got 11 points out of Aaron Jordan, but trailed the Penguins, 48-36.
The Penguins exploded to a 20-point second half lead with just over 13 minutes to play. Cole hit a couple of threes and the balanced scoring of the rest of the Penguins paced the solid effort.
“It’s about moving the ball around”, said Cole. “We got a lot of good shots because we were throwing the extra passes and finding the open guy.”
With 11:27 left, Kamren Belin was fouled and hit one of his two free throws to put the Penguins ahead 72-53. It should be noted that Belin had a lot of support from family and friends who made the trip from Georgia and Connecticut. It was nice to see him have a decent game with so many in attendance.
Perhaps the best indicator that you are having a good night is when Bobby Hain spots up for a long three and drills it like he leads the league in threes. On the very next possession, Belin forced Milwaukee to take a timeout when he nailed a three to make it 80-55.
“Just a great effort from our team tonight”, said Slocum. “We gave these guys two straight days off because of the tough stretch of games we had earlier. The rest did wonders for us, we came out fresh tonight and made good shots.”
The display of offense was a microcosm of how well the team performed without the top shot blocker in Horizon League history watching from the bench. One better, the performance was praiseworthy in justifying all of the times that Slocum has been maligned for not using the bench properly. Other than Allen and Perry, the role players all played a strong role and the bench never looked deeper in the win.
For the Penguins, Perry (above) spearheaded the offensive fireworks as he poured in 28 points and gathered 5 assists. Allen finished with 17, and Belin had a quiet 15 points. The Penguins face Green Bay on Sunday.
Eargle will not play Sunday and will be reevaluated next week.
Milwaukee (6-21, 2-11) got 17 out of Aaron. Paris Gulley also scored 18 for the Panthers, who are struggling this season.
“Milwaukee could be one of the best teams we will face all year”, declared Slocum. “They have a 7’2” center that is projected to be drafted 15th or 16th. They have a jet guard, and we really have to shoot the ball well to have a chance to win.