Youngstown State’s first-ever Division I postseason tournament game was physical, emotional, high-scoring, and full of thrills. In the end, the Penguins rode 18 three-pointers to advance in the CIT Tournament over a good Oakland team, winning this one, 99-87.
“I didn’t think we would have to get 99 to win” said Coach Jerry Slocum. ” The difference was at around the twelve minute mark of the second half, both teams had converted about four possessions in a row. At the timeout, I told our guys that we needed to make some stops. We got four stops and converted our offensive chances and the lead went from two points to eight.”
Oakland entered the game making its fifth postseason tournament finishing in the CIT Final Four in 2012. Travis Bader scored 700 points during the regular season and averaged 21.9 ppg. Bader lived up to his billing as he knocked down 30 points for the Golden Grizzlies.
“It’s disappointing for the season to end this way”, said Bader. ”We wanted better for the seniors and all we can do is take what we learned this season to get better next year.”
In the first half, a track meet broke out and both teams were scoring. Oakland took a 44-43 led into the intermission off of 16 points from Corey Petros and ten from Bader. The Penguins Blake Allen (below) knocked down six first half threes for 18 points to lead YSU.
In the second half, Kendrick Perry blew up. Perry had ten points in the first half, but really ignited the Beeghly Center crowd with 11:11 left to play. Allen started a break on the Oakland end of the court. As he entered the circle, he lobbed a ball for what appeared to be an alley-oop to Perry. The pass was a little high, but Perry caught the ball, almost at the top of the square, with his right hand and pushed it down to give YSU a 66-60 lead.
Allen reached the vaunted 1,000 point milestone on a free throw that would put the Penguins up by 6 points. Allen became the third active Penguin, joining Perry and Damian Eargle. Allen is the 35th Penguin to accomplish that fete.
“We knew he was close”, said Slocum. ”It was one of the many reasons we wanted to play this game. He is what is good in this business and we wanted he and Damian to play as much as they could. I am really happy for him.”
Perry would then start connecting with threes. More impressively, this was the farthest into a game this season that YSU would make every free throw that they attempted. Bobby Hain connected on an and-one with 8:25 left. With his made free throw, YSU was a perfect 10-10 from the line.
With YSU ahead 76-69, Shawn Amiker drove and converted to push the Penguin lead to 78-70 with just over seven minutes to play.
Oakland went to full-court pressure, but the patient Penguins advanced the ball through the pressure, got into their offense, and got a dunk from Eargle to go up 81-75 with 5:32 left to play.
Perry went back to work as he drew a foul on Bader and converted both free throws to put YSU up 86-77. The crowd was really riding Bader most of the second half.
Oakland would not quit. Derek Mondy broke out of a pack to draw a foul on a contested layup. Mondy missed the shot but would go to the free throw line. He would hit one of two charity tosses to make it 86-80 with just under three minutes to play.
Perry pushed the Penguins back out by nine with another three, and then Eargle hit a free throw to make it 90-80 with 2:54 to play.
Bader hit a pair of free throws with 1:21 left to cut the lead to 95-87. The Penguins would convert free throws down the stretch to maintain the margin and ice the game.
Perry finished the game with 30, Allen contributed 27, and Belin knocked down 16. With the win, YSU had their first 18-win season since the 2000-01 season. They are also 1-0 in Division I postseason games now.
Where they go next is still in the air – the way the tournament works there are more first round games on Wednesday night. The winning teams will all be reshuffled to see who plays who based on who wants to pay to host the game.
To host a first round game, the Penguins had to cough up $35,000.00. Slocum remarked after the game that he was humbled by the financial support provided to the university by the local businesses.
“There was no financial burden on the university due to the generosity of several local businesses”, commented Slocum. ”It is amazing that those businesses and boosters would come up with that kind of money for this to take place. I am deeply touched by their gratitude.”
The Youngstown State women’s basketball team will play host to Indiana State at Beeghly Center on Thursday in the first round of the 2013 Women’s National Invitational Tournament. The bracket was released Monday at 11 p.m.
Tickets for the game will go on sale on Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Athletics Ticket Office in Stambaugh Stadium. Reserved tickets will be $10, and general admission tickets will be $7. YSU students will be admitted for free with a valid and current ID. Season ticket holders will have until 5 p.m. on Wednesday to purchase tickets before their seats are released.
YSU will enter the WNIT with a record of 22-9 and looking to rebound from its 72-45 loss to Loyola in the semifinals of the Horizon League Tournament. The Penguins have not played in a postseason tournament since making the NCAA Tournament in 1999-2000, and they will be in the WNIT for the first time in school history. YSU earned the Horizon League’s automatic berth into the WNIT by finishing second in the regular season standings and fellow conference member Green Bay making the NCAA Tournament.
Indiana State will come to Beeghly Center with an 18-12 overall record and a 10-8 mark in Missouri Valley Conference play. The Sycamores have lost three of their last four contests, two of which came to Northern Iowa. Indiana State holds opponents to 55.3 points per game, which ranked second in the MVC. The Sycamores and Penguins played two common opponents during the regular season. Indiana State lost 71-67 to IUPUI, a team YSU beat 58-57. The Sycamores beat UIC 64-33, and YSU topped the Flames twice.
Damian Eargle is unique in so many ways. He will leave a legacy of statistics behind, including becoming the all-time leader in blocked shots in Horizon League history. More than that, Eargle will leave a hollow void in the charisma of Youngstown State Athletics. It is refreshing to watch a student athlete truly enjoy what he is doing on the court. His friendly demeanor is not a gimmick either because his personality has been top shelf since he came back home to play basketball at Youngstown State.
Paneech: You might be the happiest Division I basketball player ever. Does Coach Slocum ever give you an earful for smiling in games or practices?
Eargle: All the time. I try to stay positive and would like to think I made coach happy with my smile. It definitely gets me into some trouble, but not that much. I’m smiling because I love playing basketball, I love the game. You will not always get calls, especially when you start complaining, so I always try to be friendly with the officials.
Paneech: What about when coach stomps his feet and goes on a tirade with an official at a game, how hard is it for you not to smile and be yourself?
Eargle: (laughs) I get busted all the time…. all the time. Coach Slocum seems to have gotten used to it, and it is not really that big of a deal anymore. He knows that the smile is a genuine reflection of my personality. The whole coaching staff is used to it. When we are having a bad day at practice, I do my best to cheer everyone up.
Paneech: On a more serious note, six young people from your hometown of Warren recently tragically passed away in an automobile accident. Did you have any ties to the victims or know any of the families?
Eargle: I did not know any of the victims. Warren is a small community with a family setting. Our hearts go out to all of them. You probably hear a lot of bad things about Warren, but the citizens of that community are surely going to support those families.
Paneech: To be the all-time leader in any Horizon League category must be an honor. Does it enhance your value to get to the next level?
Eargle: It was an honor to break both the Horizon League career record and the Horizon League Tournament record for blocks. It is a good thing to have on your resume. I believe it may give me an opportunity to play at the next level.
Paneech: Is there any one blocked shot that you had that may be your best ever?
Eargle: It would have to be when I blocked Stephen Curry my freshman year. He threw up a floater and I came out of nowhere to get it. I was headhunting because I wanted to get him so bad. It felt so good even though he ended up with like 33 points in that game.
Paneech: You have had to adapt and learn to play with a protective mask (below) on your face in the last few weeks. What is different?
Eargle: It gets sweaty under there and sometimes the sweat gets into my eyes. I also sometimes have a hard time looking up. On the positive side, it helps me be more aggressive, I am more open to contact because it does protect. It was hard at first, but I have gotten used to it. Since I started wearing it, my shooting percentage and rebounds have gone up, and I don’t know why. When I feel comfortable enough, I will take it off. I will never know when, but someday it will stay off.
Paneech: How big of a deal is it that YSU has finally earned the right to play in a postseason tournament?
Eargle: It is huge for the program. It is the first time in the history of YSU that a men’s basketball team will be playing in a postseason tournament. We are excited about it and even though we sacrificed our entire Spring Break to practice, we all welcome that trade, to play in that tournament. I probably would have been sitting in my room or chilling at home, so I am much happier playing basketball.
Paneech: Who is your favorite NBA player and why?
Eargle: Penny Hardaway was my favorite player ever. He was a 6’6″ guard and that is what made me want to dribble. He and Shaq were my idols back in the day when they played for the Orlando Magic. I remember the commercials with Little Penny, stuff like that made me admire him. He was an amazing player and I wish he was still playing.
Paneech: I have watched you shoot free throws in practice and you make 19 of 20. Then you get to a game and you miss one, does it screw your head up?
Eargle: It has a snowball effect, I’m telling you! I can hit them regularly in practice. Today, I think I hit 30 of 35. It just gets mental. I do practice them and they really are mental. You can hit a pair and it gets easier, but when you miss that first one you think, ‘man, what am I doing wrong here?’
Paneech: I love Coach Slocum’s emotional prowess, but from where I sit at home games I see two things when you shoot a free throw – you at the line and him in the same line of sight, staring at the floor unable to watch.
Eargle: I can’t look that way when I am at the line. I think the assistant coaches tell him what happens. If I look that way, I might just miss, so I don’t even go there.
Paneech: I respect the direction that Coach Slocum has this program going. In any way, do you feel that maybe with the all-time leader in conference history in blocked shots, the all-time school leader in threes with Blake, and a first team offensive / defensive selection with KP that this team underachieved this year?
Eargle: We wanted to do better, but we did take a big step up and doing things never before done here at YSU. We made some history, and we are comfortable with where we are at right now.
One Word Answers
Favorite Cereal: Trix
Fast Food: Pizza Hut. I get a P-Zone and a chicken alfredo family sized side and Mountain Dew.
Favorite Drink After Practice: Water
Alternate Sport You Would Play: Football, Tight End
Favorite TV Show: Breaking Bad and Walking Dead
Song On ipod No One Would Expect: Work To Do – Average White Band
Who Wins NCAA Tournament? This year it is so random that I wouldn’t be surprised if Valpo won. I will say Syracuse.
What Happens Next? Camps, If not the NBA, Overseas. If not overseas, I will work at a corrections facility in Elkton. My college experience has taught me a lot about networking, it isn’t always what you know, but rather who you know. I toured prisons, I’m fine with it. I have tough skin.
Tough skin well hidden by a big smile. Thanks Damian for your accomplishments at Youngstown State. Many people are glad you came home to play.
The standing-room only crowd at the Saxon Club was treated to a tremendous night of amateur boxing. Jack Loew deserves a lot of credit for assembling such a great array of talent from all over the State of Ohio.
The main event featured a rematch between Popo Salinas and Jeremy Abrams. Salinas, the crowned jewel of Loew’s fortified stable, had a rough one. Abrams showed up as tough as Loew advertised him to be. The two fighters exchanged solid blows in the first round.
In the second round, Abrams floored Salinas with a clean shot after taking some of Popo’s best shots. Salinas got up and the bell rung seconds later.
In the final round, Salinas couldn’t make up the difference and Abrams earned a hard-fought decision.
131 Marty Adams Decision Over Isaiah Archie
61 Tyshawn Dension Decision Over Chris Daniels
109 Carlos Figuoria TKO Terrance Graves (2nd)
87 Devion Daniels Decision Over Island Archie
151 Dominic Rogers TKO Dale Harrison (2nd, Retired)
123 Killion Santiago Decision Over Colton Elzer
160 K’Marr Cooper Decision Over Jack Trickett
189 Steve Spinelli Decision Over Brian Meyer
190 Demarkus Minter KO Octavius Webb (2)
158 Dwayne Rosebury Decision Over Lavelle Hadley
153 David Rodriguez Decision Over Ronnie Hamayle
Vic Toney (above, left), of the South Side Boxing Club, and Jose Rodriguez of Akron had a war at the 165-pound weight class. Rodriguez’ father called Jack Loew asking for a rematch of Toney from last year feeling his son was slighted on the decision. After this battle, Loew’s phone won’t be ringing with that demand again for awhile. Toney looked like Sugar Ray Leonard dodging the punches thrown by Rodriguez. He also landed quite a few of his own in picking up an impressive win.
Recently named Horizon League Player of The Year for the Horizon League Coach of The year, Brandi Brown put on a clinic. Brown had 20 points at half and ended the game with 31, in leading Bob Boldon‘s YSU Lady Penguins to a first-round 69-62 victory over Cleveland State, but it wasn’t easy.
Playing as a #2 seed and coming off of their best season in 15 years, the Penguins were ahead for most of the game. Cleveland State, who only lost two games to the Penguins by a combined total of 13 points played their hearts out, but Brown and her teammates proved to be destined for bigger things in the victory.
The Penguins established a 37-31 lead after the first twenty minutes of play. Brown had four three pointers in the opening half, seemingly stealing the momentum right out of the Cleveland State team.
Shar’Rae Davis chipped in nine in the first half. Davis was doing an outstanding job of penetrating and drawing fouls while getting her shots to fall.
YSU coaching royalty, Ed DiGregorio, was honored at the half in front of a decent crowd. DiGregorio was surrounded with some of his best players from over the years. YSU Athletic Director, Ron Strollo and the former players surrounded DiGregorio for a jersey presentation (above). He finished his coaching career with 319 victories.
“I wish I could have been out there at halftime”, said Boldon. ”My players probably wish I was out there at halftime too. He set a standard here for women’s basketball. He put it on the map and it was nice to see him honored in such a nice atmosphere.”
When play resumed, the Penguins maintained their 7-10 point lead throughout the second half. The YSU defense pressured the Vikings offense into 13 first half turnovers, a trend that would continue into the second.
With 6:25 remaining in the game, Karen Flagg made a nice spin move in the paint to increase the YSU lead to 52-43. Flagg would twist her ankle and exit.
On the next possession, Brown drove, made a bucket, and got fouled. The old-fashioned three-point play made it 55-43. Brown then nabbed a rebound and started the play the other where where Davis hit a bucket and got fouled. Davis nailed the charity toss to increase the lead to 58-43 with just over five to play.
Cleveland State was able to cut the lead to four but would get no closer.
“We are anxious to find out who we play next”, said Brown. ”As long as we focus on what we do we can win.”
The Penguins (22-8) will face the winner of the Loyola vs Milwaukee game. Ultimately, YSU could be headed for a third shot at the Horizon League’s darling, Green Bay. The Penguins lost both regular season meetings to Green Bay and will have their hands full against the only undefeated team in the Horizon League. They would have to win one more game before that chance would occur.
The win against Cleveland State also serves as a measure of small revenge. The Vikings eliminated YSU from last year’s conference tournament. The win also marks YSU’s first postseason victory since the 2007-08 season.
Besides the Player of The Year type effort put forth by Brown who also had 13 rebounds, the Penguins got 18 points from Davis and eight more from Flagg, who eventually returned after the ankle scare.
“This ranks up there with with the accolades I have gotten this week”, said Brown.
This was obviously a nice thing because the whole team wins. This ranks pretty high up there. It is nice to not have to play in the first round Monday game, which we have every other year since I got here.”
Cleveland State got 19 from Shalonda Winton, 16 more from Cori Coleman, and Honesty King scored 11.
Call Jack Loew grandma. Loew has been preparing Alejandro “Popo” Salinas for bigger things for years. There is no hurry, Salinas is still in high school, still fighting as an amateur, and like grandma’s sauce, is getting the right seasoning to be perfect when it is ready.
Salinas will headline Loew’s annual Southside Boxing Club show at the Saxon Club this Saturday as he faces Cleveland’s Jeremy Abrams in the 132-pound main event. Salinas and Abrams have faced each other before with Salinas garnering a three round decision. That fight took place in Cleveland in a higher-level tournament.
“We picked Abrams to fight Popo because he poses a good threat as a boxer”, said Loew. ”He is very composed and well-rounded and I want to see how Popo reacts to someone that can box with the skill set that Abrams has. If he chooses to bang with Popo it could be a long night, but we feel he will box and force Popo to work. It should be a great fight.”
About this time next year, Loew said Salinas might be making a move to go professional with one thing that may delay the process.
“If the US Olympic team wants to taste the sauce that I have been preparing, we may let them have some”, joked Loew in reference to my grandma - sauce analogy.
“In all likelihood, he will go fight in the Cleveland Golden Gloves Tournament, and if he wins there, he will advance to the National Golden Gloves. There are other events he will participate in such as the PAL and Ringside National Tournament before we will make a decision about his future.”
Loew has four fighters from Hubbard on the card. Brothers Chris Danials (63 pounds) and Devion Danials (84 pounds) will be in action. Jack Trickett, a YSU freshman who played soccer in Hubbard, will face K’Marr Cooper in a 164-pound clash.
“Trickett is a great athlete”, commented Loew. ”He has those big soccer legs and is training hard.”
In his boxing debut, Dale Harrison, the fourth Hubbard Eagle on the card, will face Dominic Rogers of Cleveland in a 153-pound clash.
Lavelle Hadley and Vic Toney, two more of Loew’s fighters will face tough challenges on the card. Hadley is facing Dwayne Rosebury and trying to find his way in the open division, a higher skill level for amateur boxing. Toney, meanwhile will face Jose Rodriguez. Toney only fought three novice bouts before Loew decided to press him into the open category. Rodriguez has about 80 fights in the open division.
“Those two [Toney and Rodriguez] fought already with Toney winning a close decision”, remarked Loew. ”I got a call from Rodriguez’ father asking for a rematch which is all Vic had to hear. It will be another solid fight.”
Willie Nelson, a winner on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights will be in attendance with his belt. Nelson is looking at a June 1 HBO contest against a yet-to-be-determined opponent as he continues his escalation in the junior middleweight division.
Proceeds of the card help offset expense of the Southside Boxing Club for equipment, trip planning, and as Loew joked, ‘that damn six-hundred dollar gas bill I get every month’.
The doors of the Saxon Club open at 6 with the first bell to ring at 7:30. General admission tickets are $15, ringside tables for eight can be purchased for $300 and half tables will also be offered. Contact Loew at 330-501-5713 to purchase tickets.
The last time that Youngstown State University won a game in the State of Indiana was in January of 2001. That is multiple consecutive losses to Butler, Valpo, the Pacers, heck, anyone who would let them play. All told, it had been 28 games since the Penguins pulled out a “W” in the Hoosier State.
On Friday, the streak was extended to 29, as YSU mounted a furious rally but never got all the way back in falling to Wright State, 66-59. “We battled back, but couldn’t finish”, said Jerry Slocum. ”I thought we outplayed them in the second half, and I think they outplayed us in the first.
“We had enough stops down the stretch but missed a couple of open threes and a layup, and you just can’t win when you do not convert those chances.”
Youngstown State raced out to a 7-2 lead, but found themselves trailing 19-12 with 8:05 left to play in the first half. Kendrick Perry entered the contest with 12:29 left in the half, but had little effect on the game, as he retook a seat with 8:05 left to play. He would reenter the game again before half.
The Penguins found themselves digging a big hole early as they trailed 21-12 with 6:47 left. To this point in the game, 27.8% from the field, and a couple of shot clock violations were not helping.
Reggie Arceneaux and Miles Dixon combined for more points (15) at this point of the game than YSU had for a total (14). Consequently, at the half, Wright State had a commanding 33-19 lead.
In the second half, YSU tried to make a game of it. After fouling JT Yoho on a successful Raiders three-pointer and made free throw, Perry nailed a three, got a defensive rebound, and then hit a free throw to bring it back to ten at 43-33 with 13:59 to play.
Damian Eargle did all he could on defense (above). His 302nd career block, most all-time in the Horizon League, set a record for having nine blocks in two games, a tournament record.
Bobby Hain cut the Wright State lead to six on an old-fashioned three-point play. The Hain points made it 52-46, but Arceneaux nailed another three to push the lead back to nine.
Eargle hit a free throw with 3:36 left to cut the Wright State lead to 56-53. YSU had come almost all the way back. Arceneaux, again, sucked the momentum out of the Penguins with another three to boost the lead back to six.
With 49.8, Perry was fouled. He hit the second free throw to make it 61-57, and the Penguins used a full timeout. Off of the timeout, Wright State started pecking from the free throw line and YSU could get no closer.
YSU’s season was a success. The seventeen wins completed a string of two consecutive sixteen-plus win seasons for Slocum. Few teams would have been able to withstand the adversity that this group did down the stretch.
Friday’s tournament game was really the first time the ‘Guins saw Eargle and Perry on the floor at the same time.
“I don’t feel like we had a timing issue”, said Eargle. ”Me and KP have been playing together for three years and I don’t think it was timing at all.”
Belin notched 20 points and Eargle added 13 points to go with his six rebounds and two blocks. Perry, who seemed ineffective in the first half, got his rhythm and finished with eleven points.
Wright State extended the season nobody expected them to have with the win and will face Detroit on Saturday.
“Give credit to Youngstown State”, said Raiders Coach, Billy Donnan. ”We feel fortunate to come away with this win and we will have our hands full with Detroit tomorrow.”
Youngstown State got a shot in the arm in their second round Horizon League matchup with Wright State. Kendrick Perry, who missed four consecutive games with a knee injury was dressed.
Perry, who Coach Jerry Slocum vowed, would not be used “if he was less than 100%” did not start the game for the Penguins.
It should be noted, however, that Perry did fully participate in warmups even throwing down a couple of dunks to warrant some playing time.
The First-Team All-Conference junior entered the game for the first time at the 12:29 mark of the first half, with YSU holding a 11-10 lead.
How long and at what pace can Perry perform at after such a long layoff?
With Youngstown State University winning their first-round Horizon League Tournament game at home, the tricky situation of getting to Valparaiso for the second round comes up. Dealing with all of the hurdles makes it a challenge, but the end result is always satisfying, more so if the Penguins could win.
The first challenge to face begins after YSU wins in the first round. Without Kendrick Perry, and coming off of their worst performance of the season at Wright State, the Penguins were able to muster a 62-60 win at home in their first-round challenge. This automatically placed YSU into a second-round game at Valparaiso on Friday.
Because I am not financially able to do this website full-time, I was at the mercy of the boss at my regular place of employment to allow me a Friday-for-Sunday swap of my work schedule. The paper pile on my desk would have been an early indicator that the answer might have been a resounding ‘no’, but my compassionate employer was very cooperative in my proposed switch and agreed that I could maneuver the schedule for the rare occasion.
Once the hurdle was cleared, I started calling around to see who was headed West. YSU Sports Information Director, Trevor Parks, said he would be making the trip Friday morning.
Thursday was action packed. Because I set up at baseball card shows on weekends, I had been awaiting the release of 2013 Topps Heritage Baseball. As good luck would have it, my wholesaler called me at 3 p.m. on Thursday to let me know that it had come in.
Problem: The wholesaler is in Cleveland and I wanted to work late to show my boss that I was appreciative of his unselfish permission to jockey my schedule, but I had to get to Cleveland. So at 6 (normal quitting time is 4:30), I called it a day and headed toward the lake to get my supply.
I got home around 8:30 with a new group of choices. I had a case of these unopened cards, an empty suitcase, and hadn’t eaten all day. I figured I have probably eaten enough in the last 45 years to skip dinner and got into the baseball cards. When I looked at the clock, it was 12:45 a.m. and I still had the empty suitcase.
I scrambled into suitcase packing mode and realized I had some ironing to do. Finally, at about 3, I got some sleep.
Trevor and Ron Stevens, who photographs everything at YSU with pride, met up with me at 8 a.m. and we started the voyage of hope, a chance to see the Penguins lay their season on the line in hopes of getting to the big dance for the first time in school history.
On a trip fueled with coffee, friendship, and good conversation, the five-and-a-half hour drive (357 miles) went pretty quick.
Hopefully the return trip will be celebratory and the Mahoning Valley can look toward unchartered destinations for Jerry Slocum’s Penguins.
D. J. Cole has seen his role expand greatly over the season. Cole and his mates faced a tough task of playing without Kendrick Perry. The Penguins rode Cole down the stretch, resulting in a game-winning bucket that gave YSU a 62-60 opening round Horizon League Tournament victory.
The win was the 17th of the season for YSU. That was the first time a Penguins team has collected 17 wins in a season since 2001.
“I’m really proud of our guys”, said Jerry Slocum. ”Coming off of our worst effort of the year against Wright State, this was a tremendous game of character. I thought it was Damain’s [Eargle] most solid performance of the year.”
YSU did the most they could with what they had to work with. In the first half, the Penguins bench was outscored 10-0, but the real story was the poor handling of the ball. YSU only had five turnovers on the stat sheet, but several times the offense was disrupted by a dropped ball, forcing the offense to reset with little time on the shot clock.
YSU got eight first half points from Kamren Belin, and seven from senior Blake Allen. Loyola’s Christian Thomas poured in 12 points to lead the way. Second team All-Horizon pick Ben Averkamp was minimized, only notching eight. Averkamp has had big games against the Penguins here at the Beeghly Center in his career.
The Penguins held as big as an eight point lead in the first half, but eventually fell into a 29-29 tie at the intermission.
The absence of Kendrick Perry (above) was obvious. The Penguins missed the junior in perimeter defense and. of course, lacked that ‘spark’ on offense that Perry has provided the last two seasons. Granted, Shawn Amiker played good quality minutes, maybe his best game of the season, but the chemistry goes awry when your go-to guy is watching.
“We thought Kendrick was getting better”, said Slocum. ”He is not going to play at 80%, I assure you of that. He has tried to practice and is favoring the injury and I am just not going to take that chance. He better really be ready.”
The Ramblers jumped out to a 40-34 lead in the second half. At the 12:08 mark, Amiker was the recipient of a nice pass from Eargle. On the next possession, D. J. Cole drove through Loyola defenders to kiss a soft shot off of the glass for a deuce that tied the game at 43 apiece. Cole would again drive to the hoop and convert, this time giving the Penguins a 45-43 lead with 10:58 left to play.
Baskets by Allen and Belin found YSU ahead 50-45 with 7:42 left to play in the game.
Allen buried a three from the corner with 5:52 left to play to give the Penguins an eight point lead. With 3:22 left in the game, the Penguins again coughed away the big lead once again finding themselves ahead only by 3, at 59-56. With 56.9 seconds left, Averkamp spotted up for a three. Eargle stepped up to challenge the shot, to which Averkamp drew contact and got to shoot three free throws. Averkamp sunk two of the three and YSU held a one point lead.
With 24.1 seconds left, Allen penetrated and hit Amiker, who was fouled. Amiker hit one of his two free throws to make it 60-58 in favor of YSU.
Devon Turk drew contact on a drive with 12.7 seconds left. Turk buried both to tie the game. YSU inbounded and Cole saw daylight and went for it nailing the game winner.
“On a play like that, it goes from my mouth to their ears to their feet”. said Slocum. ”Spmetimes the plays are not executed when you go through all of that, but we did it.”
YSU strived for consistency throughout this game. There were flashes of brilliance and moments of mutiny strung together over the 40 minutes of basketball played, really by both teams.
The Penguins got 15 points from Allen, 15 more from Belin, 10 from Eargle, and a sneaky 13 from Cole. Eargle had 7 blocked shots to go with 8 rebounds. The seven blocked shots were one shy of a Horizon League Tournament game record. Amiker played very well, contributing 9 points and grabbing 9 boards.
“Shawn gives us energy”, commented Slocum. ”He gives us some size at the three spot that you normally would not get when playing three guards.”
Loyola got 16 from Thomas, and Jordan Hicks scored 12. Averkamp managed 14, but credit the Penguins for keeping him out of the picture with stingy low-post defense.
The Penguins head to Valparaiso to face the #3 seed, Wright State on Thursday.