Posts Tagged ‘Shawn Amiker’
Youngstown State junior forward Shawn Amiker (Oak Park, Mich./Ferndale) has been named the Horizon League Men’s Basketball Player of the Week, while UIC guard Pat Birt (Plano, Texas/East) has been named the Freshman of the Week, for the week of Dec. 23-29. The award is the first for both Amiker and Birt.
Returning from the holiday break, Youngstown State (9-6) rolled in its final non-conference game, 85-59, over South Dakota. Amiker played just 18 minutes against South Dakota, but notched a career-high 20 points. Coming off the bench, Amiker went 8-of-9 from the floor while collecting a team-high seven rebounds.
Emerging as the Penguins’ sixth man, Amiker now has four games this year with 10 or more points off the bench and five total. The junior has posted consecutive double-digit scoring efforts for the second time this season after he scored 10 at St. John’s.
Before you get to read about who scored what, or how many blocks Damian Eargle had, or how many threes Blake Allen had, or what magic Kendrick Perry whipped up – a pat on the back goes to YSU Coach Jerry Slocum.
Three years ago when this Penguins program was bubbling under, Slocum’s head was called for by several. For him to have a second consecutive winning season – albeit minus his starting lineup for half of the season- says a lot about where the program has advanced to in three years.
Slocum and staff put yet another exclamation point on a fantastic season with a thrilling tournament run that ended to Canisius. The Golden Griffins overcame a 20-point second half deficit to overtake YSU and end their season, 84-82.
“This is a very disappointing loss”, said Slocum. “We didn’t take care of the ball and they got 15 points on the defensive side. It is not how we wanted this season to end.”
The Golden Griffins entered the game ranked third in the country for three-point field goals made per game at 9.2. The Penguins made 9 three-pointers in the first half. Credit Slocum for cutting the perimeter with a nifty zone which held the normally high-powered Canisius offense to 28 first half points.
In the first half, Allen and Eargle combined to score 12 of YSU’s first thirteen points. But the storyline of the first twenty minutes was YSU’s defense setting up the offense. The normally explosive Golden Griffins were more than just held in check. Canisius could only muster 15.4 % from three while the Penguins knocked down 9-16 long balls (56.4%) to take 45-28 led to intermission.
Allen, who poured in 27 points for YSU, led the quick start and finished the half with 16 points. Eargle, Perry, and Kamren Belin all added eight points each. Canisius got seven from Jordan Heath.
The second half started much like the first half ended. YSU was drilling threes and had a commanding 53-33 lead at the 18:02 mark. The twenty point lead turned into a two-point edge over the next seven minutes. Canisius used a 18-0 run to get right back into the game and the score was 53-51 with 11:08 remaining. D J Cole made a free throw to break the drought and Belin nailed a three with 9:37 to play and YSU ahead 57-54.
Canisius tied the game at 60 on a Alshwan Hymes three with just over seven minutes remaining in the game.
Eargle and Allen started it and seemed poised to finish it. Allen hit his seventh three of the game and Eargle hit a pair of free throws that staked YSU to a 69-64 advantage with 4:15 left in the game.
Canisius would not go away quietly. They came back from 20 to tie the game and this time they were only down seven and cut the YSU lead to 69-66 with 3:41 left to play. Bill Baron then hit a three to tie the game again.
YSU held a 71-70 lead when Perry drove in from the right for an easy deuce that made it 73-70. Baron again struck for three as the Golden Griffins had a possession in which they got to take three shots from long range.
With the crowd standing, Canisius held the ball for the last shot. Baron dribbled at center but when the Golden Griffins attempted their approach to end it, Belin poked the ball out of bounds. With 0.9 seconds left, Canisius inbounded but could not get a shot off.
In the overtime, Perry got things rolling with a three. Canisius retaliated with a layup to cut the lead to one and then had a chance to nab the lead. Perry was fouled after garnering a rebound. The junior forward nailed both with 3:45 left to put YSU back up by three. Another three tied the game at 3:18.
One of the Heath brothers, Jordan, hit the first of two and then his Canisius teammates got yet another offensive rebound. The Penguins would dodge a bullet as Hymes attempted a three that went over the backboard to give YSU the ball. Perry gave the Penguins the lead at 80-79 with 1:15 left to play.
With just under a minute to play, YSU missed a three and Canisius went back to work. Baron was fouled and hit both free throws to make it an 82-80 lead for the visitors. YSU took a timeout with 36.7 seconds to play.
With Eargle seemingly trapped at the top of the key, he spun and made a drive to the hoop while being fouled. The shot fell, Eargle went to the line, and YSU was in a dogfight. Eargle missed the charity toss setting up Canisius for the last possession.
Baron, who ended up with 30 points, cranked up for another three and what looked like a clean block was whistled a foul with 2.1 seconds left. Barron made two of three free throws to give the Golden Griffins an 84-82 lead. YSU could only muster a Perry desperation heave and the game would end.
“This is the most enjoyable season I have had since I got to Youngstown”, said Slocum. “They are a great bunch and were all in, all year. It is sad that it ended this way for them.”
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 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.”
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.
If Youngstown State is going to make a run in the Horizon League Tournament, which starts Tuesday, they will need to provide a much better effort than they did Saturday at the Nutter Center. Wright State, picked by the “experts” to finish in the basement of the conference, improved their third place standing with a 72-45 conquest of YSU.
“This is a tough way to go into the playoffs.”, said Jerry Slocum. “This was probably our worst effort of the year,”
In the first half, Wright State raced out to an early double-digit lead with the help of 14 Youngstown State turnovers leading to 19 Wright State points. The Penguins could only muster a 30% shooting percentage in the half, while the Raiders shot 61%, resulting in a 39-19 lead for WSU. The Penguins finished the game with 16 turnovers.
Damian Eargle managed to score seven of the Penguins 19 points in the half. The Raiders got nine points from Kurt Hess‘s high school friend, Matt Vest. In fact, Hess, Torrian Pace, and Chris Elkins (below) made the trip to Dayton on Friday. Hess grew up in the area.
In the second half, D. J. Cole penetrated and dumped a feed to Eargle, who snared an easy basket. The hoop made the score 47-28 with a shade over 14 minutes left to play in the game. Four minutes later, the Penguins found themselves down 21, trailing 51-30. Wright State was getting two or three chances each offensive possession with good offensive rebounding.
Kamren Belin hit threes on consecutive possessions to make it 59-38, but Wright State quickly regained control of things, capped by J. T. Yoho‘s bucket in the paint with 3:46 left to make it 64-39.
For YSU, Eargle finished the game with 11 points to lead the team. Allen had 5 with 5 rebounds to lead the team, and Belin ended up with 8 points.
This year’s conference Cinderella, Wright State (19-11, 10-6), got 14 points from Jerran Young and 11 from Vest in the win. As a team, the Raiders compiled 12 steals.
All the Penguins (16-14, 7-9) can do now is focus on Tuesday. They cannot mope or dwell because the next loss means “season over” for the team. It also means the careers of Allen and Eargle will end.
Kendrick Perry shot around with the team during the pregame but was again held out. His status is unchanged and he will be reevaluated again before a decision is made about being in the Penguin lineup on Tuesday
Show support for the Penguins Tuesday and get to the Beeghly Center for their first-round playoff game.
He is new to this neck of the woods, but Kamren Belin seems to be fitting in just fine. Belin, a transfer from the State of Georgia, was recently awarded the Horizon League Player of The Week Award for a second consecutive week. The versatile Belin has had a great inaugural campaign under Coach Jerry Slocum. I recently interviewed Belin about many things.
Paneech: You are in Georgia playing basketball, and someone approaches you about transferring to Youngstown State University. How did the recruiting work?
Belin: I had to go to a junior college because I didn’t have everything ready for college yet. I was already in touch with Youngstown State. I put in two years there to get up to speed, but was in touch with Coach Mike [Wernicki] throughout the process. I came for a visit to this campus after I visited Stephen F. Austin. There were three more colleges I was scheduled to visit, but I decided this was where I wanted to be.
Paneech: Your role has changed a lot throughout the season. You have started and have also been able to provide valuable minutes off of the bench. Do you have a set role?
Belin: My role seems to be getting bigger and bigger as each game goes by. I have tried to assume a leadership role without stepping on any toes. I think next year is going to be a very good year. I have gotten to be very good friends with Shawn Amiker but feel a closeness with everyone on the team.
Paneech: What are the differences between Youngstown and Georgia?
Belin: Here, I am much more independent. I am here by myself and feel like my decisions are my decisions. I don’t have to wait to hear what my mom has to say and I get to be more of an adult here. I was in Kansas for juco, but this is even more independent and different than that was.
Paneech: Coach Slocum gets animated sometimes. He stamps his feet and gets emotional when he doesn’t like a call. Damian Eargle can’t hold back from smiling when he sees some of it, how do you stop yourself?
Belin: It is kind of hard not to laugh. When it happens, I always happen to see Damian smiling in my line of view. We know as a team when to contain ourselves. It’s the same in practice sometimes, things just get taken a little more personal during games.
Paneech: What is the significance of the endless tattoos on your body?
Belin: All of my tattoos are in dedication to my family. My whole right arm is my grandmother and the women in my life, and my left arm is about my brothers. I got some new work done on my back in honor of the tragedy that took place in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. I don’t know what is next, I will probably get all of the shading done on my right arm.
Paneech: You keep busy with practices, games, and classes, but there is that time in between that you have. How do you spend that time?
Belin: My go to would be McDonalds. It is convenient now because they put one in Kilcawley Center. I usually get two McChicken sandwiches add cheese and bacon, a small fry, and a vanilla shake. I’m not a soda drinker, so after practice, I usually go for a light blue Gatorade.
Paneech: What has been your most memorable ‘on the court’ experience so far?
Belin: I would say that it really wasn’t anything that happened on the court during a game yet. So far, the most memorable thing would be boot camp. You wake up at 5 a.m., struggle to get over here, and then you flip tires and run cone drills. You sleep good at night.
Paneech: What kind of things can you focus on after a loss to get back on the winning track?
Belin: We need to handle pressure better. It seems like when we lose games that we have a lot of turnovers because of the opponent’s pressure defenses. Against Detroit, we lost by 41 the first game because we have not seen pressure like that. When we went there for the second meeting, we handled the pressure better, but not well enough to win.
Paneech: What is more impressive to you, that Damian Eargle now is the all-time blocks leader in the Horizon League, or that Kendrick Perry has a chance to be the Horizon League Player of The Year?
Belin: Both of those are impressive things to think about. I feel like if KP got the player of the year award that it would be something special not only for him, but for all of us as a team.
Paneech: What do you want to study and concentrate on while here academically?
Belin: My major is in Philosophy and my minor is in Sociology, but I might change that minor to creative writing. One of the things I really enjoy doing is writing poetry. Philosophy helps get me into that type of mindset. If I wasn’t in college, I would probably be trying to write, or I would be cooking somewhere to make a living.
Paneech: Have you been late for anything since you got here?
Belin: (laughs) Yeah. I was late for a team meal once. I did not get to start one game because of it. The coaches here are very good guys though. They break things down before we start practicing to make sure we understand the gameplan and they let us have fun but know when to draw the line.
Paneech: Does your family keep up with YSU hoops?
Belin: A bunch of family members came to the Georgia game. They came in for the two games last weekend (see picture above). They are very supportive and watch how we do.
Paneech: From the standpoint of a fan, you enjoy making a three point shot. You put three fingers up to your head. What is that all about?
Belin: It is something that one of my favorite players, Carmelo Anthony, does after he hits a three. So I just kind of took that from him and made it my own. Blake [Allen] already knows I am coming for his new three-point record.
One Word Answers
Biggest Phobia: Bugs.
Worst Habit: Dunkin’ Donuts.
Favorite Junk Food: Chips Ahoy Chewy.
Song On Your ipod That No One Would Guess: Over My Head by The Fray.
Favorite Sport Besides Basketball: Football – Tight End.
Favorite NBA Player: Rudy Gay.
Who Would Win March Madness if YSU Wasn’t In? Syracuse.
Who Will Exit Early? North Carolina, they are very overrated.
What Is The Worst Part of Practice: Full-court layup drills.
Youngstown State University seems to be getting a grip on this whole basketball thing lately. The Penguins played a fantastic defensive game against league-leading Valparaiso and came away with an 80-68 win. Kendrick Perry spearheaded the charge with 28 points but had plenty of help on both sides of the court.
To say the Penguins were able to play physical in the post would be an understatement in the win. Damian Eargle, Bobby Hain, Cameron Belin, and the rest of the Penguins did a fantastic job of taking Kevin Van Wijk and Ryan Broekhoff out of their usual dominant rhythm that has driven the Crusaders all season.
“It really was a great effort defensively”, said Slocum. “Our guys really gutted it out and played well. It was just a great team effort, probably as good as we have had all year.
In the first half, YSU really did a nice job of guarding the perimeter and the paint. When Valpo would try to kick the ball out, a Penguin would be waiting. When Valpo tried to feed the low post, they were met with heavy resistance – each trip down the floor. Nothing came easy for the Crusaders. YSU got six points out of Kendrick Perry and six more from Belin (below) in the half.
The Penguns took a 39-28 lead into the half. Valpo never had a lead in the entire game as YSU started on a 12-4 run. From that point on, Jerry Slocum seemed to hit all of the right buttons and was able to maintain that large of a lead throughout the opening half.
In the second half, more of the same from YSU. The Penguins had a 44-33 lead with 16:46 left to play and had maybe their two shakiest possessions of the game to that point, but Valparaiso was unable to gain any significant ground. With 11:21 left in the game, Shawn Amiker took a nice feed and connected on a bunny while drawing a foul. Amiker hit the free throw to increase the lead to 54-41.
Slocum knew the sun was shining on his team as Ryan Weber, who entered the game 1-16 from three-point range, buried a big three to increase the Penguin lead to 14.
Valpo would not go away quietly. With a shade over five minutes left in the game, the YSU lead was whittled to ten points at 65-55. Blake Allen nabbed a huge offensive rebound in which the Penguins got a fresh clock and capped off with a Belin three to push the lead back to 13.
Perry remained the heart of the YSU offense. The junior tallied 28 points and snared 11 rebounds. Belin added 15 points, and Eargle played another well-rounded game on both ends, with for the upstart Penguins (13-8, 5-3). YSU started conference play 1-3, but have since rattled off four straight to get back into the big picture.
“We were feeding off of the energy of this crowd tonight”, said Perry. “The fans were booing the refs when they made bad calls, they were cheering us when we made our shots, they were really loud tonight.”
Van Wijk ended the game with 14 points for the Crusaders who dropped to 6-2 in the conference and 16-6 overall. Broekhoff added 10, but those totals are well below the numbers those two have been putting up this season.
“KP was very special tonight”, said Slocum at the post-game press conference.
YSU will now head to Detroit for a Friday rematch with the Titans who destroyed YSU by 41 the last time they met on January 10.
When asked if his Penguins would head to Michigan with a chip on their shoulders, Slocum responded, “We are a much different basketball team now. We are really looking forward to the challenge of going there to play, hopefully we have enough in the tank physically to play our best.”
“We will definitely have a chip on our shoulders”, said Perry.
Jerry Slocum launched a good coaching career at Geneva. He won championships and solidified a small legacy as mentor of the Golden Tornadoes in his nine years at the helm. Now in his eighth season at Youngstown State University, Slocum is starting to prosper. On Thursday, his past was mismatched by his present as the Penguins coasted to a 93-50 win.
During a timeout with just over two minutes left in the game, the YSU public address announcer declared that Slocum had just moved into second place on the all-time wins list at YSU.
“I honestly did not know about that”, said Slocum.
The Penguins wasted little time racing out to a double-digit lead before halftime. Blake Allen and Bobby Hain had ten points each in the opening half to propel YSU to a commanding 47-24 lead. More impressively, the Penguins bench logged 29 first half minutes.
“I thought it was great to see our bench get a lot of playing time tonight. They work very hard in practice and Bobby [Hain] is probably the best passer on the team and showed he can play inside or down low. Everyone played well and I liked the business-like approach and unselfish play”, echoed Slocum.
One of the weirder statistics of the game was the fact that YSU only committed one foul in the first half. They also scored twelve points off of Geneva turnovers and 24 points in the paint.
In the second half, Geneva felt the sting of the whole Penguin array. There was a Kendrick Perry breakaway facial dunk. There was a Shawn Amiker slam a couple of minutes later, and Damian Eargle swatting balls away like a Chinese ping-pong medalist.
On one hand, it was nice to see what the Penguins can do when firing on all cylinders, they are a very exciting basketball team when it all clicks. On the other hand, it was a rewarding victory because the bench was able to get so many quality minutes.
At the 12:48 mark of the second, Ryan Weber had back-to-back breakaway steals for dunks to increase the Penguins lead to 74-32. It was at that point of the game that Slocum pulled all of his starters to ensure good health and to keep the reserves active.
In the blowout win, the Penguins got balanced scoring. Hain led the way with 16, Allen added 15, Perry had 11, and Amiker knocked in ten. Eargle had five blocks for the Guins who improved to 5-4 on the season.
Geneva has a great story on their team. Brian Rice, from New Castle, PA, is a 43-year old freshman for the Golden Tornadoes. Rice did 20 years of active military duty and has enrolled at Geneva. He made the basketball team and played very hard, even when the outcome had been determined.
Slocum talked about what it was like playing his past.
“It [Geneva] is a place I love. I was there for nine years. It is a wonderful school and I am glad we could help them a little and have them here.”
The Penguins next game is on Saturday at the Covelli Centre in the first game to be played off campus since 1972. YSU will welcome Hiram to town for the experimental contest. After the Hiram game, YSU heads back to the road after finals and will have to stash their Christmas presents on the bus with games at South Florida on the 18th and Bethune-Cookman on the 21st.