Penguins get historic victory
YOUNGSTOWN – Blake Allen came down the court in transition during the second half of the game.
He was more than feeling the ebb and flow of Tuesday’s up-court battle with Oakland during this first-round CollegeInsider.com Tournament game at the Beeghly Center.
He quickly spotted fellow Youngstown State guard Kendrick Perry slashing toward the basket.
Allen whipped a pass toward the hoop and Perry slammed it home to give YSU a six-point advantage with more than 11 minutes remaining.
“The funny thing is I really didn’t have it in my hand,” said Perry, who had a game-high 31 points during the 99-87 YSU victory. “I kind of felt it on my wrist and just like followed through. Great pass by Blake.”
The victory was YSU’s first in postseason play. It was the first-ever postseason game for the Penguins since turning Division I in the 1981-82 season.
“When you play, you always want to make your mark,” said Perry, whose team played in front of 3,056 fans. “You always want to be known for something. I think it’s a great opportunity in front of a great home crowd that we were able to get the first postseason tournament win in YSU history.”
It was historical for Allen as well, whose two free throws gave the Penguins a 71-62 lead with more than 10 minutes left. It marked 1,000 points for Allen in his career.
It’s the first time in YSU history three players in the same season went over the 1,000-point mark. Perry and senior forward Damian Eargle eclipsed the mark earlier this season.
“He’s what’s good in this business,” YSU coach Jerry Slocum said. “He’s a good player, 3.9 student. He’s a good kid.”
Allen had 27 points and was 7 of 13 from the 3-point line and 6 of 10 in the first half.
“I got the first open look and I was able to knock it down,” Allen said. “I kept on getting pretty good looks. My teammates kept on finding me. Fortunately they we falling tonight.”
YSU (18-15) was 18 of 35 from 3-point range, something that made Slocum smile and in a bit of a joking mood. YSU set a new 3-point mark, breaking the old standard of 14.
“We took 35 3s tonight,” he said. “I don’t know who their shooting coach is, but he’s doing a heckuva job.”
Kamren Belin added 16 points and Eargle, a Warren G. Harding graduate, had 12 points, 10 rebounds and six blocked shots.
It was YSU’s best offensive performance in some time. Slocum said with Perry being healthy from his knee injury, Eargle better from his broken nose (despite still wearing his protective mask) and other setbacks healed, the Penguins are a feared team.
He even complemented Bobby Hain’s 11 points off the bench and Shawn Amiker’s play as well.
“We went five weeks without our best team,” Slocum said. “We went three games without Dam. Three more weeks without KP. This is the team I thought that could’ve made a run at our own league throughout the tournament. I thought we’re capable of scoring the basketball. I think our league is offensively challenged.
That’s the team I’ve seen in practice.”
Tuesday, Oakland and YSU combined for an offensive clinic.
Travis Bader paced the Golden Grizzlies (16-17) with 30 points, while Corey Petros added 23. Duke Mondy put in 13 off the bench.
“I think they are one of the best offensive teams we’ve seen all year,” Slocum said. “I think they would be one of the best offensive teams that would be in our league. We knew we had to score to beat them. I didn’t think we had to get 99.
“That was a heck of an offensive show by two teams.”
YSU won’t know it’s second-round CIT opponent until late Wednesday at the earliest, more likely Thursday morning.
GRATEFUL COACH: Slocum, prior to addressing questions, read a litany of area sponsors donating money for Tuesday’s CIT game and Thursday’s WNIT game against Indiana State.
The CIT game cost $35,000 to host and the WNIT game is $6,500.
“They made tonight, along with our crowd, to be able host two games in terms of tonight’s game and the women’s NIT game,” Slocum said. “It was no financial burden to the university because of those people. I would absolutely be remiss if I did not express it.”
It was a win he wanted to have for so many reasons.
“I felt a lot of responsibility tonight for us to play well and to do a really good job,” Slocum said. “For us on top of this to repay that with a win and first time as a Division I program to get that win, it’s special. I’m not going to deny it.”