Cole, Penguins get past Detroit

YOUNGSTOWN – DJ Cole saw the defense that was clamping down on the Horizon League’s leading scorer, Youngstown State 6-foot senior guard Kendrick Perry.

Detroit’s frontcourt held Perry to more than eight below his average.

Cole took advantage of the lack of attention paid to him by the Titans.

“DJ did a really solid job,” said YSU coach Jerry Slocum after Saturday’s 77-63 win at the Beeghly Center. “When you play two on KP like they did, every time a pass went to KP they guarded him with DJ’s man in terms of trying to gap him out. I thought we were really patient and got DJ in what I’d call flow shooting.”

Cole had nine assists and got some love of his own and scored a career-high 22 points. He had a career-high four 3-pointers. Perry had 13 points. Bobby Hain added 18 points, and Ryan Weber put in 13.

“My first instinct is I’m a pass-first point guard,” Cole said. “I feel if I have the open shot, I’ll take it. Tonight, they were tagging off me a lot. I got in a rhythm and they kept going in.”

YSU (12-8, 3-2 Horizon League) had 20 assists and 24 field goals.

“When you’re doing that, it says you’re sharing the basketball,” Slocum said.

Cole came up the court plenty of times during the first half wanting to start the fast break on Detroit, something Slocum preached during the week.

“Detroit, they want to run, but they’re not a good transition defensive team,” said Cole, whose team held a 28-26 lead at halftime. “Coach said make sure we’re running. If we keep running them up the floor, we’ll get the open shots we’ll need.”

That’s exactly what YSU got in the second half. Cole had back-to-back 3s with 12:37 left to put the Penguins up 47-39. Then, Weber strung two triples together, along with a long-range shot by 6-10 forward Bobby Hain. YSU took a 61-49 lead with 6:46 remaining.

“Every night they’re going to chase Kam (Kamren Belin) and KP, other guys have to step up and that’s what happened tonight,” said Slocum, whose team shot 65 percent in the second half.

Detroit’s Juwan Howard Jr., who scored 20 points. Howard went off for 35 points against Valparaiso on Wednesday for the Titans (8-12, 1-4). However, the big stop for YSU came when the Penguins prevented 6-8 Evan Bruinsma from having a double-double. He was held to 15 points and three rebounds.

“I thought Kam did a really good job on Bruinsma tonight,” Slocum said. “I think he’s one of the premier 4s in our league. Kam and Ryan did a really good job on him.”

With 4 minutes remaining, Bruinsma got tangled with Perry as the YSU guard tried for a slam dunk. At first appearance, it seemed Perry was taken down intentionally by Bruinsma. No harm to Perry, be he got back up and went nose-to-nose with Bruinsma. Perry was quickly separated, as well as Bruinsma. Slocum and Detroit coach Ray McCallum quickly diffused any potential incident and sent their teams to their respective benchs.

The three officials, after looking at the replay, called Bruinsma was a flagrant 1 foul. Perry made 1 of 2 of the foul shots, up 69-54.

“The great thing is KP has went down harder than that before,” Cole said. “As long as he got back up quick, I knew that he was fine. It just sparked a fire under all our team and make us want to finish the game even harder, too. It all worked out.”

Slocum emphasized that Bruinsma did not commit a dirty foul.

“Bruinsma is a classy kid,” Slocum said. “He’s been in this league for four years. There’s no way in my mind that there was any malicious intent. Now, I liked our spirit and how we came back and fought.

“I want to make this point: He’s a senior. That’s a classy kid. I don’t think there was anything intentional in that.”

Slocum purposely made mention that YSU’s current three-game winning streak is because of the UIC win on Jan. 7, which started this run.

“The UIC set a tone for us playing with energy, playing unselfishly,” Slocum said. “We have to keep on doing it. We have two really good teams coming in next week.”

The Penguins continue their four-game homestand Thursday against Valparaiso (11-9, 3-2). Saturday, YSU hosts Wright State (11-9, 3-2). YSU is in a four-way tie for second place in the league with Valpo, Wright State and Cleveland State (11-8, 3-2). Green Bay (14-3, 4-0) is leading the league.

“This league is a close league and anybody can win it by one or two games – put our all on the floor every night for 40 minutes,” Cole said.

That’s why it’s important for YSU not to solely rely on Perry for its offense, especially nights he’s clamped down by teams like Detroit.

“With our motion offense this year, we just let the ball find the open guy,” Slocum said.