Oakland’s offense too much for YSU

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo YSU's Devin Haygood guards Oakland's Kendrick Nunn during the first half of Wednesday's game in Rochester, Mich.

ROCHESTER, Mich. — Jerrod Calhoun said there’s a reason Oakland was picked first in the Horizon League preseason poll.

In the first 20 minutes Wednesday night, the Golden Grizzlies showed why in a 95-82 victory at the O’rena over the Youngstown State men’s basketball team.

Oakland (10-8, 2-3 Horizon League), snapped a three-game losing streak, while YSU (5-12, 3-1) had its three-game winning streak broken — the first time the Penguins won three straight to open conference play in two decades.

The Golden Grizzlies shot 70 percent from the floor and 80 percent from 3-point range, leading 54-38 at halftime.

YSU had opportunities as well, shooting 29 of 60 from the floor and 16 of 29 in the second half, outscoring Oakland 44-41 in the final 20 minutes.

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Youngstown State’s Jeremiah Ferguson shoots over Kendrick Nunn of Oakland.

Oakland shot 34 of 54 from the floor and 12 of 24 from 3. Why? The Golden Grizzlies had 27 assists. They outrebounded YSU 32-26.

“That team guards and passes the ball like that, they’re going to be hard to beat,” said Calhoun, the YSU coach.

Penguins leading scorer Braun Hartfield was limited to six points on 2 of 9 shooting, nine points less than his average.

Calhoun said his team was outmanned as Oakland passed the ball at will, especially in the post where Oakland held a 38-26 advantage in points in the paint.

“We had some guys, for whatever reason, who weren’t excited to play,” said Calhoun, who prides his program on being an enthusiastic bunch. “Oakland was excited to play.”

Oakland was led by the best scorer in the Horizon League, Kendrick Nunn. The Illinois transfer had a bit more than his average with 26 points on 9 of 14 from the floor and 6 of 10 from 3.

“He’s a scoring machine,” Calhoun said. “You can’t let him catch the ball. When he catches the ball, he’s going to score.”

Oakland had four other players in double figures with Jalen Hayes, one of the top three scorers in the league, with 20 points. Martez Walker rounded out the Horizon League-leading trio with 13 — about six under his average. Brailen Neely had 11 points, while Nick Daniels came off the bench for 16.

Cameron Morse and Jeremiah Ferguson each had 21 points to lead YSU. Jaylen Benton had 21 off the bench. The last time the Penguins had two or more 20-point scorers was March 4, 2017, vs. Oakland in the Horizon League quarterfinals in which YSU upset the top-seeded Golden Grizzlies.

YSU’s bench did outscore Oakland 39-9 Wednesday. Ferguson was a big reason for that push.

Calhoun said Ferguson’s preparation the past couple days was outstanding, making the most of his opportunity.

“I think he did a tremendous job, not only on the court, but in the film room,” Calhoun said. “He won’t stop. The guy wants to play more.”

Ferguson appreciated his posts setting screens and getting him open, but would have rather had the victory.

“These are one of these games where we have to flush it down the toilet and just move on and get the next one,” he said.

He said Oakland’s 27 assists were a direct result of not knowing the scouting report better. Ferguson said his team should’ve closed out on the Golden Grizzlies shooters better.

Ferguson made two free throws with 8 minutes left to cut the Oakland lead to 75-68, but YSU got no closer as Oakland went on an 18-3 run and put Wednesday’s game in the win column.

“There were times where we competed with one of the best teams in the league,” Ferguson said. “Take those times and expand on it.

“It shows that we can do it. We have to put a full game together.”

On Friday, YSU travels to Detroit Mercy for a 7 p.m., start.

“Life’s hard on the road with a young team without a point guard,” Calhoun said. “We have to be who we are. We have to be a defensive team. We have to be a tough team. We’ve got to rebound. We’ve got to get extra shots. We did none of those things tonight.”