Penguins perfect in HL

Morse, again, leads YSU in victory over Panthers

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Youngstown State's Braun Hartfield, right, drives as Milwaukee's Jeremiah Bell guards during the first half of their game Thursday.

YOUNGSTOWN — Cameron Morse had trouble containing his smile following Monday’s game at Cleveland State.

The soft-spoken senior rarely had reason to raise the corners of his mouth earlier this season.

After hitting the game-winning 3-pointer against CSU, he had that renewed sense of being. He was the player who led YSU the past two seasons.

The Penguins rallied around their senior leader with Thursday’s 72-63 victory over Milwaukee — YSU’s second straight victory after snapping a nine-game losing streak. It’s the first time YSU (4-11, 2-0 Horizon League) has started 2-0 in the Horizon League, dating back to the 2001-02 season.

Morse got two 3-pointers early on and felt the momentum throughout the game, even having seven assists as the team’s point guard.

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Youngstown State's Cameron Morse makes a layup in front on a Milwaukee defender during the first half of Thursday's game in Youngstown.

“It got my confidence up,” said Morse, who had a game-high 25 points — a season-high for Morse. “It made me want to create for my teammates more. It also lifted us.”

There was YSU first-year coach Jerrod Calhoun, constantly moving up and down the sidelines, clapping, even out of his designated area and to the half-court stripe at times. The officials gave him and his enthusiastic bench a warning.

Calhoun told the official he wants energy from his team.

“That’s OK to get a bench warning,” he said. “There’s a line there. I got to keep my butt off the court. I got a little excited tonight.”

Defensively, YSU’s Garrett Covington held Milwaukee’s Brock Stull, who averages 15 points per game, to seven points on 1 of 14 from the floor.

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Youngstown's Cameron Morse follows through with a made 3-pointer in front of Milwaukee's Caron Warren-Newsome during the first half of Thursday's game in Youngstown.

“I had 25 points, but Garrett Covington is the reason we won,” Morse said.

Like Monday, it wasn’t easy for YSU.

Milwaukee (8-8, 1-2) cut the lead to two on one of its many post moves of the night with four minutes left, 56-54. YSU’s Braun Hartfield drove and made it 58-54 with a one-handed floater with 3:30 left. Then, the Penguins undersized-but-explosive post player Tyree Robinson connected on a three-point play with 3-minutes remaining for a 61-54 lead.

Morse then found Hartfield, who had 17 points, in transition as the junior from Garfield Heights canned a 3 with about 1:30 remaining for a 65-56 lead.

Covington inbounded the ball with a minute left and tried to hit the feet of a Milwaukee defender. Instead, the ball sat there and Jeremiah Bell picked it up and scored as Milwaukee trailed 65-61 with 58.7 seconds left.

Devin Haygood went to the line with 56.8 seconds left as he made 2 of 2 for a 67-61 lead. Naz Bohannon, who had seven rebounds, grabbed a Panthers miss with 45 seconds left, fell out of bounds and fed it back to Morse, who was fouled.

Morse made both free throws off the one-and-one for a 69-61 lead.

Bell missed a 3 from the corner as Hartfield was eventually fouled. Hartfield made 1 of 2 from the line for a 70-61 lead. Then, Hartfield got a loose ball as it was eventually sent out to Covington for an easy two.

YSU, which is one of the worst free-throw shooting teams in the country at 59.7 percent, made its last five of six from the stripe to seal the win, which was a big step for a young team.

“I think it’s confidence,” Calhoun said. “Part of it is game experience.”

YSU showed momentum from its victory Monday at Cleveland State — and not just the players.

In the first half, assistant coach Jason Slay came off the bench and chest bumped one of the YSU players as the Penguins came up with a 15-4 lead. Morse — the same player who received first-team Horizon League honors — looked back to form with 10 of those points.

Milwaukee then went on a 17-5 run, capped by a Brett Prahl tip in with 9:28 left in the half to give the Panthers a 21-20 lead, their first advantage of the game.

Both teams didn’t waiver the rest of the half, and that set up up a strong finish for the Penguins.

Saturday, YSU hosts Green Bay. Tipoff is at 7:05 p.m.

WILBOURN GONE: Junior college transfer Alex Wilbourn, a 7-foot center, transferred out after YSU’s first semester.

Calhoun said Wilbourn hasn’t decided where he’s going.

Wilbourn played in four games, starting none as he played in 13 minutes of action. He was 0 of 4 from the floor and free-throw line as his only stats were an assist, blocked shot and a rebound.

The San Diego, Calif., native played at San Diego City College the past two seasons prior to coming to YSU.