YSU wins league opener
Morse nails game-winner in final second
CLEVELAND — Naz Bohannon inbounded the ball to Cameron Morse with nine seconds left on the clock. Morse dribbled up near midcourt and made eye contact with Youngstown State men’s basketball coach Jerrod Calhoun.
Calhoun admitted he was going to call timeout as Morse approached the YSU bench on the other side of the mid-court stripe, as the game was tied at 77 against Cleveland State at the Wolstein Center.
Calhoun admitted to feeling a bit anxious for this game, getting texts from former teammates and coaching where he had played for the late Rollie Massimino. Calhoun honed in on his feeling and focused on his team, just as he did late in the game, thinking about calling a time out. Calhoun thought better of it and let Morse’s momentum carry him into the final 45 feet of the court.
Morse had thoughts of Bobby Word’s 3-pointer, which had just knotted the game at 77 with nine seconds remaining.
Morse, who has struggled for the better of this season — toggling between being the team’s point guard and shooting guard — felt this day was different. He approached the 3-point arc and looked to drive toward the baseline. Cleveland State’s Kasheem Thomas, who had a game-high 24 points, bit on the fake and was caught in the midst of a nearby screen.
Morse raised up behind the 3-point arc and in front of the YSU bench for a 3-pointer, which swished through the white nylon with 0.6 seconds left.
It was Morse who intercepted the desperation heave from CSU near the Vikings’ basket as the Penguins won 80-77, snapping a nine-game losing streak. YSU’s last win was a come-from-behind victory against Westminster on Nov. 21.
Jaylen Benton and Garrett Covington made both ends of 1-and-1s in the final 30 seconds to set up Morse’s game-winning 3-pointer.
YSU (3-11, 1-0 Horizon League) ends a six-game road trip which took the Penguins to Idaho State, Utah State, Butler, DePaul and Indiana.
Slowly, these young Penguins stared to get some kind of momentum from each one of those contests. YSU showed what it learned from each one of those challenges, displaying a good first half of basketball against the Vikings, leading by 16 at a couple of points in those initial 20 minutes.
The Penguins shot 18 of 29 from the floor and 6 of 10 from 3-point range in the first half.
“I thought our kids for 16 minutes played as good as we’ve looked all year, whether it was practice or the game,” Calhoun said. “So happy for our guys to get that feeling of winning a game.”
Braun Hartfield, who had a game-high 22 points, had 12 of those in the first half. He was 4 of 6 from the floor and 3 of 4 from 3. Hartfield, a Garfield Heights graduate, was playing in front of plenty of friends and family.
Hartfield, who struggled from the floor against Indiana — shooting 2 of 10 from the floor and 0 of 4 from 3 — didn’t see that against this CSU team, which dropped to 3-11, 0-1.
“They weren’t playing me,” Harfield said. “It was as simple as that. I had a lot of good, open looks.”
Morse struggled as well in the Hoosier state, shooting 1 of 14 from the floor and 0 of 8 from 3.
Morse was YSU’s main scorer the past two seasons, a two guard who was a first-team, all-Horizon League player.
This season, without his point guard Francisco Santiago, out with a season-ending ACL tear, it’s been a struggle for Morse, who has to play more point than shooting guard. On Monday it was different as he had 13 points, but more importantly 11 assists.
“I looked up and I got eight assists,” Morse said. “I was like, ‘Dang, I got to keep this going.’ “
Freshman Naz Bohannon, who had 10 points and nine rebounds, almost averaging a double-double a game, remained a steady force for the Penguins.
Tyree Robinson added 11 points, while Benton had 11 for a YSU team that saw no one foul out and held a 34-24 rebounding advantage.
YSU hosts Milwaukee Thursday in the nightcap of a Penguins doubleheader starting at 7:35 p.m.
Stats aside, Morse had one thing to say while leaving the post-game news conference. He leaned over and said loudly into the microphone, “Just to let you all know, we’re 1-0.”