Second-half surge

N. Kentucky methodically powers past Penguins

Tribune Chronicle / Marc Weems Youngstown State’s Devin Haygood blocks the shot of Northern Kentucky’s Jalen Tate during Thursday’s Horizon League matchup in Youngstown. The Norse came into the Beeghly Center and defeated the Penguins with a second-half surge, 95-85

YOUNGSTOWN — Northern Kentucky University outscored Youngstown State University 55-42 in the second half to get the win over YSU, 95-85.

Early in the first half, YSU (6-18, 4-5 Horizon League) was hitting the shots it needed. The Penguins got out to a 14-6 lead with 14:22 left in the half. That caused an NKU timeout after a Cameron Morse 3-pointer.

NKU (16-7, 9-2) and YSU traded buckets for most of the rest of the half as the Penguins still had an eight-point lead with 4:52 left in the half. YSU led, 43-40, at halftime. Morse led the Penguins with 10 points at the half while Drew McDonald led the Norse with 14 points.

“Obviously, I’m not happy with giving up 95 points,” YSU coach Jerrod Calhoun said. “At one point in the game, I thought we might give up 100. There’s a reason they played in the NCAA tournament. There’s a reason they were picked to win the league. Both McDonald and (Lavone) Holland II are getting my votes. They are the real deal.”

McDonald finished with a game-high 26 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.

Tribune Chronicle / Marc Weems YSU’s Devin Haygood slams it home for two on a breakaway during Thursday’s game in Youngstown.

The beginning of the second half was where the Norse came alive offensively. Both teams continued to trade buckets until there was about 15 minutes left in the game. That’s the point that NKU began to take over.

YSU struggled to hit 3-pointers in the second half as it shot 5 of 13 after shooting 6 of 10 in the first half.

“I don’t think it rattled us,” YSU forward Braun Hartfield said about NKU’s 1-3-1 zone defense in the second half. “We knew it was coming but I guess you could say it surprised us. That really didn’t bother us.”

Hartfield finished with a team-high 23 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

NKU coupled that defense with a 62 percent shooting performance in the second half. The Norse were fueled by 19 assists on 34 made shots.

“We just got to rotate better and contest shots,” Hartfield said. “They shot a lot of open shots. That’s not what we wanted and we just have to get better.”

YSU got to within five with 3:28 left after some timely steals and buckets. NKU pulled away at the end for the road win.

“Unfortunately, they just have more experience and made a few more plays than us,” Calhoun said. “We got to see what we can do Saturday because we have Wright State that just lost to Cleveland State so they are going to come in real happy after a loss I’m sure.”

YSU has a quick turnaround as Wright State comes to town on Saturday at 7 p.m.