Wright State thrashes Youngstown State

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Youngstown State's Naz Bohannon, left, looks over to teammate Braun Hartfield, right, after making a steal in the first half against Wright State.

YOUNGSTOWN — Naz Bohannon sat between Youngstown State University men’s basketball staff members Kevin Bruinsma and Jason Slay on the bench in the second half.

He was clapping, trying to cheer on his team, but the energy was out of the normally upbeat Penguins’ bench. A couple of others stood up here and there for the occasional plays, but those were far and few between.

Bohannon wanted his team to show resilience, to show it had the mettle to not give up at any point during a game, especially Saturday.

Horizon League-leading Wright State overcame an early deficit as the Raiders rolled over a cold-shooting Penguins team Saturday at the Beeghly Center, 83-57.

YSU (6-19, 4-8 Horizon League) has lost four straight and three of the last four games played in Youngstown.

The loss might have been more disparaging since the Penguins played in front of 5,371, the biggest home crowd this season.

“I feel bad that people still want to come and watch that,” said Bohannon, who had nine points and 13 rebounds. “The Youngstown fans are dying for a winner. We have yet to show them what we can really do.”

The Penguins took an early 9-2 lead. Things were going well for YSU as Wright State (18-7, 10-2) couldn’t find a basket even if the Easter Bunny put it right in front of their face.

Wright State then went on a 14-0 run as Ursuline High School graduate and Raiders starting junior guard Mark Hughes hit two 3-pointers in that spurt.

“It really helped us win for sure,” Hughes said.

The Raiders shot 57 percent from the floor and 9 of 22 from 3, while YSU was 31 percent from the floor and 3 of 17 from 3.

Hughes scored 15 points, part of a contingent of WSU players in double figures. Cole Gentry led with 21 points, while Jaylon Hall had 16. Loudon Love added 14.

The Raiders outscored the Penguins 38-16 to end the half and take a 40-25 lead into the locker room.

YSU started to get some pressure defense in the second half, cutting the Wright State lead to 57-42 with about 11 minutes remaining.

The Penguins looked as if they would have a last gasp in them, but the Raiders remained resilient as Hughes hit his fifth 3 for a 64-45 lead with 9 minutes remaining.

Love’s emphatic two-handed dunk quelled any thoughts of the YSU defense coming to life, as it wasn’t a night the Penguins wanted to remember.

“That kid is an absolute monster,” said YSU coach Jerrod Calhoun of Love. “He’s a beast. He’s already got the freshman of the year, I can promise you that.”

Calhoun took full blame for Saturday’s result and performance, even though he said he had a good feeling about this Wright State game.

He was stunned by the performance. Only two other times in his career was he befuddled by the result — once as West Virginia’s Director of Basketball Operations as Mountaineers lost in the Final Four, and the other last March as Fairmont State fell in the Division II title game.

But, as most teams have figured out around the Horizon League, Wright State, Northern Kentucky and UIC have wreaked havoc on opponents. The top three teams in the league beat YSU here in Youngstown.

“They came in here and sucked the blood out of this place,” Calhoun said. “They sucked the life out of the Beeghly Center. They did it with complete domination.”

Wright State was just a step ahead of a Penguins team, which is extremely young and a year away from being a serious contender in the Horizon League.

Saturday wasn’t that night, it was one that belonged to a Raiders team rallying after losing to last-place Cleveland State on Thursday.

These YSU newcomers are getting used to the schedule of 30-plus games in a season. Bohannon doesn’t use that as an excuse.

“When it comes to tipoff, we got to be ready to go, no matter how much we play, no matter how long we play,” Bohannon said.

Braun Hartfield led the Penguins with 20 points. No other player was in double figures.

Thursday, YSU starts a two-game road trip, beginning at third-place Illinois-Chicago, which beat the Penguins earlier this season in Youngstown. That game starts at 8 p.m.

After the Penguins came through the line, congratulating the Wright State players, they exited the floor hanging their heads.

“At this point I’m trying to rally the guys together and get them to understand that no matter what happens in the game, we have to continue to fight,” Bohannon said. “What do you want to be remembered as? We don’t want to be remembered as quitters. We don’t want to look how we looked (Saturday). If we want fans to continue to keep coming, we have to play hard and give them a winner. We have to show some pride.”