Penguins drop Horizon opener

YOUNGSTOWN — The Youngstown State University men’s basketball team started out conference play on the wrong foot, falling 78-66 to Detroit Mercy Friday afternoon at the Beeghly Center.

At the start of the second half, the Penguins found new life and came back to briefly take the lead after being down 14. A run of nine straight points had YSU (4-10) ahead 56-55 with 10:23 remaining.

The score was tied at 60 with 7:42 left, when a 13-3 Detroit run put the Titans (4-9) up by 10 with 2:36 left on the clock. It was the Horizon League opener for both teams.

“I just felt at that point of the game, that (Antoine) Davis was really, really feeling it at that point in the game,” Penguin coach Jerrod Calhoun said about YSU’s rally. “I kind of made an executive decision to try and speed the game up a little bit and try to create some turnovers, and it worked.”

It didn’t last long however, as the Titans reclaimed control soon after.

“We have struggled with, for whatever reason, at home in particular, playing defense,” Calhoun said. “I’m not sure what the problem is with that. We held them to 78 points. We’d like to be around 72, 73 but what’s more important is the percentage that they’re shooting at.

“When teams come into your building and consistently shoot 50 percent from the field and almost 50 percent from three, you’re not really going to beat anybody. You’re just kind of kidding yourself.”

Despite the struggles on defense, YSU outrebounded Detroit Mercy 40-31. Noe Anabir and Darius Quisenberry each pulled down six boards, and Olamide Pedersen came down with five.

Three players for the Penguins scored in double digits. Donel Cathcart scored 17, with Garrett Covington (15) and Quisenberry (12) following close behind. As a whole, the team shot 37.5 percent from the field compared to Detroit’s 50 percent.

Tied for third in the country in points per game, Detroit Mercy’s Davis put up 27 points and made seven 3-pointers in the win. After the game, Davis received some high praise from Calhoun, saying Davis reminds him of an NBA superstar he once coached against in years past.

“I called a guy who played for coach (Mike) Davis, I said ‘tell me about his son,’ “ Calhoun said. “He said, ‘Coach, he was the first one in the gym and the last one to leave, as a 13-year-old. He shot 3,000 to 4,000 shots a day. He outworked the Texas Southern guys.’ When you see a kid that good, that young, he obviously has an unbelievable work ethic.

“I’ve seen only one player like him in my time, with that size and that was Steph Curry. People might think I’m crazy saying it, but I saw Steph Curry live as well, we played them at West Virginia. This guy is really good. Antoine Davis is a really good player.”

Missing from the lineup for YSU were Devin Morgan and Naz Bohannon. Morgan was kept out as a coach’s decision while Bohannon missed due to a medical issue. Calhoun wouldn’t detail anything except that Bohannon would be going in for tests on Monday.

The Penguins have one day off before taking the court on Sunday, finishing out 2018 against the Oakland University Golden Grizzlies. A tough game to prepare for with just a day to get ready.

“It’s tough,” Calhoun said. “You know, you’re coming off of a loss. You don’t fully think you played as well as you should have. That’s kind of been the story of our season so far to be honest with you. We’re not getting blown out, we’re in every game. I think as the coach, we’ve got to figure out what we can correct in a short period of time, and try to get ready for a well-coached Oakland team.

“They played well at Georgia, they played well at Xavier. You’ve just got to move on at two o’clock tomorrow when we take the court and look at some of the things that happened against Detroit that we can certainly get better with and try to get our minds right and our bodies right.”

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