YSU makes the plays to clinch road win
DETROIT — The last four minutes of games have been a problem for the Youngstown State men’s basketball team the first half of this season.
Not so on Saturday, as the Penguins won their second straight game with a 72-70 win over Detroit, sweeping Oakland and Detroit in a two-game road trip. YSU hadn’t beaten the Titans in the previous 12 meetings and hadn’t won in Calihan Hall since 2011.
Somehow, the Penguins (8-16, 4-7 Horizon League), found themselves down 67-61 to Detroit (9-14, 6-5) with 4:04 remaining. A decision had to be made, fight or flight. YSU chose the first and did so with an intent from the tip.
Darius Quisenberry’s 3-pointer near the end of halftime cut the Detroit lead to 37-35. He had 14 points and surpassed Doug Underwood as the school’s highest-scoring freshman since the Penguins joined the Horizon League with 302.
Naz Bohannon came out of the locker room in the second half, pumping up his teammates. He said his pregame speech was to tell everybody to do what you can, shoot, score, rebound, defend, whatever they could do to stop Detroit.
Bohannon did his job by pestering the Titans inside players and the 6-foot-6 Lorain native had a team-high 15 points and nine rebounds, shooting 6-of-7 from the floor and 3-of-3 from the foul line.
“Regardless of the score, we were going to win the game,” Bohannon said to his team at halftime. “This is our team. We’ve got to change it. We went out hyped up.”
Momentum shifted with 2:18 left as a Detroit assistant coach hurled a shoe about three-quarters of the way down the court. Derrien King had lost his shoe seconds earlier and the coach winged the shoe in front of the YSU bench toward King. The officials saw that as a technical foul. Quisenberry made two free throws. After the inbounds, Bohannon’s putback tied the game at 69 with 1:48 remaining.
Lamar Hamrick, who had 11 points, made 1-of-2 from the line with 1:38 left. It was the only free throw Detroit missed, going 16-of-17.
Devin Morgan, who had 11 points, made his way around the perimeter and found himself open with 13 seconds left in front of the YSU bench. His step-in 3-pointer connected as the Penguins took a 72-70 lead.
“That was a big weakness of theirs to get the ball in the high post and find either corner,” Morgan said. “My teammates told me to be ready for the shot. Jelani (Simmons) made a great extra pass right in my pocket. I just knocked it down.”
Detroit had an opportunity to lead or tie. The ball wasn’t in the hands of Gerald Blackshear, who had 14 points, or Josh McFolley, who had 11. Antoine Davis, who had a game-high 23, dribbled up the court. He would control Detroit’s fate, as he’s done all season. The freshman son of coach Mike Davis, who is the Horizon League’s all-time leading scorer for a freshman, misfired on a 3 with 10 second left. YSU center John Sally, who earned his first start, had one of his four rebounds off the miss.
“You can’t teach size and he’s going to get better and better,” said YSU coach Jerrod Calhoun of his 6-11 center.
Sally missed the front end of the one-and-one, but Detroit couldn’t connect on a half-court desperation shot at the buzzer as YSU claimed victory.
Calhoun said his team keyed on Davis and McFolley, Detroit’s two leading scorers. Calhoun said he implemented a tandem defense run by former Rutgers coach Fred Hill.
“It’s called the tandem defense,” Calhoun said. “Three guys play a man-to-man and two are in a tandem. We basically double-teamed McFolley and Davis the whole game. We left one guy open and our guys were so in tune with practice yesterday. They carried out the plan really well.”
YSU got through Detroit’s defense, which has given the Penguins fits in the past.
“This team plays 40 minutes of zone,” Calhoun said. “It’s an extended zone, very similar to Syracuse but higher up. You have to be really intelligent. You have to get in gaps. You’ve got to know what you want to do with the ball. You can’t have indecision.
“I thought Naz was going to be the difference maker and he was. Sometimes you have that gut feeling as a coach. What players are going to step up for you in the final four minutes. Tonight it was Devin with a huge 3 and Naz throughout the whole game was fabulous.”
Those last four minutes. It doesn’t matter what YSU has done the first half of this year’s Horizon League schedule and before that, coming up short on a play or pass or two.
Things are different now.
“We’ve lost eight or nine games where we didn’t make those plays,” Calhoun said. “It’s part of the process this year. You hope as young people, they stay the course with you together and good things will happen to good people. I said all along we have good people in our organization.
“You’re seeing that now.”
YSU fans can see it for themselves Thursday as the Penguins start a four-game homestand against Milwaukee at 7 p.m.