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Finally finishing

YSU holds off IUPUI to end regular season; plays UIC in tourney

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Youngstown State junior Darius Quisenberry shoots a floater during the first half of the Penguins’ 77-70 victory over IUPUI on Saturday at the Beeghly Center.

YOUNGSTOWN — Making winning plays down the stretch has been Youngstown State coach Jerrod Calhoun’s mantra all along. Clutch free-throw shooting helps too.

After taking an early lead on IUPUI in the first half, YSU held on despite the Jaguars attempting a late comeback similar to Friday evening. Youngstown State defeated IUPUI 77-70 in their regular-season finale Saturday in a year that was unlike any other.

YSU did so by successfully playing all of their conference games and the maximum five non-conference games following a shutdown that left them sidelined in November.

“We had way more balance, just executed better, didn’t give up a big run like we did (Friday),” Calhoun said. “We played well (Friday) but only in spurts. This is a 40 minute game, college basketball. It’s hard to win college basketball games, and you have to be disciplined and good enough for all 40. (Friday) I thought we were up and down.

“We just played better. It’s kind of a good thing because I think these doubleheaders, it’s so tricky with your players’ attitude and mentality and back-to-back games. What a long, grueling regular season with the back-to-backs, they’re different. The whole thing’s been different.”

Senior Naz Bohannon led YSU with 23 points gave his team the lead following a lay-in through the right side of the lane past IUPUI’s Elyjah Goss to make it 17-16. YSU didn’t trail again.

It was also Bohannon’s 116th career start, which broke the previous program record of 115 by Kendrick Perry, set back in 2014.

The Jaguars (8-9, 7-9) battled back with Marcus Burk being a huge thorn in the Penguins side all weekend, but IUPUI only shot 29.6 percent from the field on 8-of-27 in the second half.

YSU had its own struggles, going 3-of-12 from deep, plus 0-of-6 in the second half.

YSU has found a lot of its offensive success this season within the paint, where they recorded 34 of their 77 Saturday evening.

“We played in transition a lot (Friday), and today’s point of emphasis was getting the ball inside around the basket,” Calhoun said. “We have to win the rebounding battle, which we weren’t great at again. We only won by two, but I think that way you win ugly.

“If you throw it closer to the rim, around the rim, you have a better chance to get an offensive rebound and shoot a higher percentage shot.”

Quisenberry nailed six key free throws over the final 1 minute, 20 seconds and recorded 14 points. Freshman Shemar Rathan-Mayes bounced back after an ugly game Friday with 14 of his own. Senior Garrett Covington added 11 points during the win.

In a year where so many programs missed contests, YSU still found a way to get 25 games in, something that’s an accomplishment in itself.

“I think it’s a win-win for our players. I told them all year long, let’s just give it our all, things are not going to be normal,” Calhoun said. “Things were very strange for this basketball team, but we ended winning six out of seven down the stretch. A couple people texted me after we had a winning season or whatever, that hey it’s back to back years that YSU basketball had a winning season.

“That’s really not expectations or standards of the program to be quite honest with you. We want to go much further than that, but I think what we were able to overcome in the end speaks volumes for the character of our players and just be grateful for the opportunity to coach and compete.”

The Penguins are the sixth seed in the Horizon League tournament, with a home game on Thursday against UIC, a team they split with during the regular season.

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